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March 21, 2023 09:42 AM UTC

Same old racist formula by white candidates and media in the Denver Mayor’s Race

  • by: Birdie d Roja

Denver ballots are out and it’s time to just name it. The Denver Mayoral race has become a shining example of double standards, racism and how white men/people take credit for the hard work of others. I’m a woman of color, and this is what I see. I live in the Denver metro, and I have been paying attention to the ads and candidate forums.

As a woman of color, others have said it more eloquently than I will here: the double standards, sexism, and tactical racism among “progressives” are on full display this year in the Denver Mayoral race. Whether we talk about the inhumane and backwards seeming positions of Trinidad Rodriguez, the not-so-subtle imagery selected by Chris Hansen in his TV ads, or the overblown accolades for progressive policies taken by Mike Johnston, and Johnston’s attempt at messaging to BIPOC communities through his mail program. While some select outrage at Rodriguez’ unpolitic  language, I can’t help but roll my eyes and think: familiar players, familiar song and dance, same microaggressive tactics… different office.

Yet, what I’m noticing is that Johnston, Hansen and even Brough are attempting to mimic campaign tactics utilized by Senator Hickenlooper when he ran for Mayor. The result is all of the white privileged “othering” and grandstanding, taking credit for things that people and women of color stood up for long before it “polled well,” and attempting tone deaf tactics trying to reach out to BIPOC communities.

While all are standard “accomplished” members of the business community, all are applying a formula of marginalization very familiar to BIPOC and marginalized people.

  1. Use subtle imagery and language regarding crime to “other” and “blame” BIPOC communities for crime without ever mentioning them.
  2. Take a disproportionate amount of credit for legislation and policy that others across the mayoral candidate field have worked for since long beforehand, and ignore the setbacks you caused on a statewide basis, such as the fact that you set back every single school district in the metro area by shoving bad policy on the statewide ballot.
  3. Apply vicious double standard whisper campaigns to other candidates across the field regarding office conduct.
  4. Utilize “color blind” and frankly tone deaf tactics in attempting to reach out to BIPOC communities.

The Denver Post article this morning,

Johnston, a former state senator and head of a philanthropic organization, said on Twitter that he had not seen or approved the flyers, adding that “as soon as I saw them I pulled them entirely out of circulation.” He attributed them to campaign supporter John Bailey, who chairs the Colorado Black Round Table; Bailey said he didn’t intend to use divisive language. Campaign finance records show Johnston’s campaign has paid Bailey $10,000 for his consulting services.

Where Johnston blames a BIPOC campaign supporter and for mailers he “didn’t approve,” calls into question how involved he was in other campaigns he’s claiming credit for.

And the OpEd written by CU Regent Wanda James are spot on, and this woman of color is also watching.


11 thoughts on “Same old racist formula by white candidates and media in the Denver Mayor’s Race

  1. Welcome, Birdie Roja. Thanks for pointing out the biased coverage of Leslie Herod….no other candidate for Mayor has facd this kind of scrutiny or accusations- and I’d guess that many of the candidates have had occasional problems with their staff. Wanda James’ op ed delineated that precisely.

    I’m curious about specific criticisms of Trinidad Rodriguez- I didn’t see anything too objectionable on his website, although I’m supporting another candidate. Is it that he implies all Latine people deal with addiction, crime, and gangs? 
    This goes for others, as well- what did Johnston or Hansen do / not do?

    My litmus test with mayoral candidates is that I want to know specific policies on affordable housing and homelessness. Will the candidate stand up to thereal estate lobby, or not? Are they in favor of an “ out of sight, out of mind” policy to “ clean the streets” of homeless people? 

    1. Perhaps your "litmus tests" might include a general cleanout of the homeless advocacy community.

      I met people from that community a quarter century ago. There are more homeless people than ever and they still have their cushy jobs.

      1. I think you might be missing a little bit of the big picture, CHB.

        There are societal  factors in the worsening of the homelessness problem. The people I work with, many of whom have been homeless, say that addiction and substance abuse accounts for about 40% of the problem. If people aren’t addicted when they land on the streets, being on the streets will introduce them to addictive drugs.

         About 10% have serious mental health issues as well. The remaining half are there because of a combination of bad luck, high rents, low wages, and societal factors that people in those “cushy jobs“ have no control over. 
        Denver actually hd a relatively successful program to address homelessness in 2021. It combined “ housing first” and wrap-around sicial seevices that followed clients ovee time. I haven’t seen if tat program got funded again, and none of themayoral candidates are mentioning it.

        1. Do remember that I worked in social services and had a fair number of homeless individuals in my various caseloads. Yes, mental health is an issue. But it was a rare client that so whacked out that they didn't know up from down; or right from wrong.

          A basic problem is how to deal with the clientele that prefers the "freedom and independence" of living on the streets. No one really talks about that either.

      2. I don’t live in Denver and I don’t know who I might vote for, but if I did I do know for certain who I wouldn’t vote for:  anyone who claims the problem of homelessness is so simple as to have “a solution”; anyone who thinks I’m so simple as to believe that there is “a solution” to the homelessness problem; and certainly not anyone who claims they know or have “the solution” to the homelessness problem.

        I would consider voting for someone who believably promises to thoughtfully work on ways to deal with all of the many difficult issues, and who is also believably willing to thoughtfully consider those difficult and unpopular proposals to mitigate the many and varied causes of the problem and not just the effects.

  2. When I read the article I didn't appreciate the "servitude" line due to the correlation with slavery in describing the behavior of a women of color- it was tone-deaf and offensive.  However, I've also heard from senior state staffers, including women of color, that have corroborated the reporting that Herod is awful to work for.  She belittles subordinates, has no respect for them, and has been described as a screamer in meetings behind closed doors.  So there's that.  It's lousy reporting that relies on racial tropes, but the fundamental premise, that Herod is a toxic manager, isn't inaccurate.

    Hansen is a back-stabbing son of a bitch who speaks out of both sides of his mouth and whose career should stop at his little renewable energy think-tank with its myopic focus on energy markets as the magical remedy to guide the energy transition in the west.



    1. "Hansen is a back-stabbing son of a bitch who speaks out of both sides of his mouth"

      So in other words, an average, moderately effective politician?

      I ask the question yet again:  why is that only women politicians are considered mean, nasty and abusive while similarly acting men are considered demanding? 

      1. I’m not so sure “back-stabbing son of a bitch who speaks out of both sides of his mouth” would be considered a strong recommendation by all that many “average, moderately effective” men?

        Your larger point, however, is a valid one.

      2. Those men are arrogant assholes who couldn't manage their way out of a paper bag.  Yellers, regardless of gender, are terrible managers.




    2. With 16 candidates, the next mayor of Denver will be one of the top two in the first round. I’ve heard several people guess the top two will attract 15% or less of the relatively small number of votes in the election ending April 4.  So, small margins can make a difference,

      I’d guess that many who might be swayed against Herod by stories of “she’s mean to staffers” would not have supported Ms. Herod anyway, so she’s not likely to lose many voters. On the other hand, one likely impact would be to make some MORE likely to take the time to vote in order to “vindicate” her. 

      The things this election (and the previous mayoral elections I’ve experienced) has convinced me —

       * qualifying as a candidate for mayor by getting 300 signatures is a ludicrously low bar.  There are about 450,000 registered voters in Denver. So, we insist on a candidate getting 0.067%, or 1/1500th of the electorate to back him, her, or them. 

       * “nonpartisan” elections deny casual voters a crucial data point and limit more engaged voters from having a demonstration of strength within an established community.

       * having an election in April and a run-off in June diminishes participation, reducing opportunities for development of positive ties between community members and the eventual mayor.

       * Ranked choice voting or acceptance voting would be a better way to gain a mayor with a mandate instead of a “survivor” of the first round being voted as “well, better than the other candidate.”


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