BY FREDA MIKLIN
To encourage voters to give fair consideration to candidates’ policies and ideas, regardless of their party affiliation, Aurora At-Large City Council Member Dustin Zvonek believes, “We have to look at structural systemic change in this state.” That change? “I believe that every election in the State of Colorado should be non-partisan.”
Zvonek was elected to his current position in November 2021 with 26,367 votes, the largest number ever received by a person elected to that position. Close behind him was Danielle Jurinsky with 23,979 votes. Zvonek and Jurinsky won the two open at-large Aurora City Council positions from a field of six candidates. Both are Republicans.
In Colorado cities, and many cities nationwide, candidates for city council run non-partisan. There is no R or D after their name on the ballot identifying their political party affiliation, as there is for candidates on ballots for most other county, state and national elective offices.
Speaking to members of the Arapahoe County Republican Breakfast Club on January 4 at Maggiano’s DTC, Zvonek shared that he doesn’t believe he and Jurinsky would have won if there had been an R next to their names on the ballot, explaining, “We won because we were able to talk about issues and ideas. We were able to talk about public safety, addressing our roads, making the City of Aurora what it could be. People didn’t have the chance to use the blind tribalism that is partisan politics to just dismiss our campaigns.”
Zvonek pointed to the composition of registered voters in Aurora, which is currently 47% unaffiliated, 33% Democratic, and 18% Republican. “So,” he said, “The math doesn’t work” for Republicans running for office in Aurora, or statewide, where the numbers are slightly different at 46% unaffiliated, 28% Democratic, and 25% Republican.
Zvonek recounted that while he was campaigning in 2021, he had an extended conversation with a voter in which the voter agreed with his policies and ideas as a candidate, but upon discovering that he was a Republican, said she could not vote for him because of his party affiliation.
Zvonek believes there is ample evidence that, in the November 2022 election, many Coloradans voted for candidates “just because there was a D after their name.”
Jurinsky, in the audience, explained that this type of change “would have to go to the ballot.” Repeating the theme, she said, “In Aurora, where we are outnumbered two-to-one by Democrats, two conservative Republicans (she and Zvonek) won two at-large seats,” because voters didn’t have a party designation to use to reject them.