Feb 17, 2023 - Politics

Denver mayoral race ramps up with fresh attacks against Chris Hansen

A debate lectern with the shadow of an exclamation point behind it

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Denver's mayoral race is heating up.

Driving the news: In the first televised debate Thursday night, rivals attacked state Sen. Chris Hansen for his new TV ad, which debuted this week, suggesting it was racist.

  • The 30-second clip, focused on public safety, starts with footage of homeless encampments, two people fighting and a person stealing from a mailbox.
  • Everyone committing a crime in the video appears to be people of color.

What they're saying: Candidate Ean Thomas Tafoya, an activist, said he was "disgusted by an ad that makes people of color as the only criminals or the people who are overrepresented in homelessness."

  • State Rep. Leslie Herod, who has clashed with Hansen repeatedly throughout the night, agreed: "As a Black woman, it's really interesting to me to have someone on the stage ignore the fact that people of color are asking you to take that ad down. It is offensive, and it's scary for our communities."

Between the lines: More than just content, politics is at play. Hansen beat the field to TV advertising, and in a crowded race, his rivals are looking for any opportunity to demote a challenger.

The other side: Tafoya called on Hansen to take down the ad — but Hansen defended it. Hansen said he took "actual footage" from around town for his campaign and called the accusations that his ad was racist "overwrought."

  • "This is really kind of shocking that it's suddenly become this conversation about the way that we took footage. This is the number one issue on voters' minds: How do we improve public safety? How do we address the homelessness crisis?"
  • Hansen also emphasized he was endorsed by members of law enforcement.

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