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ISSUE #135: Simply fANTastic: Ward Wins!!!  6/16/17

"The person who said winning isn't everything never won anything."     --   Mia Hamm

If I've written it here once, I've written it numerous times -- in the People's Republic of Aspen, your vote REALLY, REALLY counts!!  Just 1837 voters (of 5333 ballots mailed to active voters -- a mere 34%) bothered to vote in the run-off election between Ward Hauenstein and former councilman Torre for the remaining open council seat following incumbent Art Daily's defeat and incumbent Ann Mullins' re-election on May 2. (Ann won her seat outright with over 45% +1 of the votes cast and avoided a run-off.)  In the end, just 27 votes separated the candidates -- a narrow 1.5% margin of victory for Ward. (Ward 932 - Torre 905.) This was particularly notable, not only because of the exceedingly close vote count, but also because the results defied recent history; Torre and Ward qualified for the council seat run-off on May 2 based on the outcome of the May 2 general election in which Torre garnered 973 votes to Ward's 895. According to the Aspen Times, no candidate has made up a deficit in a runoff election after gaining fewer votes than their opponent in the general election.

As a long time supporter of Ward's and having endorsed him in The Red Ant in both the 2017 general and run-off elections, I know firsthand that his victory is attributable to a couple of key factors.  In short: having a compelling rationale for running, reaching out across the Aspen voter spectrum, and simply (or not so simply) doing the hard work.  

Ward, a frequent critic of the lack of transparency and poor processes of city hall, ran on three principal issues -- optimizing our subsidized housing inventory, protecting local vendors from predatory practices of deadbeat businesses, and ensuring that Aspen voters have a say should the local government ever want to build dams in the Castle and Maroon Creek valleys. These issues clearly appealed to the local electorate, but it was likely his "we can do this right now" ideas and plans to address them that impressed voters the most.  In short order, look for Ward to prioritize these issues with a strong push right out of the gate to elevate them onto council's Top Ten Priorities list.  He envisions the immediate formation of a task force that will look at different solutions for optimizing the housing inventory that we already have in our portfolio.  He will also look for viable ways that the city can hold businesses accountable for paying their local vendors, perhaps through linking business licenses to fulfilling contracted financial obligations. And regarding the dams, it will take a change to the city charter through a vote, but Ward is adamant that voters should have the final word if/when future councils decide to dam our pristine wilderness. (Having spearheaded the campaigns to defeat the Hydro Plant in 2012 and the Base2 lodge in 2015, Ward - if anyone - knows how to get it done at the voter level.)

We are a diverse and multi-faceted electorate with widely and wildly divergent priorities and opinions.  I'm always curious to study the endorsement lists of the various candidates when these are proudly printed in candidates' newspaper ads.  Ward is his own man.  He belongs to no cabal.  But he has skillfully managed to navigate, win votes and attention, and effectively cut through the many rich and differing and vital and spicy and gooey layers of all that make Aspen, Aspen.  In the end, that's a huge advantage when running for elected office here!!

It's one thing to contract out for a political mailing and buy some ads in the local papers.  It's another thing entirely to study the voter list, target specific voters with messages on issues they are known to care about, knock on hundreds of doors and make personal phone calls.  (In his estimate, Ward knocked on 650 doors and made over 900 phone calls.)  It's hard work.  It's time consuming.  It's even more of a challenge when running a full-time business. The dedication and personal connection mean a lot here, perhaps more than they should, but when just 27 votes make or break a campaign, those last 55 reminder calls on the afternoon of Election Day are clearly well worth the effort!! 

THE 2017 - 2019 COUNCIL
As the sole "new guy," Ward joined councilmen Adam Frisch and Bert Myrin at the council table, along with recently re-elected councilwoman Ann Mullins and mayor Steve Skadron, when they began the new term on June 12.  (Frisch and Myrin are 2 years into their 4-year terms, Frisch's second and Myrin's first. Ward and Ann now begin their 4 year terms, and Steve begins his third and final 2-year term as mayor.)
The Red Ant is delighted with the election outcome.  Thank you to all who voted.  It is important that we have a new voice at the table.  In addition to Ward's fresh new attitude and perspective, we have gained the public service of a good man. Ward is honest. Ward is hard-working.  He will be prepared.  He will listen to all sides.  He is beholden to no one and will make thoughtful decisions.  We may not always agree - and I don't for a minute expect that we will - but if I know one thing, it's that Ward won't make impulsive decisions or cast irrational votes.  He will hear us out.

I am currently pulling together and crunching the numbers from the recent elections and hope to have some interesting tidbits for you in the next issue. This will be particularly fitting given the recent activism of defeated candidates Torre and Skippy, who are already organizing and agitating to make wholesale changes to Aspen's voting apparatus, of course without even contemplating Aspen's nemesis -- the law of unintended consequences.  (I believe the data will show that the millennial demographic voting block didn't vote, and the two aspire to coddle these voters in the future with beer parties and group voting shenanigans during the ski season to "make it easy for them to vote" before they dash off to Moab and other off-season pursuits.)  Stay tuned.

... whose clever post-election email message to The Red Ant warrants sharing with the Aspen voters who got it done:  

"Thank you for reWARDing us with Mr. Hauenstein."

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