The 2015 Denver Municipal Elections are fast approaching, and the way things are shaping up, we could see one of the more crowded ballots in years — which should make it very difficult for any one candidate to get 50% of the vote and avoid a runoff. This is also the first Denver election to take place under the re-drawn city boundaries, so there are more unknowns than normal.
Candidates for Municipal Office (Mayor, Auditor, Clerk & Recorder, City Council) can begin circulating petitions to formally place their names on the ballot as soon as Tuesday, Feb. 3; signed petitions are required to be submitted to the Denver Clerk and Recorder by March 11. The General Election will be held on May 5, with a runoff (as necessary) election scheduled for June 2.
We’ll be following the Denver elections every step of the way. Early indications are that two over-arching themes should be at play this spring: 1) Conflicting views about development and affordable housing, and 2) Labor union support (pro-union vs. anti-union sentiments).
Click after the jump for a brief look at the declared candidates for office and how each respective race is shaking out as January draws to a close:
(NOTE: Names in italics indicate incumbents. Names in bold are likely to be most competitive)
Candidates: Michael Hancock, Marcus Giavanni, Chairman Seku, Paul Fiorino, Stephan Evans
Outlook: Mayor Michael Hancock is going to win re-election in May. Write it down in pen. All of the top potential challengers in Denver decided long ago that they wouldn’t challenge Hancock, and it’s far too late for any other candidates to attempt a serious campaign.
Candidates: Chris Nevitt, Timothy O’Brien
Outlook: Aside from the Mayor’s race, this is as close to a lock as you are going to find in 2015. Popular former City Council President Chris Nevitt has the endorsement of the current Auditor — and longtime Denver political figure — Dennis Gallagher, and Nevitt almost ended up without opposition this spring. Unless O’Brien has one hell of a trick up his sleeve, Nevitt should pick up more than 50% of the vote on May 5.
CLERK AND RECORDER
Candidates: Debra Johnson
Outlook: Provided that she remembers to vote for herself, Johnson should win re-election.
CITY COUNCIL AT-LARGE
Candidates: Robin Kniech, Deborah Ortega, Kayvan Khalatbari, Kenday Samuel Kamara, Jeremy Martinez, Jose Silva, Jeffery Washington
Outlook: The two at-large city council seats are awarded to the top 2 vote-getters, which makes this similar to that old yarn about outrunning a bear; you don’t need to be faster than the bear to survive, you just need to be faster than somebody else. It seems likely that Kniech or Ortega will win re-election for one of the seats, which could leave a tough battle for the other spot with newcomer Kayvan Khalatbari. It’s more likely, however, that both Kniech and Ortega win re-election.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 1 (NW Denver)
Candidates: Susan Shepherd, Rafael Espinoza, Malachi Martinez
Outlook: This looks like a tough two-person race between the incumbent Shepherd, who critics say has alienated her constituents, and a community activist with an interesting, if somewhat vague, resume in Rafael Espinoza. As a side note, Espinoza has one of the more complicated campaign logos we’ve ever seen; the logo looks nice, but if you have to explain what it means, then maybe you overdid things and should have just made your name bigger.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2 (SW Denver)
Candidates: Fran Coleman, Jeanne Labuda, Kevin Flynn, Corrie Houck, John Kidd, Jr.
Outlook: The field in District 2 has a little something for everyone. Coleman and Labuda are both former State Representatives, and Coleman reluctantly backed Labuda to succeed her in 2006 (they aren’t exactly good friends). Longtime readers of the Rocky Mountain News should recognize Kevin Flynn, who covered transportation issues in the latter part of his newspaper career and is now a member of the RTD Board. You might also recognize Corrie Houck, who inexplicably tried challenging Labuda in a 2012 Democratic Primary (House District 1) and was predictably pummeled at the polls. There’s even a Republican in the field (though city races are officially “nonpartisan”); John Kidd, Jr., ran against Labuda in 2012 but was easily defeated in a heavily-Democratic district. This will be one of the more interesting races to watch, because a crowded and relatively well-known field of candidates means there is room for a surprise heading into an almost certain run-off scenario.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 3 (West Denver)
Candidates: Paul Lopez
Outlook: The incumbent Lopez has been a visible presence in the area for years. There’s a good reason nobody is running against Lopez: He won’t lose.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 4 (SE Denver)
Candidates: Halisi Vinson, Bill McMullen, Kendra Black, Jeff Garcia, Carolina Klein
Outlook: This will be another slugfest, with three strong candidates all boasting deep political roots in Denver. Halisi Vinson is the secretary of the Denver County Democrats and will have strong support from Democratic Party insiders. Bill McMullen is a former RTD Board Member who has been active in Denver politics since…well, forever. And Kendra Black is a community activist who will need to make sure that her base of supporters (which is largely non-political) remember to vote in May. This race looks lke a complete tossup that will almost certainly be decided in the June runoff.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 5 (East Denver)
Candidates: Mary Beth Susman
Outlook: The incumbent Susman will be re-elected.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 6 (South-Central Denver)
Candidates: Liz Adams, Paul Kashmann
Outlook: After 14 years of Councilmember Charlie Brown, District 6 residents will finally have a chance to pick someone new to represent them — and this race is going to be a doozy. Liz Adams was one of several candidates who sought the HD-6 seat in 2008 (it was HD-5 when Andrew Romanoff was termed out), ultimately losing to Lois Court in a Democratic Primary. Adams has a great list of endorsements, but so does Paul Kashmann, the longtime publisher of the Washington Park Profile newspaper, who counts former Mayor Wellington Webb among his supporters. Without a third name on the ballot, this race may actually be decided in May if one of the candidates can top 50% of the vote.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 7 (West-Central Denver)
Candidates: Anne McGihon, Aaron Greco, Jake Viano, Luchia Ann Brown, Jolon Clark, Ian Harwick, Mickki Langston
Outlook: This is the seat being vacated by Chris Nevitt, who is running for City Auditor, and from everything we hear this race could get nasty. Anne McGihon is a former State Representative from Denver who resigned her seat in March 2009 to take a job at a law firm; a few months earlier, McGihon had lost out on her bid to become Speaker of the House, and bad blood between her and Speaker Terrance Carroll probably expedited her departure. Nevertheless, McGihon has plenty of chits to cash in among well-known Democrats. Aaron Greco has made quite a few friends as a Congressional staffer for two Colorado Representatives (most recently for Rep. Ed Perlmutter) and is running a very professional campaign. Jake Viano has the support of former Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, but he probably should have kept that to himself; Gessler’s fundraising emails on behalf of Viano should make it impossible to be competitive in a Democratic area. The rest of the field is a tier below McGihon and Greco, but all appear to be running serious campaigns and will thus play a role in the inevitable runoff election.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 8 (Central Denver)
Candidates: Christopher Herndon
Outlook: Herndon is unlikely to lose to himself despite looking at a very different district than he was first elected to serve.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 9 (North-Central Denver)
Candidates: Albus Brooks, Michael Borcherding
Outlook: Brooks is running for re-election in a district that is a bit to the West of where he was first elected, but he should have little trouble here.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 10 (Smack Dab Central Denver)
Candidates: Anna Jones, Wayne New, Travis Leiker, Chris Chiari, Chris Cornell Wedor
Outlook: This is an interesting race because it looks completely different than it did just two months ago. Well-known Denver politico Roger Sherman had been running for this seat since Jimmy Carter was President (okay, not that long, but it had been awhile) before abruptly dropping out of the race in December. The departure of Sherman makes this a wide-open race with three strong contenders. Anna Jones has Sherman’s endorsement, which is probably both good and bad. Wayne New has a lot of grassroots and community support, and is raising a good amount of money, but doesn’t have much backing from the insider political community. Travis Leiker, meanwhile, is a well-known Democratic activist and staffer who has almost the opposite problem of Wayne New. This should be a close race between the three top candidates.
CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 11 (NE Denver)
Candidates: Sean Bradley, Tea Schook, Samaria Crews, Stacie Gilmore, Shelli Brown
Outlook: The makeup of District 11 is significantly different than it was the last time these boundaries were drawn, and it opens an opportunity for several candidates to make their name. Sean Bradley
has the always-important support of Wellington Webb, an endorsement that holds particular value in Northeast Denver [POLS UPDATE 3/18/15: Bradley had listed Webb as an endorser when this post was originally written; we have since learned that Webb has not endorsed Bradley, and Bradley’s website no longer mentions Webb’s support]. Schook is a longtime Democratic Party activist who currently serves as the Chair of House District 7. Samaria Crews has worked for a number of local organizations and will likely have strong labor union support, and Stacie Gilmore has built up a strong list of local and grassroots supporters.