Former El Paso County Clerk and commissioner Wayne Williams‘ career peaked in 2014 when he won election to the statewide office of Secretary of State, losing that post four years later to Jena Griswold as part of the 2018 clean election sweep by Democrats that has persisted to this today. After losing statewide office, Williams returned to his hometown of Colorado Springs where he was elected to the City Council in 2019.
Though an early source of baseless misinformation about Colorado’s election system reforms passed in 2013, once elected as Secretary of State Williams became a defender of the reforms he once criticized and–with a few unfortunate exceptions–emerged as a voice of reason among Colorado Republicans while the party’s activists lurched toward election denial. Williams even played a role in cleaning up the substantial mess left by former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters after Peters was stripped of her election oversight duties during the investigation that led to Peters’ felony indictment.
Williams was at one point considered the easy frontrunner in the race to succeed outgoing Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, himself the former GOP Colorado Attorney General, but what should have been a drama-free handoff from one Republican white dude to the next was effectively scrambled by political newcomer Yemi Mobolade. With the conservative vote split between Williams and former county commissioner Sallie Clark, Mobolade powered to a commanding, albeit not decisive, victory in the election’s first round. Since then Clark has endorsed Mobolade in the runoff election that concludes tomorrow.
Yemi Mobolade is not a product of the state’s Democratic political establishment, and gained traction in the race on his own initiative. The conventional wisdom in this race remains that despite Clark’s endorsement of Mobolade the split conservative electorate will “come home” to Williams, and as a result Williams has been hammering away at Mobolade in an increasingly desperate attempt to paint him as a leftist on the thinnest of evidence. KRDO-TV’s Spencer Soicher shared a particularly nasty mailer that hit over the weekend from Williams’ campaign:
All this imagery of rioters, broken windows, and homeless encampments (which if you didn’t know are already common around the city) is justified by Mobolade answering “yes” to a yes or no question about whether city workers should be able to organize. As for spending on “equitable outcomes” instead of roads and bridges, that’s just hogwash–no one has proposed spending less on roads and bridges in Colorado Springs, and if you drive around on the city’s streets for five minutes you’ll know why.
In the end, it’s just another disappointing turn toward sleazy dishonesty by Wayne Williams, and despite his affable reputation, it’s not the first time. On the other hand, if Mobolade does break the GOP’s longstanding grip on this nominally nonpartisan city government, it could mark a turning point against partisan Colorado Republicans who have withdrawn to municipal offices after years of defeats at higher levels.
If it can happen in Colorado Springs, it can happen anywhere.