Mayoral debate

Aspen Daily News Editor Megan Tackett and Aspen Times Editor David Krause, along with Aspen Mayor Torre and mayoral challenger Lee Mulcahy, who faced off during the virtual Squirm Night debate on Thursday. The mayoral candidates took center stage after the council candidates had their turn.

The range of subjects discussed during the mayoral component of Thursday’s Squirm Night was vast, from supporting small businesses and affordable housing to Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, QAnon and the First Amendment.

The moderators of the virtual event, presented by the Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times and GrassRoots TV, posed questions to the two mayoral candidates: Incumbent Mayor Torre and challenger Lee Mulcahy. Torre was elected mayor after winning a runoff election in 2019 and is vying to serve another two years. Mulcahy, who is in a yearslong legal battle with Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority, in 2017 ran unsuccessfully for mayor against then incumbent Steve Skadron, securing 378 votes. The municipal election is March 2.

The mayoral forum — which followed a moderated panel with the Aspen City Council candidates of the same vein but more traditional in its nature — was unorthodox.

Nearing the culmination of the hour-long discussion, Mulcahy, after identifying as a libertarian, said, “I just want to be left alone.”

He continued: “And I think that Mayor Torre — let’s be honest, he’s going to be re-elected, and I want to be the first to congratulate him right now — but I think that we can see a way forward. Because all we’re asking is for peace in this community. A vote for Lee Mulcahy is a vote for peace.”

Asked to describe the role of mayor and why each candidate is the best fit, Torre first pointed to his experience working in many different industries and living throughout the upper-and mid-valley over the past 27 years. This background, he said, provides him with an invaluable ability to understand many different perspectives within the community.

Regarding the role as mayor, Torre, who currently works as a tennis pro, cited team leadership.

“What I do as mayor is to work with my city council members to empower them, because they are representatives of the community as well. I think I’m doing a good job at that, and I hope to get better at that. It has been a tough two years, but I want to get better at that,” Torre said.

He continued: “The other part of being the mayor is to be that voice of your community and find out what that majority is, build consensus – and not forget the people who are left out of the majority, but also represent the minority — and that’s why I think that I’m the best for this role right now. My ability to bring people together to listen to all sides of an issue and then lead forward with consensus and team-building as a foundation give me the ability to be an effective leader. And as I said, I know that there’s room for improvement for me as well — and that’s why I’m here for two more years, to get better at this.”

Posed with the same question, Mulcahy first recited a quote from Elon Musk: “The most entertaining [outcome] is the eventual winner.”

Labeling himself “a union guy,” Mulcahy, an artist, said, “I believe Aspen has a real huge problem with inequality.”

Asked to identify two issues to address in the near-term, Torre, who defines himself as “an issues-based candidate,” said improving community as well as local business opportunities.

Mulcahy’s issues-specific platform was unclear. He often used his allotted time during Squirm Night to talk about the lawsuit with APCHA or the organization’s affairs with others. APCHA sued Mulcahy in December of 2015, maintaining that he failed to meet the housing authority’s requirement that residents living in deed-restricted properties prove they work at least 1,500 hours per year in Pitkin County. Mulcahy continues to contend that he did offer that proof, just not within a changed deadline, and the housing authority declined to review his records. That argument has so far failed at every judicial level.

Mulcahy also promoted his mother’s recently published book, “Into Africa.” The first question posed to Mulcahy on Thursday was to clarify his support of Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), QAnon and the Proud Boys.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Mulcahy donated $2,800 to the campaign of Boebert, for whom he has also vehemently vocalized his support. The question was framed in the context of Boebert saying she hopes QAnon is real and she has been associated with the extremist group, the Proud Boys.

While Mulcahy again touted his regard for Boebert, calling her a Christian “who she believes in love and peace,” he said he does not support QAnon or the Proud Boys.

On-site early voting started Feb. 12 at Aspen City Hall, where local residents may vote from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Election Day voting is 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at City Hall (an ID is required). To register to vote or check voter status, visit govotecolorado.com.

Absentee ballots can be requested until Feb. 26 and must be submitted by 7 p.m. on Election Day. For more information, go to cityofaspen.com or email elections@cityofaspen.com.

Erica Robbie is the editor-in-chief of Local Magazine and Local Weekly as well as the arts & culture editor for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at erica@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @ericarobbie.