Jan 25, 2023 - News

District 9 playing host to Denver's most-watched city council race

From left: Denver City Council District 9 candidates Kwon Atlas, Darrell Watson and Candi CdeBaca. Photo: Courtesy of candidates' campaigns

Candi CdeBaca says she knows she has a target on her back.

Driving the news: The Democratic Socialists of America-backed Denver City Council member is facing attacks, pointed barbs from opponents and a big-moneyed rival months before the April election.

  • An anonymous mailer suggesting she opposes affordable housing was recently circulated in the city. She told 9News she felt it was connected to the Park Hill Golf Course redevelopment vote she opposed this week.
  • Yes, but: The developer responsible for the golf course denied responsibility for the fliers according to 9News.

Why it matters: This is perhaps the most watched — and likely the most expensive — City Council district race in the 2023 election.

What's happening: People who have wanted to see CdeBaca go — including local developers she often criticizes — have their pick of two opponents, Kwon Atlas and Darrell Watson.

  • Former district council member Albus Brooks — who lost to CdeBaca in 2019 — gave money to Watson's campaign, as did Rockies Owner and CEO Dick Monfort, records show.
  • Watson leads all candidates, with $216,510 raised, followed by CdeBaca with $102,652 and Atlas with $36,500, according to latest figures from the city.
  • All three have opted into the city's public financing program, meaning their donations are being matched while agreeing to lower donation sums.

State of play: Situated northeast of downtown Denver, District 9 is a microcosm of the city's biggest challenges, and includes a mixture of low-income and traditionally affluent neighborhoods.

  • The district has two neighborhoods identified by the city as being at high-risk for displacement.
  • The district comprises neighborhoods like Globeville, Elyria Swansea, Five Points, Skyland and Whittier.
  • The district gained parts of North Park Hill and South Park Hill neighborhood, while losing the Central Business District and Union Station after being redrawn last year.

Between the lines: CdeBaca's policies have garnered support among activists — but drawn the ire of people who oppose her progressive ideas or feel like they aren't being represented.

The other side: Atlas and Watson support the city's controversial urban camping ban, which CdeBaca has fiercely opposed.

  • Watson also backs a law — which was adopted last year — that requires developers to build affordable housing units for projects with ten or more units.
  • CdeBaca opposed the measure, saying last year it would not do enough to help more people attain housing in the longer term.

What they're saying: Atlas said CdeBaca doesn't represent the district equally, something she freely admits, telling Axios Denver she focuses on the "voices of the marginalized" in the district.

  • Watson said he's heard from people in the community who are tired of the "infighting" amongst the council, and said he wants to bring a more "collaborative" approach to city hall.
  • He criticized CdeBaca for "fighting" over Twitter, where she's called out colleagues.
  • CdeBaca said she agrees with her colleagues 85% of the time, and has put forth legislation like defunding private halfway homes and a recent bill to decriminalize jaywalking by working with her peers.

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