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August 16, 2023 11:22 AM UTC

"Strong Mayor" Mess Might Make Coffman "Not Mayor"

  • by: Colorado Pols
King “D’oh!”

As we discussed in the latest episode of the Get More Smarter Podcast (below) the self-inflicted disaster in Aurora that is Mayor Mike Coffman’s idiotic “strong mayor” initiative campaign may well end up preventing Coffman from winning a second term in November.

A longtime Republican elected official, Coffman was narrowly elected Mayor in 2019 in what has increasingly become a city that leans more toward Democrats. Coffman is running for re-election now, and the last thing he needed was to give Aurora voters a good reason vote him out of office. But that’s what he did.

After months of obfuscation on the subject, Coffman now admits that it was his idea to create a ballot measure for November that would move Aurora to a “strong mayor” system of government similar to what is in place in Denver and Colorado Springs. Mark Harden has a good explanation in The Denver Post of a “strong mayor” vs. “weak mayor” system of municipal government, but the short version is that a “strong mayor” system would make the next Aurora Mayor a lot more powerful.

Not only did Coffman conceive of the “strong mayor” initiative — he personally donated $10,000 to the campaign staffed by longtime pals and former aides such as Tyler Sandberg. The rest of the money for the campaign comes from a dark money group out of…wait for it…Colorado Springs.

Coffman arranged all of this while refusing to comment for months on the proposal, hiding behind asinine arguments that Marshall Zelinger of 9News easily dismantled in an interview earlier this month (an interview that Dave Perry of The Aurora Sentinel called “one of the most cringe-evoking pieces of video ever to travel the airwaves.”)

As Harden wrote recently for The Denver Post, this ham-handed politicking did not go unnoticed:

It’s a question that deserves serious consideration in this complex city of nearly 400,000 people. But the rollout of the proposal has been a botch of the first order, spawned in a swamp of bait-and-switch tactics by backers and, until recently, attempts by Mayor Mike Coffman, running for re-election, to obscure his involvement in a plan to greatly boost his office’s powers.

It’s a “colossal scam” and a “swindle,” says Dave Perry, editor of Aurora’s hometown news outlet, the Sentinel. And most Aurora City Council members, left and right, oppose the plan and how it was introduced…

For now, Aurorans should give the strong-mayor plan strong consideration. But they should also consider whether Coffman – the mastermind of the plan’s misleading rollout, who spent months obscuring his role – can be trusted to assume a strong mayor’s powers. [Pols emphasis]


[mantra-pullquote align=”center” textalign=”center” width=”95%”]“Because neither the public nor the staff here at the Sentinel are stupid, it quickly became clear that it was indeed Coffman who contrived all this, and then he refused to admit it — repeatedly.”

— Aurora Sentinel editorial (8/9/23)[/mantra-pullquote]

Aurora leaders are also incensed that the ballot initiative was misleadingly presented by signature gatherers as a “term limits” measure. Opponents of Coffman’s power grab have filed a lawsuit attempting to invalidate the initiative, and the majority of Aurora’s City Council — both Democrat and Republican — are voicing their opposition.

This bears repeating: The majority of Aurora’s City Council, on both sides of the political aisle, are opposed to Coffman’s “strong mayor” initiative, largely because of the underhanded tactics used to get it on to the ballot. Such a coalition would be difficult to organize on purpose.

Again, from Harden:

At a May 24 news conference, frequent foes on the Aurora City Council — including right-leaning Danielle Jurinsky and left-leaning Juan Marcano — shared a podium with other leaders to blast the petition drive, with Jurinsky calling it “extremely deceptive.” Marcano is running to replace Coffman as mayor, yet even he opposes the strong-mayor plan…

Even some of Coffman’s allies aren’t buying that. Aurora Councilman Curtis Gardner, who like Coffman is a Republican and says he agrees with the mayor on policy “90% or more of the time,” told 9News that voters were “hoodwinked” when they were “told this is about term limits, when it’s really not.” [Pols emphasis]


Via The Aurora Sentinel (8/9/23)

Aurora Sentinel editor Dave Perry thinks Coffman has severely damaged himself with this stunt:

You just have to wonder whose side Mayor Mike Coffman is on — clearly it’s not his own.

That’s the logical conclusion after watching Aurora’s state-rep-turned-state-senator-turned-state-treasurer-turned secretary-of-state-turned-congressman-turned-mayor-turned-wannabe-mayor-king politically strangle himself in front of all of Colorado…[Pols emphasis]

…All of this would have been just tacky if he’d done it on the up and up. He could have cooked up this “strong mayor” scheme, made it clear he fancied himself the kind of guy who could run a big city, and try to sell it first to his acolytes, then to the city council and, ultimately, to voters.

Instead, Coffman secretly cooked up a 45-page rewrite of the city’s charter, changing the role of mayor to something a little like what they have in Denver and Colorado Springs and more like they have in China as Communist Party secretary general.

It’s exactly the kind of thing voters in Pueblo, stuck with their own mayor-king nightmare, are trying to undo right now.

What, no good?


That was just the lead-in to the final blow from Perry:

It’s stunning that Coffman didn’t see how something as compelling as the role of Aurora’s mayor could be turned into a career-killing scandal that questions his ability to be honest, forthright and even mostly sensible — in an election year.


In the wake of this disaster, two Aurora Democrats worked out their differences and decided to combine forces to defeat Coffman rather than split the vote in another “nonpartisan” [cough, cough] election. Aurora City Councilman Juan Marcano, one of the more vocal critics of Coffman’s attempted power grab, will have Coffman all to himself in November.

Coffman has done a poor enough job as Aurora Mayor that he didn’t deserve to be re-elected anyway, but he’s in deep trouble now that he turned an otherwise-sleepy race into a pretty easy choice for voters. If he does indeed lose in November, Coffman will have nobody to blame but himself.



11 thoughts on ““Strong Mayor” Mess Might Make Coffman “Not Mayor”

    1. He’s the sitting mayor of a town of 400,000 . . .

      . . . there’s gotta be someplace in Aurora he could at least still qualify for a hand jerb?? 

      1. Born in 1955, Coffman may simply want to retire. 

        He's earned retirement from

         * over 20 years in the military,

         * nearly 20 years of employment as a State of Colorado Representative, Senator, Treasurer and Secretary of State, and

         * 10 years in Congress.

        Not sure but think Aurora probably contributes to Colorado PERA, so that would add 4 years as mayor (earning around $85,000 a year) to previous Colorado state employment.

  1. Maybe I deceived the people of Aurora, but that’s their fault for allowing me to do it! This is as bad as his “I misspoke, and I apologize” cringiness.  

    And yes, my teenage daughter just awarded me two points for using the word “cringiness” (if it is a word…).

    1. As a part-time spelling N*zi, I'd go with "cringiness." Used in a sentence, "2Jung2Die's constant spelling suggestions are among the worst types of cringiness."

  2. …that questions his ability to be honest, forthright and even mostly sensible…

    Those of us who have followed Coffman's career have not had to question, we know he hasn't had this ability for decades.

  3. If he thought it was such a great idea, and as a Denverite I don't think it's a bad one, wasn't there anyone he could have coaxed to carry the petition to implement the changes he wanted? If not, that ought to have told him something. As I often say, he's going to lose and look bad doing it.

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