Who’s backing who (and how much are they spending) in the 2023 Boulder elections?

Photo by Tara Winstead from Pexels

Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023

Boulder City Council races are technically nonpartisan. But that just means elected officials aren’t running as Republicans or Democrats — candidates and, once they’re elected, council members still play partisan politics.

For decades, the divide has typically been over issues of growth and development, with candidates falling into the slow-growth camp (led by PLAN-Boulder County) or a more pro-density camp. That changed in 2021, when candidates began to split over crime and homelessness, issues that have taken greater prominence in this year’s election.

All the candidates agree on the need for more options for people experiencing homelessness. But one slate — backed by PLAN and other groups — favors increased enforcement as well, while other candidates (backed by the Better Boulder and Boulder Progressives) are more critical of criminalization and policing generally, and more interested in funding the social safety net. 

Another change this year is which side of the aisle is more united. In 2019 and 2021, the Boulder Coalition formed out of several groups to back more pro-density, pro-social services candidates. The slower-growth, crime and safety groups were split.

In 2023, it’s the opposite: the Coalition is no more, and its member groups split their endorsements between left and centrist candidates (more on that later). PLAN joined other groups to back a full slate, including Bob Yates as their mayoral pick.

PLAN slate
Mayor: Bob Yates
City Council: Terri Brncic, Tina Marquis, Jenny Robins, Tara Winer

That’s right: PLAN — the party of the environmentalists who gave Boulder the Blue Line, the height limit, open space program and much more  — endorsed a former Republican who opposed municipalization and recused himself from votes implementing a tax on fracking because of (minor) personal investments in oil and gas.

From a strategic standpoint, it makes sense. Slates are stronger.  The Coalition was able to elect six people across two elections, while PLAN’s solo pick in 2021, Jacques Decalo, picked up only 3,900 votes, the least of any candidate that year.

Despite the collapse of Boulder Coalition, traces of cooperation are still evident. Boulder Progressives, for instance, endorsed only two candidates (despite there being four open seats) and two mayoral candidates (only one of whom can win). 

The more centrist Better Boulder endorsed those same two progressives, one PLAN candidate and another candidate with cross-aisle appeal. Sierra Club endorsed this same slate. There is overlap in the membership and leadership of all three organizations (Boulder Progressives, Sierra Club and Better Boulder).

Boulder Progressives slate
Mayor: Aaron Brockett or Nicole Speer
City Council: Taishya Adams, Ryan Schuchard

Better Boulder/Sierra Club slate
Mayor: Aaron Brockett
City Council: Taishya Adams, Waylon Lewis, Ryan Schuchard, Tara Winer

Official election groups

These are groups that have registered with the city to campaign on behalf of certain candidates and issues, or in opposition to certain ballot measures. They must disclose organizing officers as well as financial donations and expenditures.

All City of Boulder campaign finance records available here

Better Boulder

This group, formed in 2013, is focused on growth and development, linking land use, housing, transportation and climate change. Better Boulder also has a heavy pro-bike element, counting cycling advocates among its leaders. Its board of directors and leadership team also includes representatives from the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, Boulder Area Realtors Association and former local elected officials.

Endorsements: listed above
Raised so far: $1,750 (as of Oct. 17)

Boulder Elevated

The group is new this year, though its founding members are familiar faces. They include Brooke Harrison, formerly of Safer Boulder; Lisa Spalding, a long-time slow-growth advocate;  former City Council member Adam Swetlik and current councilman Mark Wallach. (In a text exchange, Swetilk said his role was limited.) 

In official filings with the city, officers are identified as Greg Ekrem, formerly of FWRD Boulder (which does not appear to be currently active) and Amy Carpenter. (Disclosure: Amy Carpenter has previously been a major financial contributor to Boulder Beat.)

For mayor: Bob Yates
For City Council: Terri Brncic, Tina Marquis, Jenny Robins, Tara Winer

Raised so far: $5,475

Boulder Progressives

The Progressives formed ahead of the 2019 elections. They seek to link land use (housing), transportation and climate change and embrace density as a way to accomplish the city’s goals on all three. They also have a platform heavy on social justice issues (homelessness, police oversight and racial diversity) and issues of governance and inclusion, including bringing renters into the government decision-making process. 

Endorsements above

Raised so far: $3,070 (candidates)
Boulder Progressives also spent $1,662.43 to support issue 2A and oppose issue 302, according to independent expenditure records


PLAN is Boulder’s oldest currently operating political group and responsible for some of the city’s most iconic and innovative policies, including the Blue Line (the point in the foothills above which the city will not provide water and sewer services) and the open space program. PLAN is firmly in the slow-growth camp, rejecting density and opposing most major developments. For decades, PLAN-endorsed candidates held the majority of seats on council and several influential boards and commissions. 

Endorsements listed above

Raised so far: $2,900
$1,050 (for candidates) $1,850 (for issues)

Sierra Club Colorado – Indian Peaks Group

Sierra Club is an environmentally focused organization; the Indian Peaks group is a local chapter of the national Sierra Club that endorses city council candidates and sometimes takes positions on local ballot issues. They primarily endorsed slow-growth candidates in the past, but progressive leadership took over in 2021.

Endorsements listed above

Raised so far: $1,974

Issue-specific groups

Safe Zones 4 Kids

Parents of students at Boulder High School organized a successful petition to place a measure on the ballot that, if passed, would prioritize removal of encampments near schools, paths and sidewalks. Organizers for the official issue committee, also named Safe Zones 4 Kids, include petition organizer Jennifer Rhodes; Jud Valenski, co-founder of a Boulder tech company that was eventually acquired by Twitter; and John Neslage, who became known to the community for his complaint against a member of the city’s Police Oversight Panel that ultimately led to that member’s removal.  

Local tech millionaire Dan Caruso also contributed to the campaign, as disclosed on campaign yard signs.

Raised so far: $18,944

Solutions Not Safe Zones

An official issue committee was formed to oppose the ballot measure. It is led by Andy Sayler, Aidan Reed, Katie Farnan and Doug Hamilton, politically active residents who have supported causes like the library district. 

Disclosure: Sayler has contributed financially to Boulder Beat. Hamilton and Reed are members of Boulder Beat’s Opinion Panel.

Raised so far: $4,757.21

Yes on 2A

This committee was formed to urge passage of 2A, a sales tax extension that dedicates revenue to arts and culture. The group’s leadership includes Deborah Malden and former City Council member Jan Burton, who head up arts advocacy and fundraising organization Create Boulder, and Elisabeth Patterson. 

Raised so far: $28,621.12

How much are candidates spending?

Candidates also form committees to raise funds and support their campaigns. If they agree to keep spending under a certain amount (about $22,000) they can receive matching funds from the city. Only Bob Yates did not agree to the limits this year; Yates has spent more than any other candidate.

So far, the thriftiest candidate is Paul Tweedlie, who contributed $575 to his own campaign and, as of Oct. 11, hadn’t spent any of it yet.

Mayoral candidates – expenditures
(listed in the order they appear on the ballot)

Aaron Brockett: $18,349.54

Nicole Speer: $11,884.72

Bob Yates: $27,950.47

Paul Tweedlie: $0

City Council candidates

Terri Brncic: $11,716.39

Jenny Robins: $11,664.82

Aaron Gabriel Neyer: $1,252.79

Jacques Decalo: $1,812.42

Waylon Lewis: $8,875.31

Silas Atkins: $816.13

Ryan Schuchard: $8,712.51

Tara Winer: $9,542.59

Tina Marquis: $8,467.28

Taishya Adams: $13,255.77

— Shay Castle, @shayshinecastle

Speaking of money… This news doesn’t write itself. Election stories take hours of work: trawling through campaign finance records, tracking candidate’s public statements, fact-checking.

If you value this information, please consider paying for it.


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