Observers thought first term incumbent Pueblo Mayor Nick Gradisar was in trouble in the January 23 mayors’ runoff election but were surprised by the 62 to 38 percent result. In the nominally nonpartisan election, Gradisar, a high-profile old-line Democrat, was beaten by a young, very vocal Republican, Heather Graham, who started her political journey angry about the pandemic lockdown’s effect on her local restaurants – obviously a sentiment widely shared.
Pueblo, a mostly Democratic working-class city, has become less dependably Democratic in recent years. Voters became restless since the pandemic with frequent complaints about the city reputation for crime and the visible homeless population. Graham, city council president who came in first ahead of Gradisar in the November multicandidate election, presented a detailed plan for police recruitment and retention and was endorsed by the local police officer union. As president, she argued part of the city’s problem was the mayor’s lack of collaboration, producing conflict and gridlock, now she’s the mayor.