From right, Allison Hiltz, Crystal Murillo, and Nicole Johnston. all Emerge-trained candidates for Aurora City Council in 2017
EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed the endorsements to Colorado’s People’s Alliance. It was Colorado People’s Action that made the endorsement. The two groups are related but legally separate.
AURORA | Endorsements for Aurora City Council are starting to roll in, even as candidates are still jumping into races for the five seats up for grabs. Colorado People’s Action, a progressive organization focused on immigration and racial justice, recently endorsed four candidates of the current 26 seeking office.
“For us, this is a critical election. We have the opportunity to shift who sits at the table in Aurora,” said Lizeth Chacon, executive director of CPA. “We hope that people are engaged. The fact that there are so many candidates hopefully means that they will talk about the issues. We don’t think that has been the fact in the past.”
In Ward I, the organization endorsed Crystal Murillo over incumbent Sally Mounier. In Ward II, where there are a total of seven candidates, CPA endorsed Nicole Johnston. Of the five candidates in Ward III, CPA endorsed political newcomer Martha Lugo. All three candidates — Murillo, Hiltz and Johnston — have been coached by Emerge Colorado, a six month program that trains Democratic women how to run an election campaign.
The group only endorsed one at-large candidate, Allison Hiltz, even though there are two at-large seats up for election.
“Based on the research we did, we didn’t feel there was somebody else (who aligned with our values) in that at-large race,” Chicon said.
This is the first time CPA has endorsed municipal candidates. Last year, the organization got involved in the congressional race. But now, Chicon said it’s time for Aurora to have a more representative council, and beyond endorsing candidates that has meant canvassing the city to see what is important to voters.
“Part of our plan is that in order to increase turnout, we’re going to have to go door to door to get them to vote,” Chicon said.
While city council races are nonpartisan, many of the issues CPA quizzed candidates on are along hard political lines, such as immigration, racial inequality, climate change and fracking. The group even asked how the candidates had “worked with the progressive movement in the past.”
Among the list of questions were plenty of diversity and how the candidates view correlating policies. CPA asked candidates whether they support a recent city council resolution that upholds Aurora abstaining from sanctuary city status. All endorsed candidates said they disagreed with council’s decision.
Chicon said the group did a lot of research before interviewing the candidates they ultimately selected for endorsement, and political party had nothing to do with the endorsement.
“We based (the endorsement) on the issues and who are the most progressive candidates,” Chicon said.