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Will progressives take more seats in non-partisan Aurora City Council races?

Maps tell you Aurora is to the right of Denver. For decades, that was also true politically. Progressives now have half of the city council seats and may take more.

AURORA, Colo. — Geography tells us that Aurora is to the right of Denver.

For decades, that was also true politically.

Recently, progressives have taken half of city council. Next week's non-partisan Aurora City Council races will decide if they take more.

There are 15 candidates running for five city council spots in four council races. One of the races is at-large, and there are two at-large seats open. Since council is a non-partisan role, none of the candidates have their party affiliation next to their names.

"Probably about 25-30% of the time, people whose doors I knocked on asked me my party affiliation," said former Aurora mayor and councilman Bob LeGare. "At the time I was running, I was a Republican. I'm currently an independent. Unaffiliated."

LeGare was appointed to council for one year and then was elected from 1995-'03 and again from 2011-'19, when he served a year as mayor following the death of Steve Hogan.

Most of his time on council was when it was quietly conservative.

"It's been since I left council that it's been the most radical," said LeGare.

Liberal councilmembers elected in 2017 and 2019 have pushed progressive ideas. Not all have made it based the politically-divided council.

"I don't think that's beneficial to the residents of the city, if you're taking national political issues and then making them the focus of what you do on the city council," said LeGare. "I'm thinking more along the lines of immigration reform and ICE detention centers. You have to be careful in not passing a law that has all of your officers leaving you."

"The constituents want to know where we are on these issues, specifically police reform," said former Aurora City Councilwoman Nicole Johnston. "When there's issues like climate action or police reform or homelessness, local government is where there can be a direct impact."

Johnston, a progressive, resigned in June ahead of a move to Colorado Springs.

Her absence on council has led to two tie votes on prominent issues.

One, her seat remains vacant because the remaining council could not break a tie on her replacement. Voters will handle that next week.

Two, the camping ban proposed by Mayor Mike Coffman, failed on two tie votes and cannot be brought up again for a few months.

If the liberal candidates win, the camping ban likely will not.

If the conservative candidates win, it probably will.

"I don't even think it's a matter of going to the right with this specific slate of candidates. I think these candidates are very lock-step with Mayor Coffman," said Johnston of the conservative candidates. "Extreme line-in-the-sand, 'I'm not going to work with the other folks,' means that the constituents are hurt."

"I like to take the right and left out of local government," said LeGare.

Despite having differing political views, LeGare and Johnston can see eye-to-eye on this topic.

"I don't think it's good governance to have anything far one way or far the other," said Johnston.

"I don't really want it to go radically to the right. The radicals on the right are just as radical as the radicals on the left," said LeGare.

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