by Madeleine Osberger, Special to the Aspen Daily News

Myrin’s 65.6 percent of vote hands Ireland his first electoral loss

Bert Myrin is the newest member of Aspen City Council, after handily winning Tuesday’s runoff election with more than 65 percent of the vote. Myrin bested former mayor Mick Ireland, 1,305 to 684, according to results provided by city clerk Linda Manning.

“I’m stunned by the margin,” Myrin said Tuesday night from his Hallam Street home, where he welcomed supporters and campaign workers. Myrin said his “bottom-up campaign” that painted him as a political outsider was well received by the electorate.

“My message was constantly, I was not the voice of inside city hall. There was not a soul in that building who was supporting me. But they never have in 15 years,” said the former member of the city’s planning and zoning commission.

Contacted after the election, Mayor Steve Skadron, who endorsed Ireland, said, “I welcome a fresh person on council.”

Skadron believes he and Myrin are “philosophically aligned,” and that as mayor he has “a clear record of working collaboratively with people on all issues.”

Skadron also said he wasn’t necessarily surprised by the results, as traditionally in Aspen elections, the “person who garners the most votes in the general election got the most votes in the runoff.”

Myrin was the second-place finisher in the May 5 general election, collecting 994 votes, a handful shy of the amount needed to win the seat without a runoff. Ireland’s vote total in the general, where voters can pick two council candidates, was 813. Incumbent Councilman Adam Frisch finished first with 1,208 votes.

The June 2 runoff was the first election that Ireland, 65, has lost since seventh grade, which was almost 50 years ago. While disappointed, Ireland said he wasn’t necessarily surprised, because he’d done extensive pre-election polling.

Ireland said “one outcome had [Myrin] winning large. The next was me winning small.”

Weak voter turnout in some of his “best” neighborhoods, such as Burlingame, hurt his chances, Ireland said. He also felt this was the best campaign he’s ever run.

“We did the entire thing without a single negative word by me or anyone close to me,” said Ireland, a three-term mayor and 14-year county commissioner.

Myrin, 47, said one of his strengths was “pulling people together who are really diverse.” That included former candidates Marsha Goshorn and Torre. “I got endorsed by everyone who didn’t win; all of the people who were not on the inside,” he said for emphasis.

Strong turnout, few problems

Citizens who gathered in city hall to await the election results were also surprised by Myrin’s large victory.

“Wow, an avalanche,” said longtime local David Bentley.

Howard Wallach, the chairman of the Pitkin County Democratic Party, was similarly stunned by Myrin’s 621-vote margin.

“That’s huge,” he said.

Myrin, said he recently “unaffiliated” with the local Democrats, believing they had abandoned him after the general election and thrown all support to Ireland.

Ireland said the party “never took an official position” on any candidate in this election. He did admit to long-standing personal and political relationships with former chair Blanca O’Leary and her husband Cavanaugh that date back nearly 16 years.

Ireland’s advice for his friend and rival, based upon his 10 successful campaigns, was pointed: “I hope Bert will remember that there are lots of people who supported him who don’t agree with him about many things. That’s a tough lesson.”

Voter turnout was strong, with 1,989 ballots cast in this election. That surpassed the 2013 runoff, when 1,753 voters cast ballots in an election where Skadron beat Torre for mayor.

In 2007, races for both council and mayor were decided by a June runoff. That’s when Ireland edged Tim Semrau for mayor, while Skadron beat Toni Kronberg for the council seat. In that high-interest election, a total of 2,136 voters cast ballots.

Election judge Patti Clapper, who is also a county commissioner, congratulated city clerk Manning for a 2015 election that ran smoothly despite a large voter turnout.

“There was no chaos, tension or stress,” Clapper said.

Twitter, @Madski99