Realtors pump $79K into Fort Collins mayor, council races

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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSWho’s running for Fort Collins City Council? | 0:34

Candidates in the April 4 municipal election
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins mayoral candidate Kwon Atlas | 2:09

Atlas is seeking election to a two-year term
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins mayoral candidate Elizabeth Hudetz | 1:53

Hudetz is seeking election to a two-year term
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins mayoral candidate Michael Pruznick | 2:05

Pruznick is seeking election to a two-year term
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins council candidate Gordon Coombes | 2:05

Coombes is running from District 3
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins mayoral candidate Wade Troxell | 2:07

Troxell is seeking re-election to a two-year term
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins council candidate Ken Summers | 2:10

Summers is running from District 3
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins City Council candidate Nate Budd | 2:10

Budd is running from council District 1.
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins council candidate Ross Cunniff | 2:05

Cunniff is running from council District 5
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins council candidate Duane Hansen | 2:01

Hansen is running from District 5
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WATCH: 2017 FORT COLLINS ELECTIONSFort Collins City Council candidate Bob Overbeck | 2:14

Overbeck is the incumbent from council District 1.
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  • Who's running for Fort Collins City Council?
  • Fort Collins mayoral candidate Kwon Atlas
  • Fort Collins mayoral candidate Elizabeth Hudetz
  • Fort Collins mayoral candidate Michael Pruznick
  • Fort Collins council candidate Gordon Coombes
  • Fort Collins mayoral candidate Wade Troxell
  • Fort Collins council candidate Ken Summers
  • Fort Collins City Council candidate Nate Budd
  • Fort Collins council candidate Ross Cunniff
  • Fort Collins council candidate Duane Hansen
  • Fort Collins City Council candidate Bob Overbeck

Fort Collins realtors are spending tens of thousands of dollars backing selected city council candidates, in many cases spending more than than the candidates themselves have raised.

Clint Skutchan, CEO of the Fort Collins Board of Realtors, said the candidates backed — Mayor Wade Troxell and council hopefuls Nate Budd (northeast Fort Collins), Duane Hansen (midwest Fort Collins) and Ken Summers (southeast Fort Collins) — are more open to or supportive of the board’s vision for affordable housing efforts than their opponents. All four were endorsed by the Board of Realtors after a series of candidate interviews.

The sum being spent, according to an independent expenditure report filed Wednesday, tops $79,500. The total raised by the campaigns of all 10 council candidates is just shy of $90,000, according to campaign finance reports. While the National Association of Realtors is listed as the group making the spend, Skutchan said the money is raised from local members of his group and filtered up to the national organization which has more expertise with campaign finance laws.

Skutchan said the intent is to raise awareness of affordable housing and where the candidates stand should they become policy makers on the council. The amount of money being spent will likely result in city voters receiving a mailer or two and seeing a couple of online ads, he said.

“We’re not trying to blanket Fort Collins or quote-unquote buy the election,” he said, adding, “This is just us trying to raise awareness of housing affordability and the important role city council plays in those decisions.”

Your guide:2017 Fort Collins election

He noted that Fort Collins’ campaign finance limits — $75 for a council candidate and $100 for mayoral candidates — can make it difficult for candidates to get their own messages out. A council candidate would need to more than 250 people to make a maximum contribution to hit $20,000 in funds raised. He wondered what effect that could have on voter turnout.

Indeed, Only Summers and Troxell have topped $15,000 in funds raised this cycle, with Troxell having wide name recognition in the city and Summers, a former state legislator, receiving donations from the Denver suburbs.

This isn’t the first time money from independent political committees has poured into local municipal elections — more than $100,000 flowed into the 2015 races. The realtors didn’t get heavily involved then, but did spend money backing candidates in 2013, Skutchan said.

Two other political committees have registered with the city but did not file campaign finance reports. A resident has filed a complaint with the city, but there has been no formal response yet.

Skutchan said some of the board’s chief hopes for the new council include studying the effect of the “You plus 2” over-occupancy rule on affordable housing and the impact of development fees charged on construction of multifamily housing units. He said the current structure is regressive in its effect on smaller units and disincentives their construction.

More:Mayoral candidates tout experience, vision

Here’s the reason his board backed the individual candidates:

Wade Troxell 

The mayoral incumbent has “a demonstrated record supporting housing,” Skutchan said. Troxell has worked with the realtors group in the past on affordable housing issues and he was open to gathering more data on the effect of you-plus-two, Skutchan said.

The realtors spent $39,722 to support his bid for re-election. Troxell has raised $20,862, which includes about $5,000 that rolled over from his prior campaign.

Seeking to unseat Troxell as mayor are challengers Kwon Atlas, Elizabeth Hudetz and Michael Pruznick.

Nate Budd

Budd was a “comprehensive candidate” when it came to the housing conversation, Skutchan said. He was well versed in his interview with the board and someone they felt they could talk with, Skutchan said.

“We don’t expect he will align with us 100 percent, but we think he will balance our concerns with neighborhood concerns,” Skutchan said.

Budd is aiming to unseat incumbent Bob Overbeck to represent District 1. The realtors backed him with $17,490 in independent spending. Budd has raised $5,843.

Ken Summers

Skutchan said his group liked what it heard from both Summers and his opponent, Gordon Coombes, on housing policies. But ultimately, it was Summers’ prior experience as an elected official that tipped the scales in his favor, Skutchan said. Summers spent six years in the state House of Representatives serving a district that covered south Lakewood and part of unincorporated Jefferson County.

The board also felt Summers would give more weight to housing and other economic issues while Coombes, the director of the anti-substance abuse TEAM Wellness and Prevention, looked like he would focus more on social issues, Skutchan said.

That race has taken on partisan tones — prominent Republicans are backing Summers, while Democrats are doing the same for Coombes — that made this race trickier for endorsements and public backing, Skutchan said, as municipal races are traditionally nonpartisan.

More:Broadband, NISP key issues in District 3

The District 3 race has also been the primary focus of campaign donations this election, with more than $27,000 being raised by the two candidates.

The District 3 seat, which represents southeast Fort Collins, is the only open seat in this year’s election. The realtors are backing Summers with $14,811 in independent spending. He has raised $16,912 on his own.

Duane Hansen

Skutchan described their endorsement of Hansen over incumbent Ross Cunniff as having more to do with distaste for Cunniff. He accused Cunniff of “making one statement when he meets with us, versus when he speaks in public.”

In regard to Hansen, “we know we’re going to be treated with respect, and that’s one thing that’s obviously going to be important to anybody,” Skutchan said.

Cunniff said he has been consistent and, in regard to the “You plus 2” study sought by the board, said he could support the concept, but “I didn’t want a study that would skew the result, in my view or a constituent’s view.”

More:Growth views divide District 5 council candidates

Cunniff, after mulling over the amount being spent, added Friday that he thinks Hansen is being backed is because “I’m not kowtowing to their pro-growth, big-business agenda.”

“They’re spending $80,000 in this election or more, and they’re smart businessmen, and smart businessmen don’t spend this much money on personal feelings,” Cunniff said.

Hansen seeks to represent the midwest District 5. The realtors are backing him with $7,571 in independent spending. He has raised $1,215 on his own.


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