May 24, 2023 - Election

Candi CdeBaca vs. Darrell Watson for Denver City Council: A 1-minute voter guide

Illustration of a check mark being drawn in front of the Denver City and County Building facade in the colors of the city flag.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Incumbent Candi CdeBaca is running into fierce opposition from challenger Darrell Watson in her re-election bid for Denver City Council.

State of play: CdeBaca β€” the first Democratic Socialist to hold a Denver council seat β€” defeated incumbent Albus Brooks in the 2019 election but her ninth district has shifted with redistricting to include new voters in Park Hill.

  • CdeBaca finished with 44% of the vote in April, just ahead of Watson who took 43% in a three-way race. With neither reaching 50%, the top two rivals must battle in the June 6 runoff election.
  • The district includes downtown, City Park, Five Points, Elyria Swansea and parts of Park Hill.

The intrigue: CdeBaca is often the lone "no" vote on council and her outspoken politics and controversies in her first term are making her a target from business leaders, who are backing Watson.

  • Watson, who lost a council bid in 2007, is making cooperation his theme, telling Axios Denver that the district "needs to have politicians who can work with their colleagues and the administration" rather than "continued division."
  • He is endorsed by Kwon Atlas, who finished third in the April election, as well as unions and sitting members of the city council.

Of note: CdeBaca did not respond to interview requests.

Details: The need for affordable housing is at the center of the debate. CdeBaca voted against a city policy to require income-restricted units in new development because it didn't go far enough nor did it reach the poorest residents.

  • Watson told us he wants to see more incentives for builders to construct affordable units and speed the development permit by hiring contractors, including those outside Colorado, to eliminate the application backlog.A former RTD board member and a nonprofit leader are the two District 8 council finalists on the ballot for the June 6 runoff election.

Meet the candidates: Shontel Lewis, who once served on the Regional Transportation District board and works at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, is campaigning with other left-leaning Democratic candidates to shift the council more progressive.

  • Her election to the RTD board came with controversy given her criminal record. She pleaded guilty to misdemeanor theft of public funds in the 2008 case in which she admitted to taking public assistance money from low-income residents while working for the state's Department of Human Services.

Brad Revare is a former nonprofit leader who worked at Colorado Succeeds, a coalition of business leaders seeking to influence education policy. He also serves on various community advisory committees.

  • He is easily out-fundraising his rival and drawing support from business leaders and current council members who are mainstream Democrats, including current District 8 council member Chris Herndon.

State of play: Lewis finished just 319 votes ahead of Revare in the five-candidate April municipal election and didn't reach 50%, forcing the runoff race in a district that covers Central Park, Montbello, parts of Park Hill and Skyland.

The intrigue: The contenders are drawing only subtle differences on the issues. Lewis wants to see the city build its own housing units to make them more affordable, while Revare wants community land trusts to tackle the job.

  • On crime, Revare and Lewis want to expand youth engagement programs and co-responders to handle calls.
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