The Colorado anti-fracking movement suffered a defeat Tuesday after Broomfield voters refused to recall a local official in an election viewed as a proxy vote on hydraulic fracturing.
Broomfield Mayor Pro Tem Greg Stokes easily beat back the recall by a margin of 64 to 36 percent, allowing him to serve out the last few months of his term before voters choose his successor in November.
Mr. Stokes had described the recall as “irrational,” given that he was term-limited and would have left office in a few months anyway. The Tuesday special election cost the city an estimated $45,000.
“I don’t view this as a ‘victory,’ rather that 65 percent voted for common sense,” Mr. Stokes said in a text message.
The recall launched shortly after Mr. Stokes joined a majority of the city council in voting Feb. 28 against a five-year moratorium on hydraulic fracturing within the city limits.
Fracking foes moved to paint Mr. Stokes as a tool of the state’s powerful oil and gas industry, while recall opponents decried the involvement of national anti-fracking groups like Food & Water Watch and 350.org in local politics.
Mr. Stokes also drew support from those who argued that the recall should be used to address corruption and malfeasance, not to oust an elected official over a policy dispute.
Mr. Stokes said the message from the recall, the first in city history, should be that “it’s OK to run to serve your community and the community will be tough and hold you accountable but will stand behind you.”
Jason Anderson, who ran to replace Mr. Stokes, described the result as “very disappointing,” but said that the movement would shift its attention to the November vote.
“Our mission is not complete as we will be shifting gears to the November election and continuing our focus on ensuring that health and safety of our community is top priority for Broomfield,” Mr. Anderson said in a late Tuesday post. “Thank you for everyone’s support.”
Broomfield Clean Air & Water, headed by his wife Laurie Anderson, led the petition drive, gathering 1,169 valid signatures to place the recall on the ballot.
Brian Devine, another candidate to replace Mr. Stokes, said he would run for the open seat in November, arguing that voters “require and deserve a representative who listens to them and represents them first and foremost on City Council, above all special interests and outside groups.”
“I believe it is now time to move past the vitriol and misinformation that has burdened our community for the past few months and work to move our city forward,” Mr. Devine said on Facebook.
In 2016, the Colorado Supreme Court threw out fracking moratoriums in Longmont and Fort Collins, ruling that state law on energy development superseded local ordinances.
While refusing to ban fracking at its Feb. 28 meeting, the city council agreed to form a task force and work with Extraction Oil & Gas on its plan for 139 wells. The company has since agreed to move 40 wells outside the city limits, according to the Broomfield Enterprise.
“Activists supported by out-of-state groups pushed this recall as a proxy battle over fracking,” said Simon Lomax, research fellow for the pro-industry group Vital for Colorado. “Well, they got what they wanted, and they lost.”