Last night’s resounding victory for unaffiliated political newcomer Yemi Mobolade (pronounced YEH-me Moh-boh-LAH-day) in the Colorado Springs mayoral runoff election over Republican career politician and former Secretary of State Wayne Williams is a political sea change that observers on all sides are still struggling to fully understand the next day. As it became clear that Mobolade would prevail early yesterday evening, former Bush administration failson-turned radio host Michael “Brownie” Brown declared the result means “the GOP is dead in Colorado.”
After this shocking turnabout in one of the state’s last conservative strongholds, previously settled questions once again present themselves tantalizingly:
— Previn Witana (@lordpet8) May 17, 2023
Although Mayor-elect Mobolade is not a registered Democrat, he will be the first non-Republican “nonpartisan” Mayor to lead the city in decades. Colorado Springs’ conservative politics are the result of a longstanding amalgamation of religious right and military interests in a city that despite its ideological predilections is economically dependent on federal tax dollars. Over time, however, urbanization and a diverse influx of current and former military residents have changed the political landscape–as Wayne Williams himself conceded last night in an interview with Colorado Public Radio:
The Williams campaign noted that while 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl won El Paso County, she lost Colorado Springs.
“It’s clear Colorado Springs is less conservative than it used to be. [Pols emphasis] When I was chairman here (of the El Paso County GOP) we had no Democratic state reps. Now we have three,” Williams said. “So there are significant changes that have taken place and I congratulate Yemi on an excellent campaign.”
This morning, Republicans gathered on loser GOP Attorney General candidate George Brauchler’s AM radio show to assess the damage. Former state GOP chairman Dick Wadhams, who has been highly critical of the cult of Donald Trump in recent years, agreed that El Paso County “is not a Republican stronghold anymore.” Unfortunately for fans of coherent messaging, Wadhams was followed by current state party chairman Dave “Let’s Go Brandon” Williams, who couldn’t seem to keep straight whether Mobolade’s victory is a “wakeup call” or a “one-off” aberration:
BRAUCHLER: This outcome – not just who won, but the spread – was that a shock to you?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think it was a shock to a lot of folks. We figured it would be close, but we certainly didn’t expect that it would be a landslide victory for Yemi. That’s something that we should all be concerned with. It’s a wake-up call for us. [Pols emphasis]
But just a few moments later, a contradictory answer:
BRAUCHLER: Do you see this as a one-off? Like this is less a sign that Colorado Springs has shifted to the left than it is a series of things that you have described pretty well…
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I do. I think this is more of a one-off. [Pols emphasis] But I think it’s certainly something that we can’t take for granted…
Dave Williams may have represented part of Colorado Springs in the legislature, but it’s evident he does not have a grasp on the changing political trends that produced last night’s result. After Mobolade won the first round of voting, the entire Republican political apparatus in El Paso County went to work trying to paint Mobolade as a “Democratic socialist” despite no real evidence to back the charge up. That combined with the key endorsement of the conservative third-place finisher Sallie Clark confounded the shrilly negative partisan attacks by Wayne Williams.
On the other hand, Mobolade ran a relentlessly positive-themed campaign, reminiscent of John Hickenlooper’s off-beat and successful run for Mayor of Denver in 2003. Mobolade’s message was not ideologically polarizing, but focused on bringing residents together to address common problems. That’s also the message Colorado Democrats used when they took control from Republicans statewide two decades ago, commencing an era of Democratic political dominance in Colorado politics that persists to the present day.
Perhaps comprehending the long-term reality better than his guests, George Brauchler had this surprising moment of clarity in conclusion:
BRAUCHLER: But I do think that to some extent, if you’re a conservative, if you’re a Republican, you have to wrap your mind around the idea that maybe, maybe a certain portion of the population has changed enough that they know exactly what we stand for and they disagree with it. [Pols emphasis]
They disagree with our notion of freedom. They disagree with our defense of the Second Amendment to the extent that they do the extreme that we do it, they object to our position on pro-life and abortion.
Maybe it’s just that the majority of voters in the state of Colorado reject those positions. [Pols emphasis] And we can either accept that, we can try to change the demographics or we can try to come up with a policy that gets us as much of what we can get as possible.
Coming from someone who rarely scores points for honesty, this is perhaps the most honest assessment of Republican decline in Colorado we’ve ever seen–certainly from a fellow Republican. Losing power in one of the state’s last remaining conservative strongholds after years of historic losses in statewide elections is a sign that, as bad as it is for the Republican minority in this state, they still have further to fall. It’s not the result of election treachery or any other deception. Colorado voters understand the issues and the choices, and they’re choosing to reject Republicans even in their strongholds.
Like George Brauchler says, it may be time to simply “accept that.”