Mar 29, 2023 - Politics

Progressive-backed candidates set sights on Denver City Council

Illustration of the Denver City and County Building with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Esteban L. Hernandez

Denver City Council candidates backed by leftist organizations are closer than ever to securing multiple seats on the dais.

Why it matters: If enough of these candidates win during next week's election — or the runoff — it could signal a shift in the kinds of policies the City Council enacts.

By the numbers: Six Denver City Council candidates have been endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America Denver in the April 4 election.

  • Candi CdeBaca, is the lone incumbent who received an endorsement, though three are running in open races.
  • "With all six of Denver DSA's candidates elected, Denver will have the voting majority to make meaningful policy change for Denver's working class," DSA Denver said in its 2023 voter guide released on March 18.

What they're saying: "If that group of folks got elected…that would signal a huge shift to the left," Paul Teske, dean of the University of Colorado Denver's School of Public Affairs, tells Axios Denver about the DSA Denver slate.

  • Teske said these candidates are giving voters the option to elect people who may provide new ideas or approaches to the city's top issues, like housing and crime.

Of note: The 13-member council is currently largely made up of moderate Democrats.

  • The seats are technically nonpartisan, meaning candidates are not running on their party affiliation.

What we're hearing: District 4 candidate Tony Pigford, who's endorsed by DSA Denver, told us during an interview last month he supports policies like establishing a social housing authority, similar to one in Seattle that's building affordable housing.

  • It's an idea also backed by other candidates including CdeBaca and Shontel Lewis.

The intrigue: Voter turnout, so far, is low.

Yes, but: Sarah Lake, campaign manager for DSA-endorsed mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón, tells us progressive candidates are expecting their base — mainly working-class folks — to vote late, casting ballots closer to Election Day.


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