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Colorado Springs Council hopefuls must appeal to the elders

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ART: Chart info at bottom of this document.

Here's a tip for those running for Colorado Springs City Council in the April 2 election: Go for the geezer vote. After all, more than half of those expected to cast ballots are 60 or older.

That estimate comes from Luce Research of Colorado Springs, which bases its forecast on turnouts in three previous elections: the April 2011 city election, the May 2011 mayoral runoff election and the November 2012 presidential election.

"As you get older, you're more likely to vote," says pollster Todd Luce. "It's a very, very strong relationship. As you get older, you tend to be more engaged in the community. You become more aware of how the election affects you personally."

According to Luce's research, 51 percent of the vote this April will come from those 60-plus. Add in residents in their 50s, and that number grows to 74 percent.

In making these predictions, Luce and company considered:

• The April 5, 2011 city election, in which voters chose seven Councilors and voted for mayor, drew 86,735 voters. Of those, 66,296 were 50-plus, comprising 76 percent of the total. Although the 18-to-29 age bracket at the time comprised the biggest number of eligible voters — 57,159 — only 3,411 (3.9 percent) cast a ballot in the election. Thirty- to 39-year-olds came in second-lowest, at 6.8 percent.

• The May 17, 2011, mayoral runoff drew 95,288 voters, of whom 71,049 were 50 and older, or 74.5 percent. Again, 18- to 29-year-olds were the biggest bunch of registered voters, but only 4.4 percent of the total votes cast.

• The Nov. 6, 2012, presidential election drew 199,368 votes from city residents, of whom 104,570 were 50 and older, or 52 percent. While higher than the previous two elections, 18- to 29-year-olds accounted for only 15.3 percent of the ballots cast. And Luce says he thinks this April's election will be more reflective of the previous two city elections than this one.

The lack of young voters could bode ill for someone like Brandy Williams, who at 34 is the youngest member on Council and the second-youngest of the 24 candidates seeking six district seats in the April election. (Gary Flakes, 32, is running as a longshot in southeast District 4.) She was fourth-highest vote-getter in the race for five at-large slots on Council two years ago. This year, she's running in District 3, which covers downtown and the southwest sector, where she'll face four men, all of whom are over 50: Keith King, Jim Bensberg, Bob Kinsey and Tom Gallagher.

Via e-mail, Williams indicates that she has no plans to cater to an older demographic. "I was elected to represent the entire Colorado Springs community, which includes people of all ages," she says.

FedEx pilot Joel Miller, 42, who's giving incumbent Angela Dougan and retired military member Bill Murray competition in the northern District 2, says he's not targeting any particular age groups. And Jill Gaebler, 46, a director at Greccio Housing who's running against three men older than her in mid-central District 5 — Bernie Herpin, Roger McCarville and Al Loma — says via e-mail that age has nothing to do with her campaign strategy.

"I believe all voters want elected officials who have energy, integrity, and innovative ideas," she says, "and our message is consistent to all age groups."

But Luce says money spent in trying to reach young voters might be wasted. And Eric Sondermann, with a political consultant firm in Denver, takes it a step further, saying spending on reaching young people "is more often than not going to be for naught."

zubeck@csindy.com

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