Denver Mayor Michael Hancock faces nine challengers -- so far

One yr in the past, Michael Hancock knew that his second re-election run can be troublesome.

“You make decisions. You lead. You upset people,” he advised The Denver Submit in 2017. “I expect it. Anytime you look at mayors who run for their third or final term, it’s usually more challenging than the second.”

The next candidates are operating for Denver mayor within the Might election:

  • Lisa Calderón
  • Stephan “Chairman Seku” Evans
  • Marcus Giavanni
  • Jamie Giellis
  • Michael Hancock
  • Kalyn Rose Heffernan
  • Danny Lopez
  • Leatha Scott
  • Kenneth Simpson
  • Penfield Tate III

How proper he was.

Within the final 12 months, the mayor’s opponents within the Might 2019 election have multiplied: Nine individuals are campaigning for his job, and the political season is aflame months sooner than regular in Denver. Hancock finds himself challenged from all sides in a race that might be simply as busy and contentious as his first mayoral election in 2011.

“The reality is, you have a record, and everybody’s going to take a shot at that record,” he stated in an interview final week. However he’s prepared, he stated: His focus has grown sharper, he has grown used to criticism and he believes that Denver within the final seven years has grown right into a “great city” that “cares for her people.”

Hancock’s challengers, although, will query his imaginative and prescient and his character alike, every one saying that it’s time for change.

He faces an influential organizer with deep Denver roots, a former state senator who has self-funded prime-time commercials, a political newcomer who has carved out a brand new type of neighborhood authorities for Denver — and a raft of different candidates, together with some who have been impressed by a nationwide wave of political activism.

And it’s not simply the mayor who faces a number of challengers. There are 57 declared candidates throughout the town’s elections, together with 13 council seats and the auditor and clerk’s workplaces. If that quantity holds, will probably be the longest poll since 2003.

“One of the top questions I get is, ‘How many of you are there again?’ ” stated David Sabados, at present certainly one of 4 challengers for Councilman Rafael Espinoza’s seat in northwest Denver. Espinoza suspended his marketing campaign earlier this month.

This election rush is an uncommon problem for the town’s incumbent elected leaders. In contrast to in earlier years with crowded races, like 2003, this flood wasn’t impressed by the promise of open seats. This gang of upstarts is operating headlong at council members who have been elected only one or two phrases in the past.

“It’s really unusual to draw that many,” stated Councilman Kevin Flynn. So far, he’s one in every of simply two incumbents who doesn’t face a challenger, together with Councilman Paul Kashmann, though the deadline to file doesn’t come till March 13. It’s additionally potential that some present candidates will drop out.

What does it imply, although, for the council and mayor?

“I tend to be a more positive person … I just look at how energized people are, and willing to step forward and serve,” Flynn stated of the council challengers. “But of course, when you take on an incumbent it frequently implies that there’s dissatisfaction and unrest. I don’t know that that’s true.”

Are Hancock and the “new council” dealing with the specter of large repudiation by voters? Did Hancock’s text-messaging scandal open the door? Is the acceleration of Denver’s improvement growth driving basic dissatisfaction? Or maybe the “blue wave” has merely impressed individuals to succeed in for the closest workplace?

The months forward will inform.

The rivals

Hancock cruised to his first re-election as mayor in 2015, taking 80 % of the vote.

This time, he’s extra more likely to face a runoff, based on political marketing consultant Ben Gelt. Amongst Hancock’s many opponents, three particularly have the eye of the town’s politicos: Lisa Calderón, Jamie Giellis and Penfield Tate III.

“I think all three of them are going to seek to make this a referendum on the mayor. And I think the question will be, again, if any one of them can catch fire,” stated Gelt, who has labored on native campaigns.

Certainly, all three have torn into Hancock’s status and management within the early months. They every have emphasised messages of character — a response to Hancock’s admission this yr that he despatched inappropriate textual content messages in 2012 to a Denver police officer on his safety element — whereas additionally questioning his strategy to progress and improvement.

Lisa Calderón

At a meet-and-greet with an Indivisible group, Calderón informed her personal story, of being raised by an African-American father and a Latina mom, each youngsters in Denver — and of incomes a number of levels whereas elevating her personal two youngsters. As a younger mom, Calderón had her personal condo, which isn’t an choice for her millennial daughter right now.

“She lives with me because she cannot afford to move out even though she’s a master’s student and works 30 hours a week,” she informed these gathered in a north Denver front room.

“I want to be able to give the next generation the opportunity that I have: to live in this city and work in this city, and know that they can leave and come back and still call this home.”

Calderón’s message zeroed in on fairness and justice for the people who find themselves most affected by Denver’s housing disaster, together with felony justice reform, a problem that was a spotlight for her when she led a re-entry program for incarcerated individuals. She additionally needs to rein within the mayor’s workplace, which holds a lot of the facility in Denver’s system.

“I’m not someone who is going to be mayor who’s looking at power grabs. I’m looking instead at sharing power,” she stated. “And that’s a very woman-centered perspective to have.”

Jamie Giellis

At her marketing campaign launch celebration, Giellis took her first steps towards a change — or maybe the creation — of her public picture.

Her introductory speaker, a former appointee of Gov. John Hickenlooper, sharply criticized Hancock, foreshadowing a marketing campaign that could possibly be bruising for the mayor.

“When all the harassment stuff came out, I was done,” stated Fiona Dixon Arnold, former director of the Colorado Workplace of Financial Improvement. “Hancock had an opportunity to own that and to take a stand, and he did not. He instead tried to just pass it off. ‘I made a mistake, I blurred the lines.’ No, it was an abuse of power.”

Individually, Hancock stated he has acknowledged and apologized for the harm brought on by sending suggestive texts to a metropolis worker.

On the occasion, Giellis targeted on her personal story: The daughter of a small-town Iowa mayor, she rose to some prominence in Denver as a brand new breed of public-private chief.

Whereas she has by no means held elected workplace, she is likely one of the most influential individuals in River North, because of her position in creating the district group that funds infrastructure and humanities within the space. She has performed comparable roles on South Pearl Road and East Colfax.

“I’ve been brought in among fast-paced change to help neighbors problem-solve where government hasn’t been working for them,” she stated.

Earlier than a fired-up crowd, she positioned herself as somebody who might do this for the whole metropolis.

“We have seen the growth recently, but not the game plan,” she stated.

Penfield Tate III

Penfield Tate has centered on the theme of “respect” and put an early emphasis on his document of preventing for LGBTQ protections and reasonably priced housing as a state consultant and senator, together with a failed rent-control invoice. He assaults Hancock as out of contact and unresponsive, and says he’ll get up for residents.

“I hear constantly from people that the developers control this mayor — some say ‘own.’ I have a problem with that word,” he stated. “That’s the sentiment that many people feel — we need to reverse that dynamic.”

He thinks the town’s speak of shifting away from cars is a mistake whereas additionally calling for a stronger transit community.

“We need to ask developers, ‘What are you doing to accommodate the fact that people still drive cars?’ ” Tate stated.

This can be a second try at mayor for him — he ran in 2003, when Hickenlooper first gained the workplace. Tate self-funded his marketing campaign launch this yr, loaning himself about $35,000 to air a tv business throughout a Broncos recreation within the fall. However he’ll run the remainder of his marketing campaign with the standard fundraisers and donations, he stated.

Operating from the mayor’s workplace

Hancock, in the meantime, is clearly conscious that the event growth and ensuing housing disaster might make or break his third-term hopes.

“As we look at the third term, we have built a great city,” he stated. “But a great city cares for her people, and in the midst of our prosperity and our success — I am dogged about making sure that all of Denver can participate in the prosperity of the city.”

He centered his State of the Metropolis speech this yr on “social justice,” the primary time he used that phrase in his annual speech. Since 2016, the town has debuted after which expanded a brand new reasonably priced housing fund, now anticipated to generate $30 million per yr, and revealed its draft Denveright grasp plan.

Hancock additionally has tangled with the Trump administration on points resembling immigration, and he has launched initiatives with spiffy acronyms — HOPE and NEST — to tackle social points, although HOPE’s government director later give up amid frustration from some housing leaders.

“It’s the easiest job in the room to be the critic,” Hancock stated, sitting for an interview at Espresso on the Level. “The reality is, every one of those candidates better have a plan. And is it a new plan? Is it starting new?”

He argues that a change in administration can be dangerously disruptive. “It’s going to take several years for a new administration to figure out what’s what. And that’s not me being arrogant. The realities are, it takes a while to figure out how to do this.”

And the incumbent pushes again on the concept his second-term actions have been too late and too little.

“We were the first to say, ‘Cole is in process (of gentrification), Five Points, Curtis Park are gone’ — to try to understand those things,” he stated. He factors out that his price range for 2014 included the town’s first general-fund spending for that trigger in years, about $three million, and set new housing objectives.

He’s prepared, he stated, for a marketing campaign that may see his legacy and individual interrogated.

“I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned to be more thoughtful,” he stated. “… My focus has been much sharper.”

The outsiders

The sector is far from settled: Extra candidates might bounce in, or one of many half-dozen underdogs might achieve traction. There’s additionally the prospect that erstwhile challenger Kayvan Khalatbari will bounce again into the race. He began his marketing campaign early and has reported a exceptional $300,000 in fundraising, however he has suspended his marketing campaign, citing household and enterprise causes.

“I think we have four candidates who are really going to chew each other to pieces, and make it a level playing field,” Khalatbari stated, including that he would make a remaining determination by February. If he does, it might primarily be self-funded, as he has largely returned his marketing campaign funds or donated them to native situation campaigns, he stated.

The opposite mayoral candidates embrace Stephan “Chairman Seku” Evans, Marcus Giavanni, Kalyn Rose Heffernan, Danny Lopez, Leatha Scott and Kenneth Simpson.

“I’m your next-door neighbor, and I want change, too. I want to see this city grow and get to a good place,” stated Scott, a first-time candidate and a upkeep help clerk for the U.S. Postal Service.

“I think this is going to be the election where everyone’s fed up and don’t want to take it anymore,” stated Simpson, a tech advisor who additionally ran for mayor in 2011. “Let me say it better: ‘We’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it.’ ”

Lopez works for Denver Public Works as a pipeline inspector, and stated he needs to see metropolis staff unionize and get higher pay.

“In order to make Denver a great city, you have to become a great employer first,” stated Lopez, who has run for mayor 3 times.

For Heffernan, it’s not only a query of who’s one of the best fundraiser, or who has the perfect message. This election is about the way forward for Denver, she stated.

“Even people who live in luxury condos can’t ignore the disparity — and people who have been here for longer definitely can’t ignore it, because all of our childhood memories are being whitewashed, “ she said. “There is a big sense of urgency. I think the political climate of the country has changed a lot. It’s opened this scary portal: It’s up for grabs, the power.”

Neither Evans nor Giavanni responded to The Denver Publish’s interview request for this story.

The outlook

Typical knowledge says that Denver’s election season begins in January, however each indication is that it’s in full swing already. The mayoral candidates are probably ramping up their area operations, hiring staffers and looking for their bankrollers, Gelt stated.

On this entrance, the mayor holds a commanding benefit. He had almost $700,000 in his marketing campaign’s checking account as of Sept. 30, the final date for which reviews have been filed. Not one of the different mayoral candidates have needed to file finance reviews but, besides Khalatbari.

The one strategy to problem Hancock, Gelt stated, might be private contact with voters.

“The field element is going to be critical,” he stated. It’s an enormous operation to do it citywide, however it’s doable. It’s low tech, it’s low value, it’s how (former Mayor) Wellington Webb received elected.”

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