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March 21, 2023 02:04 PM UTC

New Ad Attempts to Define Top Tier of Mayoral Hopefuls

  • by: Colorado Pols

The race to become Denver’s next Mayor is getting down to its final days. Ballots were mailed out to voters last week; Election Day is April 4, but with 16 candidates on the ballot, there’s no real chance that one candidate will get more than 50% of the vote to avoid a June 6 runoff.

[CLICK HERE for more information on how to vote in Denver]

Candidates for Mayor are making their final paid media pitches to voters, including a new spot from Chris Hansen that caught our attention.

Hansen was the first candidate to go up on television with a significant ad buy, though his narrative was one that we wouldn’t have suggested. Hansen went hard from the beginning on the idea that Denver is a crime-ridden, drug-infested hellhole, which is a strategy that rarely works for candidates (Republicans proved this as recently as 2022). Voters generally don’t respond well to attacks on the place that they call home.

But for what appears to be his closing television spot, Hansen went a different direction:


Talking directly about why you are a better choice than a few specific candidates — Hansen calls out Kelly Brough, Mike Johnston, and Debbie Ortega by name — is an interesting idea in a race where there are 16 candidates (Hansen’s ad was likely produced before Kwame Spearman dropped out of the race last week). Hansen criticizes Brough for “flip-flopping” on a homeless camping ban; attacks Johnston for accepting big money from “dark money” groups; and pokes Ortega for spending more than 25 years as an elected official in Denver.

The Teamsters are a law enforcement endorsement?

Hansen also includes a pretty thin argument near the end of the ad, when he says, “we need a candidate who is actually endorsed by law enforcement.” As proof of his “law enforcement” bonafides, Hansen touts the support of the Teamsters Union Local 17. While the Teamsters represent a significant chunk of City of Denver employees, you’d have to squint really hard to see them as a “law enforcement” organization. By comparison, Ortega has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #27 (Denver Sheriffs). The Denver Police Protective Association (DPPA) — which represents Denver Cops — is not officially backing any candidate as of yet.

Perhaps more fascinating is who Hansen did not mention in his ad. Leslie Herod and Lisa Calderón have often been included in a discussion of the “top tier” of Mayoral hopefuls, but neither name appears in Hansen’s TV spot. Perhaps Hansen has polling data suggesting that Herod and Calderón are not really among the handful of top contenders — or maybe Hansen’s campaign believes that his best shot at making the runoff election is to focus on rising above Brough, Johnston, and Ortega.

Either way, Hansen’s ad is at least partially an effort to define the top tier of candidates — himself included — for voters who have yet to make up their mind. It’s not a terrible idea, though it is pretty late in the campaign for this sort of approach.


6 thoughts on “New Ad Attempts to Define Top Tier of Mayoral Hopefuls

  1. Not sure this ad convinced me that Hansen's the one, but kudos to whoever wrote the script and produced the ad! Good crisp pacing, held my gnat-like attention for 30 full seconds, and had a logically-progressing story line.

  2. Chris sure wants us all to know he’s an engineer, and Kelly Brough, Mike Johnston, and Debbie Ortega are not.

    Got it, thanks for clearing that up Chris!

    1. I think the realization is voters leaning toward Leslie Herod and Lisa Calderón aren’t likely to back a white guy from South Denver who wants to emphasize his opposition to crime. 

      It is plausible that Herod and Calderón are on the “left” track and one of them will emerge as a finalist.  Hanson then needs to compete with Brough, Johnston, and Ortega on the “not so left” track (with the added benefit of Ortega demonstrating the ad isn’t obviously POC vs. White), and one of them will be in the run-off.  And he doesn’t mention Rougeot, hoping he can’t draw enough to make the top two. 

      My speculation — after a 40 year run of

      • Federico Peña 1983–1991,
      • Wellington Webb July 15, 1991–July 21, 2003,
      • John Hickenlooper July 21, 2003–January 12, 2011,
      • [unelected] Bill Vidal January 12, 2011-July 18, 2011, and
      • Michael Hancock July 18, 2011–present

      there is going to be a surge for someone named Lisa, Leslie, Debbie, or Kelly (putting them in ballot order).

    1. Top two in the at-large contest get seats … no run-off.

      Here’s hoping there aren’t enough voters splitting among the 3 or 4 liberals that endorsed (and top of the ballot) Leiker is in that top two.

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