In the days after the Nov. 6 election, Castle Rock continued to wait to learn who would be the town's first at-large mayor in roughly 30 years.
Three days after the polls closed, Randy Reed led Jason Gray by just two votes, or 0.01 percentage points, meaning the race was likely headed to a recount. In the three-person contest, Reed received 40.74 percent of the vote, Gray 40.73 percent and Charles Fletcher 18.54 percent, according to results posted the afternoon of Nov. 9.
The results had been close since the county released the first batch of returns on Election Night. Reed led by 0.34 percentage points early that night, but Gray chipped away at the gap in the hours and days that ensued.
The county refers to Title 1 under the Secretary of State's Office, which calls for an automatic recount if final results show the top two candidates within a half percentage point of each other, which was the case as of Nov. 9.
Votes won't be officially certified until Nov. 26. If a recount is needed, or requested by a candidate, it won't come until then.
In reacting to the first results posted on Nov. 6, Reed and Gray said they weren't surprised by the close race.
"I didn't know which way it would go," Reed said. "Right now, it's going my way."
Gray, from a watch party at his downtown coffee shop, said he was pleased by the numbers.
"I did think it was going to be a close race," he said. "It's exciting so far and I guess we'll just wait for everything to come through. Of course, I'm hopeful."
Fletcher said he was proud of the campaign he ran and plans to stay highly involved in the community.
"I ran the type of campaign I wanted to run. I tried to stay positive," he said.
On Nov. 7, Reed started his day by driving across town to collect his campaign signs. No matter the final outcome, Reed said, he was happy with his run.
He knew results as they stood would trigger an automatic recount, but if they swayed enough by Nov. 26 to hand Gray the win, he didn't know if he'd request a recount, if the margin didn't fall within a half percentage point. Candidates are allowed to request a recall if the margin doesn't trigger an automatic recount, but at their own expense.
"I don't have an answer to that question at this time," he said. "My experience with it in the past is that recounts hardly make a difference."
Gray could not be reached for comment after Nov. 6.
A new path
The at-large mayor will represent Castle Rock as a whole but will not have more power than fellow councilmembers. The winner will be sworn in at the Dec. 4 town council meeting, along with the newly elected District 3 and District 5 councilmembers.
Castle Rock's 2018 mayoral race marked a departure from the town's longstanding practice of selecting its mayor from among a seven-member council.
Last year, voters approved changing the town's charter to allow for an at-large mayor and six councilmembers, as opposed to the former council structure made up of seven councilmembers who voted on the mayor from among their group.
That had been the town's method since 1987, when the charter was created. Before then, Castle Rock residents had elected the mayor for several decades, although a town spokeswoman said it's unclear if the mayor was elected at-large throughout the town's entire history.
Reed was one of the original five petitioners who got the at-large referendum on the ballot. For the first mayoral election since the referendum passed, he was impressed at the turnout — more than 26,000 votes were counted in the mayoral race as of Nov. 9.
"That's a pretty good start, especially in a midterm election. I'm happy," he said.
Reed ran as the only candidate who had previously served on town council, including four years where he sat as mayor under the old system. This experience, he said, made him the most qualified person to shepherd the town into its new form of governance.
Gray has owned and operated Crowfoot Valley Coffee in town since moving from Alaska in the late 1990s. He envisioned a Castle Rock with more primary employers to support the tax base and hoped the town could wean off its reliance on sales tax.
Fletcher is an IT professional who believed the town needed municipal broadband to entice more primary employers into the area. He ran his platform on the promise of smart growth and well-managed water resources.
In a town where growth has become a hot button issue, none of the hopefuls ran as anti-growth candidates. At an Oct. 18 forum, all said growth could be beneficial to Castle Rock but that it needed to be “smart” and “managed.”
Each candidate raised and spent thousands leading up to the election.
Campaign contribution and expenditure reports between July and October, filed with the town, show Gray's election committee accepted contributions $1,000 or larger from real estate groups, $2,000 from a Chicago-based donor and $3,000 from the Riverwalk development in downtown Castle Rock. Additional out-of-state and out-of-county donors made contributions of several hundred dollars or more.
An Inverness-based Realtor Candidate Political Action Committee gave $1,000 each to Gray and Reed. The Metro Housing Coalition, based in Centennial, also gave both men $2,500.
Reed's contributions included $1,000 from donors in Cherry Hills Village and Denver. He gave approximately $2,400 to his campaign in contributions or loans.
Fletcher's filings show he received $3,000 from a Parker donor, contributions of $1,000 from himself and numerous small donations from Castle Rock donors.
All the men received donations from within Castle Rock, mostly in smaller amounts ranging from a few dollars to several hundred.
Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce President Pam Ridler said that because this was the first at-large mayor race since the town's charter was ratified, the campaign had garnered more attention and exposure.
Ridler said she wasn't familiar with mayoral campaign spending, but saw more chatter on social media, more campaign signs around town and more advertising from candidates than she noticed in past council elections.
Campaign filings show candidates' expenses centered around marketing, including postcards and yard signs, and digital marketing.
The chamber of commerce does not take positions on individual candidates but does on issues. The chamber opposed the at-large referendum before it passed, in part because it believed campaigns would accept money from special interest groups and outside donors.
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