election

Longtime resident Marilyn Branch helps voters on Election Day and dispenses "I Voted!" stickers. (Photo by Bria Light/Telluride Daily Planet)

Telluride’s 2019 election is in the books. Voters chose incumbent Lars Carlson and newcomer Adrienne Christy for four-year terms on Telluride Town Council and selected a new mayor, DeLanie Young, from council ranks. The three newly elected officials, as well as former mayor Sean Murphy, mayoral candidate David Oyster and town council hopeful Luigi Chiarani funded their respective campaigns in dollar amounts that ranged from zero to over $13,000.

Among mayoral candidates, Murphy received and spent $13,694.33, outspending his opponents by over $11,000. Young spent $1,308.02 in her successful bid, while Oyster spent $1,171.98.

Murphy racked up bar tabs, haunting popular local watering holes and treating patrons to food and drink. In five days throughout October, he treated customers at the Cornerhouse to $3,444.15 in beer, tots and shots. At the Liberty, two separate expenditure line items totaled $1,521.60, and he spent over $1,400 at the Last Dollar Saloon. He itemized expenses elsewhere, including Smugglers and the Sheridan Bar.

“Mayor Sean” campaign signs, which were ubiquitous, cost his campaign $3,096.98. He also spent more than $1,000 on postage, according to campaign donation and expense filings required by law and available to the public.

Murphy’s spending echoed that of his 2015 run for mayor, in which he defeated Bob Saunders in instant runoff voting, in that he noted “hospitality” expenses at many of the same bars and restaurants, and notable expenditures on signs and postage.

Mayoral winner Young’s largest expenses were $570 for advertising in the Daily Planet, and $382.69 on yard signs, buttons and other printing. A meet and greet at the Sheridan Opera House SHOW Bar cost the candidate $355.33 for food and venue rental. Christy and Chiarani joined her for that event.

Oyster’s unsuccessful bid for mayor cost $1,171.98 out of his own pocket, as he declared no contributions to his campaign. He bought $924 worth of newspaper ads and spent an additional $247.98 on flyers.

Other than newspaper ads, Oyster largely relied on public candidate forums, social media and face-to-face electioneering. In a previous interview with the Daily Planet, he said he would accept donations (he received none), though sought to keep his campaign lean.  

“If people I know and who value my effort offer me a campaign contribution, I will accept it,” he said. “I’m trying to keep this as clean as possible. Money changes everything, to quote the Cyndi Lauper song. It does. It creates a fog.”

Candidate Young and Murphy received $5,050 and $13,600, respectively, with contributions ranging from $100 to $1,000. Young received the largest single donation, — $3,000 from James Johnson — that was noted separately as it exceeded the $1,000 mark.

Among council candidates, Carlson, the top finisher with 611 votes to Christy’s 595, neither accepted donations, nor did he spend a dime in his successful bid to retain his seat. It is not uncommon in Telluride elections for candidates to submit a “zero filing” with the town clerk. In the 2009 election, three candidates campaigned without funding — Saunders, Jill Master and Jeff Taylor; each were running for seats on Town Council that year.

Christy and Chiarani each ran modest campaigns, receiving $895 and $1,050, respectively. Christy’s filed contributions ranged from $50 to $250, Chiarani’s five donations were from $100 to $450. Each candidate noted non-monetary contributions that were larger than any cash donation. Christy accepted $500 for work on her campaign website, while Chiarani filed $1,993.53 for T-shirts with the slogan, “Take it easy, vote Luigi,” contributed by a supporter. Chiarani earned 22.09 percent of the vote, with 342 ballots cast in support.

Murphy and Chiarani were both docked $150 for missing the final date to file, Nov. 1. The fine is $50 per day late.

Most campaign contributions for the candidates came from donors listing local addresses.

As required by law, financial support in favor or in opposition of must also be filed with the clerk’s office. Proponents of Ballot Issue 300, which asked that a 2.5 percent tax be levied on short-term rentals other than hotels, raised $550. The group spent $450 on advertising in the Daily Planet, and $100 on printing handouts and posters.

A group called Pro Workforce Through Fair Funding Issue Committee, which opposed the measure, raised $1,000 from two donations of $500 each from local lodging companies Telluride Alpine Lodging and Latitude 38 Vacation Rentals. The group spent $3,625 on newspaper advertising and another $200 at the Buck for an informational gathering. The group was publicly represented by Lee Zeller, who owns Accommodations in Telluride. The measure succeeded with 56.06 percent of the vote. Taxes collected will go into the town’s Affordable Housing Fund.