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December 18, 2008 09:26 PM UTC

Hick Appointment Would Open Floodgates

  • by: Colorado Pols

As The Denver Post reports:

With increasing indications that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper wants Ken Salazar’s U.S. Senate seat, an intense, crowded mayoral race has become a real possibility.

Salazar’s seat is up for grabs following his nomination to become secretary of the interior.

If Hickenlooper succeeds in getting the appointment, city politics would be thrown wide open.

Several City Council members, including Michael Hancock, Rick Garcia, Carol Boigon and Doug Linkhart, are mentioned as potential candidates.

Other names floated include Clerk and Recorder Stephanie O’Malley, District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, lawyers Penfield Tate and Willie Shepherd, former mayoral chiefs of staff Cole Finegan and Michael Bennet (currently superintendent of Denver Public Schools), Colorado Senate President Peter Groff, City Auditor Dennis Gallagher, hotelier Walter Isenberg and James Mejia, executive director of the Denver Preschool Program, to name a few. Recently, mentioning anybody’s name as a prospect for mayor has always been followed with the phrase: “someday.”…

…If Hickenlooper leaves his mayoral post, Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal, the public works manager, would become interim mayor. Council President Jeanne Robb would step in if Vidal declined to serve. A special mayoral election would be scheduled for May.

Ok, so everybody and their mother would consider running for mayor if Hickenlooper left. But there is definitely a top tier, and it includes a much shorter list of names: Morrissey, Bennet, Finegan and Boigon.


23 thoughts on “Hick Appointment Would Open Floodgates

  1. For there to be a special election in May to replace Hick, City Council would have to declare a vacancy and call for the election by Jan. 4th at the latest (120 day prior – required by City Charter).

    This means the Gov. would have to make his pick (something he’s not good at doing fast), Hick would have to quit, and Council would have to meet all in the next 17 days which also includes Christmas and new Years where the city effectively stops functioning. Not to mention this is all well before Salazar would be confirmed.

    This is based on the special election being on May 12th, when an election is already scheduled. If they miss this window, another election would be scheduled for later (probably June or July) at a significant cost to the city.  

    1. Ritter has indicated that he will make his pick known before the end of the year, however Salazar will probably not resign his senate seat until he is confirmed which is likely to be in February.

      So, if Ritter does decide on Hickenlooper, does Hick resign as mayor early enough to allow for the election scenario you describe for a May 12 election?  City is facing a budget crunch.

      1. There is also the school board election which is Nov. 3rd.

        For there to be mayoral special election on the same ballot, Council has to call the election between June 24th and July 4th. I can’t imagine the Senate seat would be left empty that long.

        After today’s announcemnt that Ritter woul accept prublic input into the Senate race considerations, I emailed these timing and cost concerns to him.

        1. I am hearing that the City Attorney has indicated that a second provision of the vacancy election for mayor would/could actually be used.

          There is a provision that says that if a vacancy occurs within 160 days of a regularly scheduled election then the vacancy election can occur at that election.  Apparently the City Attorney is citing that provision as allowing the vacancy election to be on May 5th regardless of when the vacancy occurs (as long as it occurs prior to May 5th).

          I think that is a rather generous interpretation of that provision.  If you take that interpretation, the vacancy could occur shortly before the May 5th election and it would still be valid.  That certainly flies in the face of the 120-130 day window cited in the main part of the election provisions.  Clearly the 160 day rule was meant to come into play when a regularly scheduled election fell between 130 and 160 days from a vacancy, not prior to the the 120 deadline.

          However, I guess if the City Attorney says it is so, who is going to challenge.

          This seems to give Hick the opportunity to delay any resignation to any date he chooses  between January and May – that is if he is indeed picked to replace Salazar.

          However, even that interpretation does nothing to solve the problem of needing another special election to  fill a city council seat should a city council member be elected to be mayor in May.  Even the 160 day window would put the November school board election too far away so the 120-130 day window would be back in play for that election.  

          1. Ballot certification has to be 60 days prior to an election.

            Time has to be allowed for the gathering of signatures and the verfication of those signatures to place people on the ballot. In city council special elections 30 days is given for this. In mayoral special elections it is not as specified.

            So this puts us at 90 days prior (1st week of Feb for a May 5th election). There also has to be time for the city council to declare a vacancy and the Elections division to print up the petitions to be circulated by the canidates. (2 weeks?). So now we are back to the 2nd or 3rd week of Jan.

            Another interesting wrinkle is Stephanie O’Malley. I saw someone on one of these thread suggest she may look at running. If she declares her candidacy she has to, by Charter, resign as County Clerk, and a special election would be held to replace her, likely at the same time as the mayor’s election.

            And furthermore (this starts to get ridiculous at some point), any city council person who wishes to run for the mayor’s office does NOT have to resign in order to do so, so one of them could potentially get elected creating ANOTHER special election later in the year (probably in August or September) to replace them.

            Ritter just needs to pick Romanoff and be done with it!

    2. Council would have until Jan. 12 to declare the vacancy.

      If the election is scheduled for May 12, counting backwards Jan. 12 would fall within the 120-130 day window that an election must be held.  They could act earlier (Jan. 5 regular council meeting) or as late as Jan.13 and still fall within the window.

        1. Dan:

          Are you sure the May election is scheduled for the 12th or is it the 5th?

          I am not sure about how municipal elections are scheduled in Denver.

          But if it is the 5th then the Council would have to act a week earlier, which is what I think you had posited originally.

            1. It was nagging the back of my mind so I went ahead and looked it up. It is the 1st Tuesday in May, so the 5th.

              It used to be the 2nd Tuesday, but it was changed long enough ago (1995) that I should be able to remember it by now.

      1. That’s patently ridiculous. There were a lot of people who put in and I thought Beuscher made sense since he’ll have a good shot at getting re-elected. He’s also a pretty sharp guy and an asset to have in the Capitol Building.

        As far as Rosemary being Mayor, I guess it could be worse but I fail to see her as being the answer to all our problems or anything like that. It would be interesting to see a race with all these people in it, a special election would allow for a plurality (I believe) so whoever wins the slugfest would hold onto the seat until 2011.

        1. By being completely left out of the conversation. I agree that Buescher will be a good SoS, but she should have been on the short list instead of Romanoff. She was by far the most qualified for the job.

          And I don’t care who ends up being Mayor after Hick (whether he gets the Senate appointment or not) as long as it’s not Mitch Morrisey. So far Ro-Rod is the best candidate I’ve heard mentioned.

          1. She did nothing to distinguish herself in Washington and my personal experience with her doesn’t vault her to the front of any list IMO. She got the consideration she deserved.

  2. Council trio says Denver, not Senate, needs mayor

    At least three Denver City Council members raised concerns Tuesday about the political fallout if Gov. Bill Ritter were to appoint Mayor John Hickenlooper as Colorado’s next U.S. senator.

    But Ritter’s spokesman, Evan Dreyer, said the repercussions in Denver won’t be a factor in the governor’s decision-making.

    “The only consideration is who will best serve all of the people of Colorado in the United States Senate,” Dreyer said.

    . . . .

    Council President Jeanne Robb and Councilmen Michael Hancock and Charlie Brown said a Hickenlooper appointment could be disruptive for Denver, especially during these tough economic times.

    “The mayor’s office just announced budget cuts,” Robb said. “The mayor just announced speeding up what we can in terms of capital improvements through our bond issue” from last year.

    Brown said a new mayor would have little time to put together a team and start running the city.

    “I still think (Hickenlooper) has a good solid vision for Denver, and there’s still a lot to do,” he said. “We need his leadership now.”

    Even though qualified candidates have emerged to replace Hickenlooper should Ritter appoint him, Robb said an election would slow things down.

    In addition, the field could be crowded, and the highest vote- getter would be the winner.

    “You could have someone elected to the seat – I don’t want to say through a fluke – but with far less than a majority of the voters,” Robb said.

    Among the council members interested in running for mayor is Hancock, who said Denver would need someone who could maintain continuity of leadership at City Hall.

    “For someone to come in and propose wholesale changes, like a new administration, would be disastrous for us,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of time.”

    There’s also the possibility of two elections, one to replace the mayor and another to fill a council seat if a council member were to be elected mayor.

    “Do we need to be spending money like that right now? For a fiscally conservative mayor, that’s not very conservative,” Robb said.

    The Denver Elections Division is starting to plan for various scenarios, said Nancy Reubert, a spokeswoman for the clerk and recorder’s office, which oversees the elections division.

    “You have to talk about these things in case they occur so that you’re not caught off guard,” she said.


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