Apr 4, 2023 - Politics

Wellington and Wilma Webb are shaping Denver's municipal election

Wellington and Wilma Webb. Photo: Courtesy of Evan Semón Photography

The political stakes in Tuesday's election for former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb are as high as ever, even though his time leading the city is long past.

State of play: Denver's first Black mayor and his wife, former state Rep. Wilma Webb, are attempting to play political kingmakers in one of the city's most consequential elections in recent years.

  • The Webbs are leveraging their political legacy to fight ballot measure 2O, which would allow development on the former Park Hill Golf Course site.
  • They're also voicing support for a handful of candidates running for mayor, city council and auditor.

Why it matters: The Webbs are the most prominent players in this year's election, and in crowded contests, their stature lends much-needed credibility to some little-known candidates.

By the numbers: Wellington has donated nearly $11,800 to Yes for Parks and Open Space, the group opposed to measure 2O, an Axios Denver analysis of campaign finance records shows. "I'm a fighter for a tree and a blade of grass," he says.

  • About $9,300 came from personal outreach the Webbs made in the form of calls and text messages to voters.
  • The Webbs each donated to three candidates for mayor, Leslie Herod, Trinidad Rodriguez and Kelly Brough. Herod highlights her endorsement prominently in her campaign literature.

Of note: Combined with other contributions to candidates, the couple has contributed $14,500 in the last two years, far more than the previous two municipal elections.

What he's saying: Wellington tells Axios Denver he expects the next mayor to be a woman. But the way he sees it, "You have three choices: Chocolate, vanilla and strawberry."

  • He says chocolate is Herod, vanilla is Brough, and strawberry is Debbie Ortega. The couple is choosing "chocolate."

The intrigue: Wellington, who served as Denver auditor from 1987 until 1991, endorsed Erik Clarke for the position over incumbent Tim O'Brien, because he's a champion of the "underdog."

  • Clarke told Axios Denver the endorsement "signals that he recognizes this is a change election, and that voters really want results and candidates in office who can achieve those results."

What to watch: Whether the Webbs still carry the clout they once did in a city that finds itself at a crossroads this election.


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