Pueblo Council President Heather Graham is poised to become the city’s next mayor

· Jan. 23, 2024, 7:30 pm
City council president and candidate for Pueblo mayor Heather Graham in her restaurant, Ruby's. City council president and candidate for Pueblo mayor Heather Graham in her restaurant, Ruby's. Jess Hazel / KRCC
City council president and candidate for Pueblo mayor Heather Graham in her restaurant, Ruby's.

Updated at 7:25 a.m. on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.

Tuesday’s mayoral runoff results in Pueblo put City Council President Heather Graham in a commanding lead over incumbent Mayor Nick Gradisar, 63-37 percent, after the first batch of returns were released at 7:30 p.m election night. It's a result that moved little when the numbers were updated later that evening.

Shortly after the first release, the Pueblo Chieftain reported that Gradisar had conceded. 

All ballots were due in drop boxes or the city clerk’s office by 7 p.m. Tuesday night. There was no in-person voting.

As of Monday mid-afternoon, turnout was around 18,700, according to the city clerk’s office. By the first tally released shortly before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 22,526 votes had been counted. Just after 11 p.m Tuesday, results on the city of Pueblo's website showed 25,059 ballots were cast and all of them had been tallied.

In the last mayoral runoff election in 2019 turnout was around 23,000 ballots overall. 

Graham and Gradisar received the most votes in November's general election. However, with nine candidates on the ballot, neither received a majority of the vote, thus prompting Tuesday’s runoff election. Graham led the pack with about 23 percent of the vote last fall, while Gradisar received about 21 percent.

Gradisar ran for reelection after being the first elected mayor after Pueblo moved to a strong-mayor style of government. Before Tuesday’s runoff, he told KRCC that he wanted a second term because, "I love this community, I love this job, and I think Pueblo has a bright future, and I want to do everything I can to keep us going in the right direction."

Small business owner Heather Graham has been city council president for the past two years and told KRCC she ran for mayor to strengthen the relationship between the mayor's office and council. 

"(I’m) hoping to bring that collaboration, work together with the seven other people on council, and really get Pueblo moving in the right direction," she said.

Differences between the candidates highlighted the discord between council and the mayor's office. And the race comes after a failed effort to ask the voters if the city should return to a city manager-style of government. In election questionnaires this past fall, both Graham and Gradisar said they supported the current strong mayor style. 

The city clerk's office will certify the election on Feb. 1.

More than 67,000 ballots were mailed out for the runoff election. But, due to printing issues, some voters may have received more than one ballot. The clerk's office said voters should only use one and destroy the other, and said there are safeguards in place to ensure no duplicate ballots are counted.

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