Apr 5, 2022 - News

The race for Denver's next mayor takes shape

Illustration of a ballot being dropped into the Denver skyline.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

One year out from Denver's mayoral election, the race is drawing big names into the fray and shaping up to be one of the most pivotal contests in city history.

Why it matters: After 12 years in office, the departure of term-limited Denver Mayor Michael Hancock could spark a major shift in the city's trajectory when voters weigh a course correction in April 2023.

The big picture: Denver's next chief executive will face the typical challenges of running a diverse city, along with myriad issues exacerbated by the pandemic, including crime, homelessness and systemic inequality.

State of play: Denverites likely are in the market for a mayor who brings experience, bold solutions and an articulated vision that's different from the status quo, a handful of political pundits tell Axios Denver.

  • Voters will decide whether to continue with Hancock's moderate pragmatism or embrace a daring vision from more progressive candidates.

What they're saying: "It's going to be really hard for whoever runs next to say they've got the magic key on homelessness or the magic buttons on crime or economic recovery," notes Alan Salazar, Hancock's chief of staff.

What to watch: At least three people — former mayoral candidates Marcus Giavanni and Ken Simpson and local activist Jesse Parris — have declared their candidacy. But some of the state's top Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Leslie Herod and House Speaker Alec Garnett, are seriously eyeing runs of their own.

  • Other highly speculated candidates include former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough, city council member Robin Kniech and Emerge Colorado executive director Lisa Calderón.

Of note: The growing list of women potentially pursuing the role means Denver could see its first-ever female mayor, after 45 men have served in the post since 1859, University of Denver political analyst Floyd Ciruli writes.


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