Local art dealer and rabble-rouser Jonny “J-Rock” Carlson joined the race for Aspen City Council on Friday, just before the 5 p.m. filing deadline.
His addition brought the tally of council candidates to four, and promised to inject some character into what has thus far been a quiet race for two seats on the city board.
“I do a lot of politicking around the bars,” he said. “But I stay out of the courthouse.”
Carlson, 51, said he made the decision to run at the J-Bar on Friday, when someone, whose name he said he could not remember, suggested he should.
In the span of an hour, Carlson registered himself to vote, picked up candidate paperwork from the city clerk at 4:10 p.m., then collected the required 25 citizen signatures on his petition, and turned it back into the clerk’s office — making him an official candidate.
The political newcomer said he’s still working on his campaign platform.
“I didn’t really give it any thought yet,” he said. “I don’t really know what a councilman does to be honest with you. I’ve got to read up on it.”
Carlson moved to Aspen in the fall of 2005, after he evacuated from New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina. He settled in Aspen, working with fellow New Orleanians at Royal Street Fine Art. This winter, he worked as an on-mountain photographer for SharpShooter on Aspen Mountain, but left the job after a collision with a snowboarder injured him, Carlson said.
Until Carlson’s 11th hour bid, the council race was shaping up to have the slimmest lineup in modern Aspen history, with just three candidates vying for two seats. The final slate of four will square off in a May 7 election: Carlson, Art Daily, Ann Mullins and Dwayne Romero.
Daily is an attorney who has called Aspen home for four decades. The one-time city attorney touted his local experience when he joined the race in February, but has run an under-the-radar campaign since then.
Mullins is the chair of the Aspen Historic Preservation Commission. A landscape architect by trade, Mullins has stressed thoughtful growth and land-use decisions in her campaign.
Romero, president of Snowmass Base Village development firm Related Colorado, is a former councilman who left the board in 2011 to work for Gov. John Hickenlooper’s economic development program. He’s touted his experience as both a developer and public servant.
Council candidates must get more than 45 percent of the vote to win a seat. In the event that candidates don’t reach that threshold, a runoff election will be held June 7.
The race for mayor features a record number of candidates for Aspen, and all four sitting councilmen: Adam Frisch, Derek Johnson, Steve Skadron and Torre. Maurice Emmer and L.J. Erspamer also are running for mayor.
Emmer, a longtime second-home owner, is a retired CPA and tax attorney who has become an outspoken critic of City Hall since he moved to Aspen full time three years ago. Announcing his candidacy last month, Emmer said he wants to return the city to the policies in its Home Rule Charter, from which he believes it strayed under outgoing Mayor Mick Ireland.
Erspamer is chair of the Aspen Planning and Zoning Commission. He’s run for city office three times before and lived in Aspen for 40 years, and has cited his local business and community experience as an asset for the city’s top job.
Frisch, who is halfway through his first term on City Council and moved to Aspen in 2003, has promoted more common sense leadership from City Hall and less bureaucratic red tape.
Johnson is finishing his first term on the council. A co-founder of D&E ski shop, and now manager of rental and retail operations for the Aspen Skiing Co., his campaign has focused on making the city more business friendly.
Skadron, elected to the council in 2007 and 2011, has garnered the endorsement of Ireland and stressed preserving Aspen’s small-town character as a campaign priority. He’s also highlighted his work to balance the city budget and guide the local government through the recession.
Torre, a two-term councilman who has three times previously run for mayor, has put economic opportunity and inclusive governance at the top of his platform. Among his best-known political accomplishments was spearheading the successful campaign to ban plastic bags at city grocery stores in 2011.
This election is the first in the 21st century in Aspen not to feature perennial candidate Andrew Kole. The former resident was on all six city election ballots running for either mayor or council between 2001 and 2011.
The last day Aspen residents can register to vote for this election is Monday. Do so at www.pitkinvotes.org .