Despite a flood of outside special interest money, the establishment suffered a huge defeat in the July 2 special election on the citizens’ proposed slow growth plan. By over a 5 point margin (53% to 47%) Lakewood voters clearly said they did not trust the political establishment to manage the direction growth is taking in the City.
Besides nearly being a landslide, the voter turnout was much larger than expected. The voter turnout, in the middle of the summer vacation season, was over 35,000. This was 4,000 more votes than was cast in the last regular City election (November 2017). The only City election with a larger turnout was the 40,000 who voted in 2015 during the school board recall campaign.
The special interests promised to deliver a half-million dollar advertising campaign to confuse the voters into thinking the City’s management was working. And they delivered. And then some. Including the earlier (aborted) campaign in 2017, the special interests invested over $700,000 into this campaign. Despite a flood of TV advertising warning the end of the world as we know it, everyone was shocked when the voters said they knew better and directed the City to take a new direction.
In a Monty Python movie there is a scene where the bad guy asks the hero, “who are you going to believe? me or your own eyes”. History has shown that a propaganda campaign can work if people are hit with the same message repeatedly. Every politician and special interest group available for sale strongly opposed the strategic growth initiative. However in this case, the voters did not need to listen to the “leaders”. Instead all they had to do was open their eyes, look around and draw their own conclusions.
Although the anti-200 campaign received hundreds of thousands of dollars there were actually a relatively small number of donors. A national realtor group gave one a quarter of a million dollars. Colorado realtors gave $62,500, Apartment Association gave $50,000, the Denver Chamber gave $40,000, the Colorado Contractors gave $25,000 and the national builders association gave $20,000.
Other outside groups included the Washington D.C.-based Citizens for Sound Government with over $92,000, the labor group Lakewood For Labor & Jobs gave over $85,000, the Rooney Valley developer Brookfield gave $10,000 and Jeffco Economic Development Corp gave over $10,000.
At the other end of electoral spectrum dozens of Lakewood citizens pooled together almost $13,000 to fund an anemic information campaign. The newspapers are claiming the spending imbalance was approximately 38 to 1. This rout plus the last couple election cycles have thrown a major wench into the establishment’s control of the electoral process. Instead of buying elections, the establishment’s money is beginning to backfire on them.