This year’s election season in Lakewood actually started last December, and the following eight months have seen 14 candidates enter the field. In the spring, yard signs started popping up like dandelions in residents’ yards and in front of …
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This year’s election season in Lakewood actually started last December, and the following eight months have seen 14 candidates enter the field. In the spring, yard signs started popping up like dandelions in residents’ yards and in front of businesses, and they’ve only flowered as summer waned.
And there’s still two months to go.
This year’s municipal election will be a big shake-up for the city: In addition to a new mayor after eight years with Bob Murphy, half the council seats will open up due to term limits. Only the Ward 3 race features an incumbent (Pete Roybal). Change is coming to city leadership.
Despite the importance of these choices, voter turnout for council elections has been declining in Lakewood. According to information provided by City Clerk Margy Greer, in the 2011 election there were 106,600 registered voters with 46.98 percent turnout, and in 2013 there were 98,766 registered voters with only 30 percent turnout.
“Things get started here so early because there is so much apathy among voters,” said Joe Margotte, owner of Chicago Style Beef and Dogs. Margotte has been involved in countless community projects and organizations, and has seen many civic leaders come and go. “Most people don’t even know who the mayor is. It’s hard to get people active here.”
More and more businesses are voicing their support for candidates, with more expected to endorse as November gets closer. Cassie Stenstrom, mayoral candidate Adam Paul’s campaign manager, said this allows business owners to share with customers and the community which candidates they believe in. (Mayoral candidate Ramey Johnson’s campaign did not return a request for comment).
The council elections are supposed to be non-partisan, and Marian Metsopoulos, of the Lakewood Historical Society, said she’s been struck by how council, for the most part, hasn’t been politically controlled in the city’s history. Cheryl Cheney, chair of the Jefferson County Democrats, expressed similar sentiments, and added that the organization only supports candidates for council if asked — something that rarely happens.
“Lakewood candidates take the non-partisan requirement very much to heart,” she said.
The Jefferson County Republican Party was asked for comment for this story, but did not reply.
While the divides may not be partisan, that certainly doesn’t mean there isn’t a heated debate between what some call “establishment” candidates (those running with the support of current elected officials) and their opponents. The divide comes from a desire by some to maintain what Murphy has referenced numerous times as a “continuity of leadership,” but for those who disagree with council choices, that continuity is not what they want to see.
This debate is going on among neighbors and various sites online, and is coming right to the doorstep of some residents, who are receiving a Lakewood Watchdog newsletter in the mail. The anonymously written paper focuses on issues like the storm water fee increase, single trash hauler and high density concerns — issues that have been hot topics for anti-establishment candidates. Former city council candidate Dan Smith is listed as the president of the newsletter, but did not return requests for comment.
The debate and discussions show every sign of getting more intense as the election draws nigh — a reflection of the commitment many residents have to their city.
“We believe in Lakewood,” Margotte said. “We love Lakewood and want to see it move in the right direction.”
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