The 2009 Longmont Election had four council seats up for grabs, including the office of Mayor. Running for re-election was long time councilmember and one term mayor, Roger Lange. There was some chatter that he couldn’t run for mayor due to term limits, but it didn’t get much traction, I never gave it much credit, and it became a moot point as it turns out. Initially, Dan Benavidez announced he was running, but dropped out before collecting petitions. Jeff Thompson did collect enough signatures, ran for a short while, but then also dropped out of the race. Eventually, the race boiled down to two candidates, Roger Lange and late into the race was political newcomer Bryan Baum.
Prior to the election season, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Lange would cruise to any easy re-election. But the noise being made (by myself and others) about the numerous Executive Sessions and the seemingly endless litigation against the Town of Firestone and LifeBridge/4Cstarted taking its toll. The point wasn’t to take out Mayor Lange, at least not on my part, it was a call to reason and to have cooler heads prevail. But one event probably had the highest impact in not just the mayor’s race, but possibly all of the races:
July 28, 2009: Councilmember Gabe Santos made a motion to end all litigation with Firestone, which was seconded by Councilmember Mary Blue. As Santos was making the motion, Councilmember Sarah Levison tried to talk over him completely disregarding any decorum, and Mayor Lange wouldn’t “allow” the motion. This was the beginning of the end for Mayor Lange, and a beginning to the meteoric upswing for Gabe Santos’ reputation which resulted in receiving more votes than any other candidate in the election.
Immediately after this event, Bryan Baum considered running for Mayor and filed his paperwork in late August. Not long after, Benavidez dropped out, and realizing this was going to be a 2-man race, Thompson then dropped out. Both eventually threw their support behind Lange, and the attack machine started on Baum from the left wing of Longmont. There never was any strong concerted attack on Lange though.
What was most interesting to me about Baum’s campaign, other than already being friends with him and his wife Stephanie, was how he was going to fund it. He wasn’t going to take any monetary contributions, but instead would have people spend their own money on items like yard signs, stamps, envelopes (for mailers), t-shirts, or whatever else necessary for the campaign, and it would be done as an “in kind” contribution. This was pretty original in my book, it had more of a grassrootsfeel to it, but not everyone liked the concept.
I can’t say I know how Lange ran his campaign, other than some big ad buys in the Times-Call and yard signs. But I saw Baum signs at a 2-1 margin over Lange signs, for what that’s worth. In the various candidate forums Baum usually outperformed Lange as he’s naturally a more dynamic speaker, with no offense to Lange. Towards the end of the campaign I kept hearing stories of how people were turning their back on Lange, and telling him about it apparently. I figured Lange would have an advantage because over the years lots of people had voted for himin his runs for councilmember, county commissioner, and mayor. Baum by comparison hadn’t ever run for anything and hadn’t received any votes. It’s not easy to peel away a voter who has voted for your opponent more than once, you need to convince them why they should change their allegiance.
Apparently Bryan Baum accomplished this as he ended up with a 54% – 46% victory over Roger Lange. Of the 58 precincts, Baum carried 45of them. Turnout (37%) wasn’t as high as the Ward 2 race.
One of the stranger aspects of this campaign and the election results, was that leaders of the local Democratic Party and their usual mouthpieces campaigned for, donated to, and seemingly voted for Roger Lange – a Republican. They wrote and spoke on his behalf, they paid for robo-calls for him, they did for him nearly what they did for Karen Benker in her race for mayor in 2007. The results were the same: defeat. After 2007 they incorrectly assumed they wielded far greater influence with the citizens of Longmont. With all of their support, and the leftover Republicans that voted for Lange, it would seem he would end up with an insurmountable advantage. It didn’t turn out that way.
As I said in my earlier “2007 Progressive experiment has failed“, I have a great deal of respect for Roger Lange, I thank him for his service on council, and wish him the best in the future. I believe he would have swung back to the right and away from the “Bloc of Four” once Benker was gone, but he irritated one too many voters with the situation on the eastern border of Longmont, and it cost him.
Secondly, showing solidarity with the left wing of the city is a losing proposition. Regardless of what they say, while this town may have become slightly bluer, it is still not Boulder, and probably never will be. The voters sent a strong message that this is and always has been a more traditional, conservative town and it doesn’t appreciate being the potential testing grounds for some Liberal/Progressiveexperiment. In this regard, the Democrat support hurt Lange. Whatever votes he gained with them, he more than lost with Republicans, which was his longtime core support.
Mayor Baum and the new members of council have their work cut out for them and it won’t necessarily be easy. The bitter losers of this election have made it clear they not only will not support this council, but have said they intend to protest them in some fashion without first seeing what they might do. Does anyone recall that occurring after the 2007 election that brought us the detestable Bloc? Even I took a wait-and-see approach with that group, as I didn’t have many preconceived notions about them because like the rest of the city, I hardly knew anything about them. Unfortunately, they instantly played nasty partisan politics and Karen Benker just paid the price for it.
So, good luck to the new mayor and councilmembers!