Nigeria born Yemi Mobolade, an independent, made history as the first Black mayor of Colorado Springs after defeating long-time Republican politician Wayne Williams by 14 points in a Tuesday runoff.
“This win is for Colorado Springs. It’s for the residents of our city,” Mobolade, a business and church leader with no previous political experience, told supporters. “It’s local, but it also has national implications for a new way politics can be done and our cities across the U.S.”
Mobolade will succeed Republican Mayor John Suthers, who had been in office since 2015. The win in the nonpartisan race is seen by many as an upset for a city that’s long been considered a GOP stronghold.
“I represent this massive middle in our nation,” Mobolade said, adding that he chooses to embrace the ‘and’ instead of feeling compelled to choose ‘or’ on hot-button issues that spur division.
Home to nearly 500,000 people, Colorado Springs is the state’s second-largest city, where 48% of voters are unaffiliated with a major party.
Mobolade ran an aggressive campaign, which included more than 100 meet-and-greet events and saw campaign volunteers knock on nearly 40,000 doors, according to the campaign. City campaign finance records show Mobolade raised about $770,000 from 1,200 donors, each with an average donation of $395.
Born in Nigeria, Mobolade immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 to follow in his brother’s footsteps of attending college. He later began his career in quality control manufacturing before moving to Colorado Springs in 2010, eventually founding a church, creating several restaurants and starting a consulting company. He sees each of these investments as ways to build community, which he was able to translate into support for his campaign.
Mobolade believes his immigrant story, in particular escaping what he called “tribalism” back home to instead choose democracy in the U.S., is the biggest reason he has been able to band together an electoral coalition that includes both law enforcement and NAACP community leaders.
As the first Black mayor-elect of a city that is more than 67% white, it’s also not lost on Mobolade the historic nature of his win.
“What an incredible opportunity to be a Black leader in a predominantly white city and for this city to still say, ‘We see you,’ ‘We choose you,’ not just because of your skin colour, but because of this vision that you have for our city, your love for our city, because of what you’ve done,” he said. “And, by the way, you happen to be Black, which is for some, is a huge plus.”
Mobolade will be sworn into office on June 6 and plans to get to work immediately.