New faces win races to change Grand Junction City Council

Phyllis Norris
Martin Chazen
Rick Brainard
Harry Butler

Kelly Sloan, The Business Times

The Grand Junction City Council looks very different following an election in which challengers unseated incumbents in three races.

Rick Brainard, Martin Chazen and Phyllis Norris were elected to the council. Harry Butler also returns to the council by virtue of his victory against two other candidates.

Nearly 11,700 Grand Junction voters participated in the election, about 40 percent of those registered in the city.

Brainard defeated Grand Junction Mayor Bill Pitts for an at-large seat on the council. Norris defeated incumbent and former mayor Tom Kenyon in District A. Chazen edged incumbent Laura Luke and topped Bonnie Beckstein, a former member of the council, in District D. Butler won a three-day race for an open seat against Ron Noble and Duncan McArthur. Butler will succeed Teresa Coons, who was term-limited.

Voting was closest in the District D race, where Chazen beat Luke by a six-tenths of a percent margin. Since the margin was less than 2 percent, Luke has the option to call for a recount provided she pays a $500 fee to cover the expense. As of press deadline, Luke hadn’t yet indicated whether or not she’d ask for a recount.

Luke did say she’s looking into ways to establish contribution and spending limits on municipal elections. “Elections should not be about who spends the most money or can buy the most signs.”

“The city is the only level of government without caps on spending” Luke said, adding that not imposing campaign finance contribution and spending caps was “unfair to constituents.”

Spending was not  a factor in the District E race, however. Butler spent no money on his campaign, while Noble and McArthur ran more conventional campaigns in accepting and spending donations.

For his part, Chazen opted not to weigh in on a potential recount or municipal election spending caps.

“The voters of Grand Junction clearly demonstrated that they want a new direction in their city government,” Chazen said. “I am happy to be part of that new direction.”

Given the election results, the next council is generally seen as being more business-friendly. Three of the four new members — Brainard, Chazen and Norris — were endorsed by local business groups, including the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and Grand Junction Area Realtors Association.

Norris said she believes the new members of the council will benefit the business environment.

“The previous council was not business- and job-friendly,” Norris said, citing such policies such as fee increases, taxes, regulation and spending that suppressed job creation and economic growth.

“I feel the newly elected council is more aware of the issues affecting business than the previous council was.”

Norris also pointed to the budget as a key issue affecting city business and another area in which the new council members could prove beneficial.

“Any time you need to pull money out of a reserve to balance the budget, that is an issue,” Norris said. “Most of the newly elected council members have more experience in balancing a budget and keeping an organization living within its financial means.”