The Boulder City Council election results have determined who will fill three of the four open seats, but who will serve in the final spot will not be clear for days — if not weeks.
Ryan Schuchard, a member of the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, is hanging on to the fourth spot by just 42 votes. The next candidate in line is Terri Brncic, an organizer with the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure campaign.
Whoever wins the final spot will join Councilmemeber Tara Winer, Tina Marquis, former president of the Boulder Valley School District’s Board of Education, and Taishya Adams, a former member of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission and a founding member of the city’s Police Oversight Panel. Aaron Brockett, a two-term councilmember, won the city’s first direct election of city mayor.
The next drop of results is planned for Nov. 16. This may include as many as 600 City of Boulder ballots, according to the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder. Those include ballots held to preserve voter anonymity and those that need to be “cured” due to signature discrepancies. If the current margin holds after they are counted, it would trigger a recount.
What is more clear is that, at most, six councilmembers endorsed by the Boulder Progressives, a left-leaning political organization, will serve on the nine-member council — maintaining the current majority. However, some believe the new council could end up leaning more to the left.
One reason the political leaning may not drastically change is that an effort to elect a new slate of candidates advocating for public safety, in part by focusing on homeless encampments, failed to flip the majority.
Councilmember Bob Yates narrowly lost the race after a campaign launched with the message that public safety is the city’s “number one responsibility.” Jennifer Robins, a candidate for council, led with the position that public safety is about “making sure that your businesses are safe, that you’re personally safe when you’re walking.” Brncic, who could still win a seat depending on the final vote count, advocated for bail reforms that ensure “meaningful consequences to criminal behavior,” such as incarceration.
Dan Caruso, a local investor in tech start-ups, sought to drive voter turnout by drawing attention to homeless encampments and making a connection to rising reports of crime. He lamented the results of the election.
“I’m very disappointed,” Caruso told Boulder Reporting Lab.
He said “extreme tactics” to campaign against Yates may have made the difference between Brockett winning and losing. One example he cited was a mailer from a national campaign committee that tied Yates to the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“If I got elected based on that tactic, I don’t know how I would feel about it. I might even resign,” Caruso said.
Despite the mixed results for Boulder City Council, the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure passed by a 22-point margin, suggesting broad appeal from voters. The measure, its supporters have argued, is designed to enhance public safety, particularly for children, by making tents and propane tanks near schools, sidewalks and multi-use paths “subject to prioritize removal.”
Notably, several candidates who opposed the measure were elected. Brockett opposed it. So did Adams, who sought to “expand the definition of who’s safe and who’s not” by citing the story of Zayd Atkinson. In 2019, a city officer drew his gun on Atkinson while he was picking up trash outside his home. Schuchard advocated for making streets safer for people who bike, walk and get around by means other than a vehicle.
“I don’t think that one particular group has some sort of dominant stake on that issue” of public safety, said Eric Budd, a member of the Boulder Progressives, which opposed the Safe Zones 4 Kids measure. “We all have a stake in this issue, in making sure that Boulder — and all of Boulder — is a safe place.”
Independent candidates faced uphill battle
Another takeaway from this year’s city council election is that independent candidates struggled to break through.
Boulder Elevated, a newly formed committee that made public safety one of its key policy issues, spent about $5,500 partially on advertisements and mailers encouraging voters to vote for Yates, Winer, Marquis, Brncic and Robins. Boulder Progressives, meanwhile, spent about $3,500, in part on ads and mailers advocating for Brockett and Councilmember Nicole Speer in the race for mayor and Adams and Schuchard in the race for the Boulder City Council.
Waylon Lewis, a co-founder of Elephant Journal, received the most votes of the candidates who were not endorsed by Boulder Elevated or the Boulder Progressives. Lewis grew up in Boulder and has even been dubbed the de-facto mayor of Boulder given his popularity around town. He was also endorsed by several prominent local political organizations, including Better Boulder and a local chapter of the Sierra Club.
Even so, he fell short of getting a seat on the Boulder City Council by thousands of votes.
“The moral of the story is folks want their team, want to judge folks on wedge issues vs. focusing on solutions, don’t want thoughtful nuance, don’t want simple caring,” Lewis wrote in a post about the election in Elephant Journal.
“But am I bitter? No. I am sad.”
The other candidates who ran without the endorsements of Boulder Elevated or Boulder Progressives include Silas Atkins, a paraeducator at BVSD, Aaron Gabriel Neyer, a software engineer, and Jacques Decalo, a salesman for a solar company who grew up in Boulder. All candidates earned single-digit support and failed to get seats on the council.
In an effort perhaps to appeal broadly, several independent candidates waffled on prominent policy issues, including whether they supported Safe Zones 4 Kids. “Some may criticize me for going back and forth. That’s fair. But I like listening to community,” Lewis said in a Facebook post announcing his support for the measure.
Jill Grano, a former city councilmember who considers Lewis a friend, said she commends him for attempting to bridge both sides of the issue. But she said some voters may not have trusted him.
“At some point our leaders need to choose how they are going to lead. And I wonder if that was unclear,” Grano said.
Councilmembers this year were elected to three-year terms. In 2026, the city will begin conducting its city council elections in even years, when voter turnout is higher, particularly among younger voters.
Grano, who served as a board member for New Era Colorado, a nonprofit that has organized get-out-the-vote campaigns on University Hill, helped lead the campaign last year to move Boulder to even-year elections.
“It’s definitely going to be easier to run as an independent” come 2026, she said. “There’s going to be a whole group of people who aren’t as entrenched, theoretically, in these two sides and who are going to look at the candidates for who they are before they go to vote.”
Correction: This story was updated to indicate that councilmembers elected this year will be elected to three-year terms, not four-year terms, in order to allow for the transition to even-year elections set out under Ballot Question 2E, which voters passed in 2022.