Mayor Aaron Brockett will keep his job and become the city’s first directly elected city mayor following a nail-biting election in which he eked out a narrow win over his nearest rival, Councilmember Bob Yates.
Brockett, 50, announced his mayoral candidacy with a commitment to creating a more “just, equitable and accessible” city. He reiterated this message in his campaign and outlined broad priorities for the next three years in an interview on Wednesday night.
“Continuing to make strides in the equity direction, housing accessibility and affordability, climate resilience, transportation, safety, transit access — we have big challenges that we have to make progress on,” Brockett told Boulder Reporting Lab.
He claimed victory on Nov. 8, the day after the election, as results showed he had a narrow but growing lead over Yates.
The City of Boulder used a form of ranked-choice voting to elect its mayor for the first time this year. In the first round, Yates appeared to have an advantage. But Brockett benefited from the reallocation of votes from the third-place candidate in the race, Councilmember Nicole Speer, a scientist who was elected to a four-year council term in 2021.
Brockett took the lead as more Election Day ballots were counted. Generally, younger and more left-leaning voters cast their ballots later. As a result, those ballots also show up in the results later. Given this trend, Brockett’s supporters remained optimistic even when Yates appeared to be winning early on election night.
“I wanted Bob under 50% in the first round on that first drop. And that’s exactly what we got,” Chris Nicholson, Brockett’s campaign manager, told Boulder Reporting Lab on election night. “If history is any guide, the rest of the ballots won’t be so favorable to him.”
Yates, a retired executive from a telecommunications company who has served two terms on the Boulder City Council, called Brockett on Wednesday evening to congratulate him. At that time, he was behind by just 497 votes, or less than 2%.
By late Wednesday night, after nearly all votes had been counted, Brockett’s lead had grown to 1,198 votes.
“The city’s in great shape. We’re in great hands with Aaron,” Yates told Boulder Reporting Lab.
Brockett and Yates seldom criticized each other on the campaign trail. Yates spent about $32,000 — more money than any other candidate — mostly on ads, mailers and yard signs. But in the weeks before the election, the Working Families Party National PAC spent $21,000, mainly on ads advocating against Yates, one of which attacked him for previously having been registered as a Republican. Yates registered as an unaffiliated voter in May 2022.
Yates, 62, said he wants to look for other ways to contribute to the community. He is planning to write a column in the Boulder Daily Camera in place of his monthly newsletter, the Boulder Bulletin, which he is considering ending after the next edition.
“Today was the first quiet, peaceful day I’ve had in five months,” Yates said of the election season, after being the first to announce his bid for mayor last June. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to find other ways to lead in this community.”
Brockett, a co-founder of a software development firm, moved to North Boulder with his wife, Cherry, in 2003. They bought a townhome at the Wild Sage co-housing community in the Holiday neighborhood. Brockett served on the city’s Planning Board from 2011 to 2015. In 2015, he was elected to the Boulder City Council and was appointed mayor in 2021. He has two children, one of whom serves on the city’s Environmental Advisory Board. He frequently commutes around town by bike.
During his mayoral campaign, he earned the endorsement of Gov. Jared Polis. Earlier this year, Brockett stood beside Polis when the governor was seeking to pass a land-use bill that faced opposition from just about every other local government. The bill died on the last day of the 2023 legislative session.
In 2021, Brockett quit his job to focus on his role as mayor, which is similar to the position of a city councilmember with the added responsibilities of managing meetings and representing the city on state and national stages. Last summer, Brockett unsuccessfully ran to fill a vacancy for a seat as a state representative.
Since becoming mayor in 2021, Brockett has backed the Boulder City Council’s agenda to chip away at the city’s housing shortage. During this council’s term, councilmembers made it easier to build accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, raised occupancy limits on how many unrelated people can live together, eliminated single-family zoning to allow duplexes and triplexes on larger lots in low-density neighborhoods, and tweaked the city’s methodology for calculating “cash-in-lieu” payments, which are the city’s most powerful tool for creating more deed-restricted affordable housing.
The next mayoral election will be in 2026, when the city council elections will move to even years as part of an effort to boost voter turnout. In the meantime Brockett said it is too early to dive into specific policy priorities. The new city council will be sworn in on Dec. 7.
“I’ll wait to work with my new colleagues to figure out exactly the specific steps we’re going to take,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to getting down to work.”
Correction: This story was updated to accurately reflect Bob Yates’ change of political affiliation, which occurred in May 2022, according to the voter registration database, and not in 2021.
Clarification: This story was clarified to more precisely depict the spending from the Working Families Party National PAC in Boulder’s election. While the vast majority of the funds were used to campaign against Yates, not all of the ads centered on his prior Republican affiliation.