Denver's next election could be its most consequential
Federico Peña's slogan for Denver holds true today: "Imagine a great city."
- That vision helped Peña become its first Hispanic mayor in 1983, and the message shaped Denver's growth.
Yes, but: Now, Denver's future concerns Peña — and thousands of its residents.
- "I'm very worried about where our city will be in 10, or 15, or 20 years," Peña said at a recent event. "Will we be a city only for the wealthy who can afford $2 million homes?"
Why it matters: Affordability is a central concern in the fast-approaching mayoral election. Voters are eager to elect a city leader who can find solutions to inequity, homelessness, rising crime rates and soaring housing prices.
By the numbers: Six months before the April 2023 election, 15 candidates have filed with the intent to replace term-limited Mayor Michael Hancock.
- The list includes those with vast political experience like former Denver Chamber leader Kelly Brough, college instructor Lisa Calderón, state Sen. Chris Hansen, state Rep. Leslie Herod and councilwoman Debbie Ortega.
- Others are known for their social justice activism, like Jesse Lashawn Parris and Terrance Roberts, and Ean Tafoya, who focuses on health and environmental activism.
- There are new faces like Anna Burrell, who runs a sustainability consultant firm, Andre Rougeot, a small business owner, and candidates who ran before unsuccessfully, including Ken Simpson and Thomas Wolf.
What they're saying: "This is going to be a BFD election for Denver," says Justine Sandoval, a local political consultant and former Denver Young Democrats president.
- The new mayor will need to navigate a post-pandemic Denver, with a struggling downtown in need of revival, says Paul Teske, dean of the University of Colorado Denver's School of Public Affairs.
The intrigue: This election cycle marks the first time the city's Fair Elections Fund will be in play, and candidates are taking advantage, with 12 of the 15 participating, according to Denver Elections spokesperson Alton Dillard.
- The program uses taxpayer money for a 9-to-1 match for contributions, but caps how much a candidate can accept.
Between the lines: Rougeot leads all mayoral contestants in fundraising as of Tuesday, boasting $274,675 in campaign contributions — most of which is from his own pockets.
- Brough ($264,940), Herod ($241,328), Ortega ($144,828) and Wolf ($105,905) round out the top five fundraisers.
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