Update: This story was updated on Nov. 17 with a statement from the Boulder Progressives.
Exactly who will win the fourth and final seat on the Boulder City Council will be determined by a recount.
Ryan Schuchard is ahead of Terri Brncic by just 47 votes, according to the latest 2023 election results posted Thursday afternoon. This margin is narrow enough to trigger an automatic recount, though the outcome is expected to remain unchanged.
Schuchard said he is feeling good about the results.
“I ran a campaign on climate action, transportation options and housing options,” Schuchard told Boulder Reporting Lab. “I’m just very gratified that the residents of Boulder are interested in the kind of vision that my campaign has brought and I look forward to getting to work.”
The recount is likely to occur in early December, according to Boulder County election officials. This may be just days before the next city council is scheduled to be sworn in on Dec. 7.
Whoever takes the final seat will join the other winners in this year’s election: Councilmember Tara Winer, Tina Marquis, a former president of the Boulder Valley School District Board of Education, and Taishya Adams, a former commissioner to Colorado Parks and Wildlife and inaugural member of the city’s Police Oversight Panel.
Schuchard, 46, is a founder of More Mobility, an organization advising local governments on multimodal transportation and climate resilience. In 2021, he was appointed to the city’s Transportation Advisory Board, which advises the Boulder City Council on transportation issues. Brncic, 53, works as a financial consultant and helped launch the Safe Zones 4 Kids 2023 ballot measure campaign.
“I am disappointed by the results, but I am grateful to have had this experience,” Brncic wrote in an email to Boulder Reporting Lab. “I love Boulder and am looking forward to continuing my involvement in the community.”
Regardless of the outcome of the recount, the political leanings of the Boulder City Council are not expected to drastically change. Like the current council, when the new council is seated next month, a majority of the members will have been endorsed by the Boulder Progressives, a political organization that generally supports additional housing density and opposed the Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure.
No Boulder City Council race has resulted in an automatic recount for at least the last decade, according to Boulder County election officials. The narrow margin in the race for the final seat on the city council is perhaps an indication of how split voters are over the city’s response to rising homelessness. Concerns over homeless encampments featured prominently in this year’s election.
The Safe Zones 4 Kids ballot measure, which passed, amends city code to prioritize the removal of encampments near schools, sidewalks and multi-use paths. The measure affirms a longstanding city policy of clearing out encampments of homeless people. Such sweeps keep public spaces accessible, but can be harmful for homeless people and some courts have ruled that, under certain circumstances, they can violate their civil rights. Brncic was an organizer with Safe Zones 4 Kids. Schuchard opposed the measure.
In addition to a tight city council election, Mayor Aaron Brockett won the race for mayor by just four points over Councilmember Bob Yates. The election was conducted using a form of ranked choice voting known as instant runoff voting that voters approved through a ballot measure in 2020. Using a more traditional winner-take-all method, Yates may have won with 43% of the vote, according to the first round of the unofficial election results. But when the second-choice votes for the other candidates — Councilmember Nicole Speer and Paul Tweedlie — were reallocated, Brockett swung into the lead with 52% support.
Yates has already congratulated Brockett on the win. But on social media some residents have argued that the Boulder Progressives “strategized to game the system,” in part by endorsing both Speer and Brockett. The organization considers some claims about their election involvement as conspiratorial.
"Suggestions of any election malfeasance are incredibly serious allegations and anyone with proof of such should immediately come forward. Claims of election fraud have very serious consequences," the Boulder Progressives wrote in an email to Boulder Reporting Lab. "Ranked Choice Voting ensures that the majority view is represented and allows voters to choose their top candidate without fear that doing so will enable a candidate with a minority viewpoint to be elected."
Separately, residents have filed at least two complaints with City of Boulder election officials alleging that the New York-based Working Families Party violated the city’s elections laws when it sent out mailers opposing Yates, one of which highlighted his former registration as a Republican.
Allegations over campaign tactics are not new. The Boulder Progressives and several of its members were sued in 2021 for allegedly conspiring to defame a former city council candidate. The claims against the group were later dismissed but those against one of its organizers, Eric Budd, are still pending.
The organization, which began backing candidates in 2019, helped elect a city council majority that this year passed an ordinance raising the city’s decades-old occupancy limits, which limit the number of unrelated people who can live together. The reforms were just one of several measures passed in the last two years aimed at increasing housing security and density.
The current city council also referred a measure to the 2022 ballot to move city council elections to even years beginning in 2026, when turnout, particularly among younger voters, is higher.
The county will audit the election results on Saturday, Nov. 18, and those for the mayoral race on Monday, Nov. 20. The audit compares actual paper ballots to how they were counted in the voting system. On Nov. 28, the canvass board will certify the election results. The recount will happen after this process is done.