Yemi Mobolade, a Nigerian immigrant, entrepreneur, Christian community leader and “agent of good disruption” made history Tuesday, becoming the first Black man and first non-Republican to be elected mayor of Colorado Springs, Colo., in more than four decades.
The smart money was on Wayne Williams, a Mormon and veteran of the GOP establishment who had held city and state elected offices for two decades. But Mobolade, who never has held elected office, prevailed, getting 57.6% of the vote in a runoff election that observers called “a seismic shift” and political surprise in this formerly solid-red conservative stronghold that is home to Compassion International, Young Life, Focus on the Family and dozens of other international evangelical ministries.
Williams outspent Mobolade, running ads calling his opponent a dangerous “socialist” with a “radical Left” agenda who would use tax dollars to “engineer equitable outcomes.” It didn’t work. One GOP activist said Mobolade, who was not affiliated with a political party, successfully won nearly all Democrats, most unaffiliated voters and a surprising number of white evangelical Republicans, including many who had voted twice for Donald Trump.
Mobolade told the Colorado Springs Gazette his victory shows a popular hunger for a new, nonpartisan form of leadership in a city familiar with Christian culture warriors: “The hunger is for a vision that transcends political party lines. The tiredness and frustration in our city and in our nation is around partisan divide and the fighting that happens. … People are just ready for a new type of leadership that puts our quality of life ahead of party politics.”
Mobolade’s is a classic immigrant success story. He came to America in 1996, earning a business degree at Bethel University in Indiana, a master’s at Indiana Wesleyan University and a seminary degree from A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary in California.
He arrived in Colorado Springs in 2010, planting a church for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, serving as a pastor and worship leader at First Presbyterian Church.
He arrived in Colorado Springs in 2010, planting a church for the Christian and Missionary Alliance, serving as a pastor and worship leader at First Presbyterian Church, founding businesses, working for the city’s economic development council, and co-founding the nonprofit COSILOveYou, which is affiliated with the national City Gospel Movement.
This year’s annual City Serve event, which occurred between the April mayoral election and Tuesday’s runoff, brought together thousands of people from more than 100 churches to perform community acts of service.
Over the years, Mobolade reached, inspired and won the respect of thousands of people by putting his faith into action and doing good. Voters called him a “man of honor” and an embodiment of the American Dream. He also won endorsements from Republican leaders, including a former city council member and former county sheriff, who praised Mobolade’s efforts to bridge gulfs between law enforcement and local residents.
One voter said he never had participated in a mayoral election before hearing Mobolade at a local evangelical church and being inspired to vote by “the integrity he shows, that sense of wholeness that he has and the desire to bring people together. There’s a unifying piece of his message that resonates with me.”
Fragmentation in the local GOP also doomed Williams’ bid. Local party leaders have doubled down on MAGA, emphasizing unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election, and criticizing Williams as a Republican In Name Only.
Colorado and Colorado Springs, the state’s second largest city with nearly half a million residents, have gone increasingly blue in recent years. The Springs, Fort Collins and Denver topped a New York Times list of U.S. metro areas experiencing the biggest leftward shifts in voting from 2016 to 2020. Trump carried the Springs in 2016, but voters here made an 11.37% shift to Biden in 2020.
The Gazette called the Springs “a once reliably right-leaning city that has been moving toward the center by leaps and bounds in recent elections.”
Mobolade is not the first Black man to serve as Springs mayor. Leon Young was appointed mayor and served briefly in 1997 when the previous mayor resigned.
Steve Rabey is a freelance writer who lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.
It’s a short distance from your Thanksgiving table jokes to queer people being shot dead | Opinion by Amber Cantorna