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The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

New members, road mandate follow election

Ballot+Boy+by+Brenden+Vigil+for+The+Today.
‘Ballot Boy’ by Brenden Vigil for The Today.

Pueblo voters had some strong mandates for the city Tuesday night: Let’s get some new faces in City Hall, and new road work underway.

County voters also mandated new bodies on the Pueblo County School District 70 Board of Education, as challengers and first-time candidates led a near-clean sweep of the five seats open on that board.

Unofficial tallies updated at 5:49 p.m. Nov. 4 by the Pueblo County Clerk’s office projected that four new City Council members will take the oath of office in 2022. That includes a neck-and-neck race between incumbent Bob Schilling and first-time candidate Regina Maestri that remained too close to call into the election night homestretch.

Stick with The Today for updates, as the election has yet to be canvassed and certified.

City Council at-large

Heather Graham: 10,569
Dennis Flores (I): 10,463
Mark Aliff (I): 9,872

As Pueblo’s city council race boiled on Nov. 3, the at-large seat was still a close toss-up. Businesswoman turned first-time candidate Heather Graham led the field of three with 10,569 votes as of 5:49 p.m. Wednesday. Incumbent Dennis Flores ran a close second with 10,463 votes, while councilmate Mark Aliff fell behind with 9,872 ballots.

Preliminary numbers are still unofficial, as the election has not yet been certified. A pair of at-large seats are up for grabs in the three-person race.

Graham’s election watch party was in high spirits and the candidate said she felt “pretty good” Tuesday night, with the initial results that were in. After several minutes had passed without an up-dated vote count, an attendee of the watch party exclaimed, “Should we just party like we won?”

Graham said that she did vote yes on Prop 119, which aimed to create the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program (LEAPP) and would be funded by a hike on the marijuana retail tax by raising it five percentage points, sending it from 15% to 20%. She had also stated that she voted yes on ballot issue 2A, which would use $576,609 from 2020 excess sales tax revenue to fund road repairs in Pueblo.

Graham is one of the younger candidates running for city council and is part of a trio with Sarah Martinez and Brandon Martin. She ran a platform to help small businesses in the city, and was notably on a committee to push for the 5-Star Certification process for businesses in the community.

Aliff was previously on the city council and is the current vice president of the council. He ran on a campaign focused on tackling the city’s $7 million deficit and has been a vocal opponent against Pueblo’s current mayor Nick Gradisar. Neither Aliff nor Flores responded to a request for an interview.

— Jack Schauer and Seth Six 

 

City Council District 1 (one seat)

Regina Maestri: 2,110
Robert D. Schilling Jr: 1,956
Elvis Martinez: 1,245

Blue and white signs adorn the yards of various houses across the city of Pueblo. Their message is written in bold white letters: “Elect Regina Maestri, City Council District 1!” 

Having moved to Pueblo in 1986, Maestri came here hoping to find her American dream among the town’s rich culture, but was disheartened by the rising crime rate the city has seen in recent years. This served as her motivation to bring change to Pueblo, focusing mainly on Pueblo’s economic issues. 

She has been a strong voice in the battle to save the small businesses on which the town has been built, and an advocate to bring change to the city’s current economic situation. 

The 55-year-old, who as of 5:39 p.m. Nov. 3 held a 154-vote lead over incumbent District 1 councilman Bob Schilling, has been outspoken about her efforts to bring change to the city of Pueblo. Her campaign itself centered around achieving economic success and promises to bring quality leadership, an American voice and strong value system to the city, if elected.

Numbers were preliminary and results were still unofficial. 

Maestri, who was surrounded by friends and family at her home on Tuesday night as she awaited the results of the election, sounded confident in her status in the polls. 

“I’m feeling pretty good for a first-time runner,” Maestri said. At 9:30 p.m. that evening, she led the race 1,597 votes to Schilling’s 1,596. Elvis Martinez, who also challenged for the first district, was a distant third with 924 votes as of 9:30 p.m. 

Schilling, who held a 12 vote lead for much of the evening, said he expected the results to be tight this year, largely due to the low voter turnout. But he kept in high spirits. 

“It’s like horseshoes,” he said. “You take what you can get.”

— Alexa Rodriquez

 

City Council District 3 (one seat)

Sarah Martinez: 3,192
Laura Moreschini: 1,735
Jody Voss: 1,730
Lucretia Robinson: 554

Apparent District 3 victor Sarah Martinez jumped into the 2021 Pueblo City Council election with her heart set on helping her community. A native Puebloan who values the people and places of this town, some of her most of the most important platforms are implementing a system for the community to report potholes/sidewalk damage, having Puebloan voices heard and family care policies. 

Pueblo County’s unofficial poll finds Martinez leading by more than 2,000 votes compared to her closest competitor. Preliminary numbers showed she earned 3,192 votes to Laura Moreschini’s 1,735, Jody Voss’ 1,730 and Lucretia Robinson’s 554.

“Right now I am doing a lot of deep breathing,” Martinez said around 8 p.m. on election night. “I’m sitting with my family right now.” 

Martinez directed The Today to her website for more on her platform. 

— Alorah Saldana-Vigil

 

City Council District 4 (one seat)

Vincente Martinez Ortega: 1,974
Brandon Martin: 1,140
Todd Rogers: 1,070

A Pueblo native and veteran community organizer will take over the seat once held by beloved long-time councilman Ray Aguilar. Vincente Martinez Ortega appears to have claimed Aguilar’s 4th District seat in a low-key and low-turnout three-person race.

Ortega claimed 1,974 ballots, according to unofficial numbers released by the Pueblo County Clerk’s office, compared to Brandon Martin’s 1,140 and Todd Rogers’ 1,070.

The 39-year-old told The Pueblo Chieftain that, as the son of prominent civil rights activists the late Rita Martinez and Jose Estiban Ortega, he grew up on picket lines and in courtrooms, while his parents demonstrated against English-only laws and in support of equal rights.

In his candidate statement on his Facebook campaign page, Ortega wrote that: “I’m running to ensure the community is at the table when decisions are being made, to make sure those most impacted by issues are heard when they bring forward solutions. For too long, much of this District has been dismissed as a liability and I want to help the City to understand and plan for Bessemer and District 4 as an asset.”

He addressed his 527 Facebook followers on election night in a heartfelt post that honored his parents, stating: “Thanks for all the support, mi comunidad! I was working an incredible community event tonight as the results rolled in and I was among gente. ✊🏾My parents were honored as ancestors on a community Dia de Muertos altar and I felt the power of generations surrounding me. We have lots of work to do and I will continue to need my community and trust my community and listen to my community. Adelante!”

–Regan Foster

 

Ballot 2A and other initiatives

Yes: 15,356
No: 6,248

City of Pueblo voters delivered a referendum to the city requesting that our roads be repaired. Unofficial results reflected that ballot issue 2A will pass by a whopping 9,108 votes. The proposition requested that the city should “de-Bruce” the city budget. 

Due to the city’s ability to retain the surplus taxes, Pueblo residents have demanded that they be put to good use, devoting $576,609 in 2021 surplus to repairing local roads. It’s part of a $5 million plan to overhaul a slew of roads, starting in 2022 and spanning over five years, benefitting all local residents including the CSU Pueblo area. Bonforte Boulevard is among the major roadways slated for repair in the upcoming years. 

The-five-year plan will initiate within the next few months, putting to work one of the four ballot initiatives that Pueblo voters were asked to address.

State initiatives

A trio of statewide initiatives, meanwhile, got kicked back to the drawing board. According to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, an amendment to the Colorado Constitution and a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning money that the state receives has been unofficially rejected. Constitutional Amendment 78 failed by over 200,000 votes, with 851,358 votes against the change to the constitution and 642,790 in support. 

Proposition 119, referring to an increase on state taxes on retail cannabis sales, has also been rejected. There will be no change to the Colorado revised statutes concerning the creation of a program to provide out-of-school learning opportunities for Colorado children aged 5 to 17, or associated tax hike. The proposition failed with 696,899 votes in favor of the proposition and 826,475 against.

Proposition 120 has likewise been rejected. This proposition was in relation to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning property tax reductions for multifamily homes. The vote failed with 860,883 to 648,050. 

All numbers are still preliminary.

— Kai Decross-Gonzaleas

District 70 board of education

There is a lot of new blood heading to the Pueblo County School District 70 Board of Education. 

According to preliminary, unofficial election results, at least four out of the five board positions have new district members after the Nov. 2 election. 

  • The Board of Education Director-District 1 was previously held by Paulette Frye but appears to be heading to Dr. Aaron “A.J.” Wilson, with the unofficial results being 5,942 votes for  Wilson, 3,855 votes for Frye and 2,901 votes for third-place finisher Marla Spinuzzi Reichert. 
  • Moving on to the Board of Education Director-District 2: The position was previously held by Frederick Quintana, but according to the unofficial results it should now be held by Anne Ochs. She pulled in 5,566 votes, followed by Quintana with 3,834 votes and Daniel Toussaint with 2,946 votes. 
  • As for the Board of Education Director-District 3, the neck-and-neck horserace that was too close to call as of press time appears to have resulted in another defeated incumbent. Seat-holder Staphanie Cordova-Catalano (4,182 votes) appears to have fallen to challenger Cathleen Culhane Howland (4,445). Kayla Marler rounded out that race with 3,435 ballots.
  • For Board of Education Director-District 4, Christopher DeLuca bested Robert Boyd by some 800 ballots. DeLuca earned 6,473 to Boyd’s 5,604 as of Wednesday evening.  
  • Lastly, the Board of Education Director-District 5 race found John Christenson easily claiming the seat wtih 7,133 ballots, to Theresa “Terrie” Tafoya’s 5,346.

-Michael Milisavljevich

** See related content: How to take stock of your local ballot in 2021 **
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