2021 Election, Lakewood, Local, Uncategorized

Lakewood City Council race heads to recount; Mary Janssen holds 13 vote edge over far-left opponent

LAKEWOOD — After all the ballots were cast and the votes tallied from the November elections, they will be counted yet again, at least for one seat on the Lakewood City Council.

As of last Thursday morning, Mary Janssen led Tom Keefe in Ward 5 by just 13 votes after the 11:59 p.m. Wednesday cutoff, which was when all overseas and military ballots were due. For conservatives, the two-year Ward 5 seat is vital on an 11-member city council that shifts further leftward every election. Wendi Strom, a registered Democrat, won the four-year seat in that ward by about 600 votes.

Janssen was endorsed by the state Republican Party, while Keefe was part of a five-member slate of Lakewood candidates endorsed by the extreme-left Working Families Party. Three of those far-left candidates (Jeslin Shahrezaei, Sophia Mayott-Guerrero, and Rebekah Stewart) pulled out wins on election night while a fourth, Christopher Arlen, lost his race by 1,600 votes. Keefe didn’t learn of his expected defeat until more than a week later, and it still isn’t official as there will be an automatic recount with less than half a percentage point separating the two.

Colorado’s 2021 November election was the first time in recent memory the state GOP made recommendations in nominally non-partisan municipal races.

While the Ward 5 recount is tentatively scheduled for December 6, Natalie Menten, Janssen’s campaign manager, gave the candidate a little more wiggle room by spending the week leading up to the cut-off curing ballots in hopes of increasing the initial election-night lead, which was just 7 votes.

Curing is a process in which the clerk gives the campaign a list of names of voters whose ballots were refused because their signatures did not match what the clerk had on file, and the campaign is allowed to contact those voters and ask them to “cure” the ballot by verifying it was theirs with the clerk. The candidate does not know how the voter voted, so there can be some risk to contacting people, especially in non-partisan races.

However, this year, most non-partisan races were endorsed by one side or the other, so Menten spent her time researching the voter and then reached out only to those who she thought might have voted for Janssen.

Menten’s work paid off, at least slightly. The curing helped Janssen nearly double her lead, going from 7 votes ahead at the end of the initial batch of counting to the 13-vote lead she now holds.

This wasn’t Menten’s first time curing votes, however. She found herself in the same predicament when she ran for a spot on the RTD board several years ago.

“I went to bed losing, and woke up the morning with congratulations emails,” Menten said. “But I still had to cure ballots. I was carrying around a portable copier in my car to help people get copies of their drivers’ license to the clerk.”

Menten said this is what happens where there are low voter turnouts, adding local races are the most important votes cast, and people need to start recognizing that.

“A city council can control a lot of your life,” Menten said about the decisions made by local elected officials. “It can take away your rights; getting educated on the candidates should be worth the voters time.”

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