Independent candidate becomes first elected Black mayor of Colorado Springs

DENVER (AP) — An independent candidate defeated a longtime Republican office holder to become the first elected Black mayor in Colorado Springs, Colorado's second-largest city with a history of being a conservative stronghold.

The victory on Tuesday night of Yemi Mobolade, a Nigerian immigrant and entrepreneur who has never held elected office before, is the latest political setback for Republicans in a state that was once a battleground state. But that doesn't mean a shift to the left.

Mobolade, who picked up the endorsements of some prominent Republicans, focused on issues like hiring more police officers, creating affordable housing, conserving water and cutting red tape for businesses.

He said people he met while campaigning are interested in solutions to everyday problems that respond to their needs, not partisanship, and do not want special interest groups having too much influence.

“That same hunger is not only in Colorado Springs but it’s across the country,” Mobolade told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He has compared the political divisions and tribalism that plagued his homeland to those he now sees hurting the United States.

Mobolade, a father of three young children who is married to a nurse, moved to the city of nearly 485,000 residents known for its military bases and being a hub of evangelical Christianity to start a church just over a decade ago and went on to co-found a cafe and restaurant, according to his campaign website. He also worked in city government in posts promoting economic development and helping small businesses.

According to unofficial results posted Wednesday, Mobolade garnered 57.5% of the vote to beat former Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, a Republican, in the officially non-partisan election. The election results will not be finalized until later this month after overseas and military ballots are counted.

But Williams, who has also served as a city councilor, county clerk and county commissioner, conceded the race Tuesday night. He urged the city council members who were attending his election party to work with Mobolade “to continue the progress we've been making.”

Mobolade will succeed John Suthers, Colorado's former attorney general.

He will be the first mayor who is not a member of the Republican party to become mayor since the city started electing mayors 45 years ago, according to The Gazette. A Black man, Leon Young, who had been appointed vice mayor previously served as interim mayor after the elected mayor retired early, the newspaper reported.

The city's population has been growing both larger and more diverse, with more than one-third of residents being nonwhite. After five people were killed at a gay club that was a sanctuary for the LBGTQ community last year, officials were careful to provide the preferred pronouns of the victims and unfurled a giant rainbow flag in front of city hall.