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March 03, 2023 12:10 PM UTC

Denver Mayoral Race: Unknown Candidates Who Don't Vote

  • by: Colorado Pols

There have been two interesting bits of news in the last 24 hours regarding the race to become the next Mayor of Denver — a campaign sprint that is about to kick into overdrive with ballots dropping in the mail beginning on March 13.

We’ll start with the biggest story: The first public poll of the crowded field of candidates shows that Denver voters don’t know much about ANY of the Mayoral hopefuls. According to a poll conducted by 9News/the Denver Gazette/Metropolitan State University:

Ballots go out in less than two weeks and SurveyUSA found that most voters — 58% of them — are undecided. Voters who do prefer a candidate are split across a field of more than a dozen contenders, with no candidate polling above 5% and a margin of error of 4.9%.

Lisa Calderon, Mike Johnston, and Kelly Brough each poll at 5%.

Denver’s open mayoral races without an incumbent have typically drawn crowded fields of candidates. But no race in modern Denver history, including the 2003 race in which John Hickenlooper emerged from relative obscurity to win, has featured such a fractured field so close to Election Day.

Here’s the graphical breakdown from “Next With Kyle Clark”:


Lisa Calderón took to social media to declare a minor victory, but the reality here is that pretty much every candidate is within the margin of error. In a poll with 594 respondents, the difference between 5% and 1% basically comes down to whoever answered the phone that day.

The other interesting news in the race comes from The Colorado Sun political newsletter called “The Unaffiliated,” which looked at the voting history for each of the 17 Mayoral hopefuls. Dating back to 1999, only three candidates — Kelly Brough, Chris Hansen, and Leslie Herod — have voted in virtually every election for either municipal or statewide elections.

Mike Johnston has failed to vote in a handful of elections, though his campaign claims that the voter file information is inaccurate and that he really did vote in the 2015 municipal election. Debbie Ortega missed the 2007 municipal election and failed to cast a ballot in a couple of Primary Elections prior to 2012. Calderón skipped Primary Elections in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Some of the candidates for Denver Mayor have indefensibly-terrible voting histories. Republican Andy Rougeot has only even been a registered voter in Denver since 2018 and has only cast a ballot about half of the time he has had the opportunity. Trinidad Rodriguez rarely casts a ballot in a Primary Election. Al Gardner is a recent convert to the Democratic Party who didn’t vote in the 2003, 2005, 2011 or 2015 municipal elections. Kwame Spearman, Aurelio Martinez, and Robert Treta have rarely cast ballots in any election.

There are few things more irritating in politics than watching a candidate who rarely votes asking others to cast a ballot on their behalf. We’re reminded of Jaime Giellis, the 2019 Denver Mayoral candidate who didn’t even bother to vote in the 2018 Primary Election 10 months earlier. As Giellis said to Marshall Zelinger of 9News at the time, “I didn’t realize that there was a litmus test for being willing to step up and take a leadership role in the city.”

There isn’t a litmus test, but perhaps there should be; if you can’t do the bare minimum to participate in a Democracy, then you shouldn’t be asking voters to do the same for you.


8 thoughts on “Denver Mayoral Race: Unknown Candidates Who Don’t Vote

  1. In the event I should ever go totally bonkers and decide to run for office again, I would like to point out that I have voted in every election I was entitled to vote in since turning 18 in 1984, except one.

    In 1988, I moved from Ohio back to Alabama (why, I don't know) in October. Alabama wouldn't let me vote in the general election because I had not been there for a month. Ohio did not have absentee voting back then. Therefore, I missed that one election.

  2. I expect to get strung up by the thumbs for this, but I think the voter indecisiveness less than two weeks before ballots go out points to the need for something like higher petition signature requirements for this office. 17 candidates is too many for most potential voters to really get a handle on.

    I get that tougher ballot access can be harder on candidates who aren't "born on the third base" of having existing name recognition, but sorry, maybe some folks might be better off running for lower office first before making this leap.

    1. I actually agree with you. I don't know when the current levels were set, but they earliest I know of them being in place is 1984. The population of Denver was a lot lower back then and the numbers were probably reasonable when they were set.

      Even if they were just raised to 300 for district council folks and something like 800 for city-wide offices, that would still be attainable by lower-income people willing to get out there and get them, but high enough to discourage some the less-serious contenders. Notably even at the current levels though, several did not make it.

      Another approach would to be to do like the state does and base it on the number of people who voted in the last election for the office in question. but that might set them too high. For example 1% of the number of votes case for mayor in 2019 would be 1779 signatures needed (or 1624 if based on the run-off). But maybe 0.5%? (890 if based on 2019 results).

  3. I'm not certain that more candidates is necessarily a bad thing.  It scatters out support — but even ALL of those who name someone only get to 42%.

    Denver's election is an off-year, out-of-phase spring event when most people are accustomed to politics being in the fall.  It is a "nonpartisan" election where there has been no endorsement by political parties.  It asks voters to choose one among candidates, with no ranked-choice or approval voting to encourage looking beyond a first choice.  All of those combine to create little incentive for most citizens to pay attention. 

    Two will emerge for a runoff election, and I suspect more will pay attention to that choice.

    1. But JiD, 'twas ever thus. Denver has always done off off-year spring elections. I think the seeming indifference is more likely attributable to there being 17 (!) candidates in the first round. I've lived in the city for most of 40 years and I've never seen a free-for-all like this.  

  4. Paul Noel Fiorino returns to the select Denver Mayoral 

    The Write In candidate is another choice, and does Count. 

    Fiorino for Denver Mayor is the senior candidate by far,

    Since 2006, he ran as first Unaffiliated in Colorado history 

    To continue to see them dominate the Primaries today. 

    You know Fiorino, favorite Colorado Pols Release and 

    Now the wrestling match begins in earnest with the ballot hitting the box next week, March 13-April  4, to read all the many questionnaires from CD-1 2020, 2022 Gubernatorial & others. 

    Fiorino has seen fruition since running consecutively with his ideas being put forth in this Election. Rent control, UBI, PO bank

    Timing for a Fiorino Administration is the best for all Coloradoans

    WRITE  IN FIORINO, avoid a runoff 

    Historian for founder of law & order,  DPD, Wilson Edward Sisty recently nominated for renaming Mt Evans. The Mayor is top cop. FIORINOFORDENVER.COM 

    1. Well, Fiorino, you ran  in practically every other election in Colorado so why not for Mayor? Running for office must be kind of a hobby for you.

      What’s your solution to the problem of homeless people on the streets.? Jail, transport them over the border to another county, (or state like DeSatanist) or?? You have no actual policy positions out there, although your assertion that the mayor is the “top cop“ indicates that you are a tough on crime law norder right wing guy.

      trying to get some free media on Pols.

  5. I have run since 2006, CONSISTENTLY; to bring political action to the growing Unaffiliated. Since then we are the preeminent People who now call the Primaries and General Election .

    What political action have you taken? Voting is ACTION. A disgrace of many who sign petitions and not registered to vote. Apathy is the danger. I VOTE. I ZRUN. YOU CAN TOO!!, run for office and not vote?


    I have run also because you Can. The reasons may change but the numbers are real people. 6687 says run for them. 788 Denver County voters want me to continue by beating the American Constitution party, making me the most centrist.

    The most unifying Candidate. 

    However read all my campaigns questionnaires and you would see that fruition of many of my goals.i.e. Arts are ESSENTIAL for physical, mental and freedom of expression. 

    Fiorino for Denver Mayor is long time coming, and with all the new voters, they only have to Write in Fiorino for their vote to Count. 

    They do count, everyone, especially in a Municipal Election. Write In Opportunity ends March 15. You have Ballot on hand and the last line is for you to Write F I O R I N O

    Free media???  They work real hard to keep us independent out. At least you know Fiorino has a terrific hobby, and careers. No freebies in this business, and Fiorino has not played that game of dollars for votes. FIORINOFORDENVER.COM

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