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A view of inside the Aurora Municipal Center.

The Aurora City Council is about to look a lot different as only one sitting council member is currently running for re-election for the five open seats in November 2021.

Of the five council members whose terms expire this year, Crystal Murillo is the only who has filed to run again. Marsha Berzins is term-limited, Allison Hiltz said she is not running, Nicole Johnston is resigning in June and Dave Gruber said he hasn’t decided if he’ll run.

This is a major turnover as Murillo, Hiltz, Johnston and Gruber were all elected in 2017, having only served one of their possible three four-year terms.

Hiltz and Johnston announced they wouldn’t run for re-election in January, saying they wanted to spend more time with their families. Hiltz had a baby during her term and Johnston is a mother of three who will be moving to Colorado Springs to be closer to her children’s father.

While Hiltz will be serving the rest of her term, Johnston said Monday she will resign on June 14 to begin her new job. The rest of the City Council will have to appoint someone to finish Johnston’s term within 45 days of her departure.

The loss of Hiltz and Johnston could be significant, as they and Murillo helped transform the 10-member City Council from Republican-dominated to relatively progressive, passing policy on campaign finance reform, police reform and paid maternity leave, to name a few.

The open field also leaves a lot of room for newcomers, with a dozen candidates already signed up to run for City Council in November. Positions will be open for two at-large seats and for Wards One, Two and Three.

In Ward One, three people are looking to face off against incumbent Murillo: Scott Liva, Bill Gondrez and Christopher Belila.

  • Murillo, 27, is a progressive Democrat who has advocated for police reform, increasing the minimum wage and protecting undocumented residents.
  • Liva, 49, is a Libertarian and director of engineering for a property management company, aiming to defend civil liberties and civil rights for Aurora citizens.
  • Gondrez, 68, is a veteran and Aurora Public Schools teacher at Kenton Elementary, focused on developing workforce housing, expanding police and investing in homeless services and small businesses.
  • Belila, 48, does not have a public campaign website, social media or contact information.

Ward Two’s only registered candidate as of Sunday is Idris Keith, 46. Keith, who is seeking to replace Johnston, is a lawyer and ran unsuccessfully for an Arapahoe County Commission seat in 2020. His campaign goals include investing in Aurora neighborhoods and decreasing traffic and crime.

In Ward Three, Martha Lugo and Jono Scott are set to compete to fill Berzin’s seat.

  • Lugo, 54, is a leftist and progressive, working as a bilingual polygraph examiner. Lugo has run for City Council unsuccessfully twice before, in 2017 for Ward Three and in 2019 for at-large. She promotes racial and gender equality and protection of vulnerable populations. 
  • Scott, 38, is a pastor at Woodside Baptist Church in Denver and director of the Kingdom Giving Food Bank. He hopes to decrease crime, create jobs and address the city’s transportation spending deficit.

Five candidates have filed to run for the two open at-large seats, currently held by Hiltz and Gruber.

  • Danielle Jurinsky, 36, is an Air Force veteran, real estate agent and restaurant owner. She has raised concerns about regulations and tax increases against small businesses.
  • Dustin Zvonek, 39, is a conservative political consultant who worked for Mayor Mike Coffman when he was a congressman. Zvonek aims to address crime, promote community relations with police, develop economic growth and improve roads.
  • John Ronquillo, 40, is an assistant professor the University of Colorado Denver. Last year, he ran unsuccessfully for Aurora’s House District 40 as a Democrat. Hiltz has endorsed Ronquillo to take her place as an at-large council member.
  • Adam Fung, 36, is a progressive Democrat, grocery store worker and first-generation American. His campaign has emphasized affordable housing, workers’ rights and police reform.
  • Becky Hogan, 62, is a Republican, former small business owner and the widow of former Mayor Steve Hogan. Hogan hopes to inspire unity and collaboration in the council.

City Council candidates must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and have never been convicted of a felony. They must have lived in Aurora for at least one year and, if running for a ward seat, must have lived in that ward for at least one year.

Candidates have to submit petitions to the city to be put on the ballot, with ward candidates requiring 50 signatures and at-large candidates requiring 100 signatures.

General elections for City Council will be held on Nov. 2. Candidates have until Aug. 24 to file to run.