Candidate Jamie Giellis is trying to unseat Mayor Michael Hancock in the June 4 runoff election (Images via Hancock, Giellis campaigns)
DENVER, CO — Voters have been mailing in and dropping off their ballots for Denver’s runoff election on Tuesday, June 4. The election will determine the outcome of seven races: mayor, the clerk and five council seats. One issue will also be on the ballot.
Five candidates were vying to unseat Mayor Michael Hancock in the May election. Hancock received almost 39 percent of the vote, and Giellis received almost 25 percent, sending them both into the runoff.
Hancock served on the City Council from 2004 to 2011 and won his first election for mayor in 2011, followed by a landslide second election in 2015. As mayor during Denver’s recent economic boom, Hancock’s campaign this time around is focusing on his hardscrabble childhood as the youngest of 10 children and his "Equity Platform" budget and Denveright land use and transportation plan. Hancock suffered a hit to his reputation last year when he was accused by a former female security team member of sending unwanted sexual text messages in 2012. He apologized publicly for the incident. His son, age 22, was also caught on a cell phone insulting an Aurora traffic officer and threatening his job. Hancock’s other achievements include raising the minimum wage for city employees to $15 per hour, funding an affordable housing commission and pushing for the expungement of low-level marijuana convictions. Hancock has raised a total of $2.1 million between 2018 and 2019, by far the largest campaign revenue in this race.
Giellis is an urban development planner and served as president of the River North Art District from 2014 until she stepped down to campaign for mayor. Giellis told Westword she’s running on behalf of "communities in this city who have felt ambushed by the impacts of unplanned development in their neighborhood and frustrated by the city’s lack of response to their concerns and lack of action to make things better." Giellis had raised $506,000. Supporters and Denver developers the Zeppelin family, led by son Kyle Zeppelin, are her biggest donors, having doled out tens of thousands of dollars for her campaign. She’s endorsed by a handful of former city councilors and state lawmakers, as well as City Council Member Rafael Espinoza and State Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet. Former mayoral candidates Penfield Tate and Lisa Calderón have also backed Giellis.
Clerk and recorder
López has been a member of the Denver City Council since 2007, representing District 3. He received 37 percent of the vote in the May election. Before becoming a councilman, he spent six years as a labor organizer working to protect the rights of Denver-area janitors. He also led voter registration efforts in Denver to increase voter participation in areas with low turnout. His top priorities if elected clerk would include making government more accessible and transparent, increasing voter turnout and participation, protecting marriage equality, preventing foreclosures and protecting affordable housing.
Perl is a public policy attorney and adjunct professor at the University of Denver. She received 33 percent of the vote in the May election. She has previously worked as an attorney in Washington, D.C., advising the Federal Election Commission and the U.S. House Ethics Committee. Perl also served as the senior counsel for Colorado Ethics Watch. If elected clerk, her top priorities would include updating Denver’s bureaucracy and systems so residents can find what they need quickly, building a fairer campaign finance system, protecting voting rights and keeping officials accountable to residents instead of big-money interests.
If approved, this measure would require city officials to ask residents before using city resources or money for coordinating a bid for any Olympic Games. Voters would have to approve the measure in a municipal or special election.
Here’s how Proposition 302 appears on the ballot:
Shall the voters of the City and County of Denver enact a measure prohibiting the use of public monies, resources, or fiscal guarantees in connection with any future Olympic Games, without the City first obtaining voter approval at a regularly scheduled municipal election or special election should the City decide to use public monies, resources, or guarantees for this purpose?
City Council District 1
Sandoval, a former aide to Councilman Rafael Espinoza, received 31 percent of the vote in the May election. After Espinoza announced he wasn’t running for re-election, he endorsed Sandoval. Sandoval was also a former aide to councilwoman Judy Montero. In 2018, Sandoval became an Outreach Program Manager and Legislative Liaison for the Denver Fire Department. Some of her top priorities include creating desirable zoning overlays, reducing speed limits, supporting organized labor for construction contracts, protecting renters, improving public safety, increasing the minimum wage, updating transportation infrastructure and protecting the environment.
Somma, a Denver Fire Department Lieutenant, received 17 percent of the vote. Somma has been a firefighter since 1992. He served in public safety for more than three decades and was a fire department liaison to Denver City Hall for ten years. Some of his top priorities include improving public safety, increasing affordable housing, investing in quality transportation, improving homelessness and boosting community engagement by re-opening a district-based council office.
City Council District 3
Torres, an immigrants’ rights activist, received 40 percent of the vote in the May election. Torres is the Deputy Director of the Human Rights & Community Partnerships Agency, where she helps oversee nine offices and ten community advisory commissions. Torres is also the Director of the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs, an office she started in 2005. She also initiated the Immigrant Integration Mini-Grant program, which aims to build bonds between immigrant and non-immigrant communities. Some of her top priorities include boosting home ownership and affordable housing, improving public infrastructure, enhancing public safety, supporting arts and culture and investing in marginalized communities.
Barela, a former community development leader, received 36 percent of the vote. Barela served as the President and CEO of NEWSED Community Development Corporation since 1978. The organization focused on revitalizing Denver’s west side community. Barela also served on many advisory councils and boards, including the Denver Housing Authority, the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, the American Civil Liberties Union and Hispanic advisory councils for three former mayors. Her top priorities include improving Denver’s cost of living, supporting small businesses, combating climate change, investing in arts and culture and fighting for civil rights.
City Council District 5
Susman has served as councilwoman for District 5 for two terms. She received 36 percent of the vote in the May election. She was the first District 5 councilmember to serve as Denver City Council President. Susman spent her earlier career in higher education, retiring as Vice President of the Colorado Community College System. She also was the founding President of three state-wide online colleges in Colorado, Kentucky and Louisiana. She currently serves on eight city council committees. Some of her top priorities are improving mobility, ensuring sustainable growth and investing in what she calls "smart" development.
Sawyer, a licensed attorney, received 41 percent of the vote. Sawyer has more than a decade of experience in marketing, sales, entrepreneurship and business strategy. Some of her top priorities include protecting children with more stoplights and crosswalks, preventing luxury condos from being built, increasing mid-priced units in new buildings and closing illegally-operating short-term rentals operating in District 5.
City Council District 9
Brooks was first elected to District 8 in 2011, and ran for District 9 in 2015 after redistricting, receiving 68 percent of the vote. He received 45 percent of the vote in the May election. Before serving in the districts, he was the Director of the Issachar Center for Urban Leadership, an organization that invests in Denver’s emerging leaders. In 2010 Albus left the organization to help then-Mayor John Hickenlooper get elected Governor of Colorado, acting as his Outreach and Political Director. After battling cancer, Brooks was elected Denver City Council President, and sponsored bills to decriminalize marijuana, increase sales tax for the Denver Preschool Program and create an Affordable Housing Fund.
CdeBaca, the co-founder of a local organization that boosts civic engagement, received 43 percent in the election. She has also served as the Director of Government Affairs for the Colorado Children’s Campaign, and worked as a policy associate and executive assistant for the group Excelecia in Education in Washington, D.C. Some of CdeBaca’s top priorities include increasing wages, investing in affordable housing, combating pollution, and improving government accountability and transparency.
City Council District 10
New has served as councilman for District 10 since 2015. He received 39 percent of the vote in the May election. A former adjunct faculty member for the University of Kansas Graduate School of Nursing, New has served as the Chief Operating Officer for Denver Children’s Hospital and as a consultant with the Child Health Corporation of America. Some of his top priorities include crime prevention, investing in local parks, enhancing pedestrian safety, improving parking and transportation, tackling homelessness, reviewing construction practices and improving affordable housing.
Hinds, an accessibility advocate for persons with disabilities, received 30 percent of the vote. After a car crash in 2008 left Hinds paralyzed from the chest down, he’s fought for equitable access at local, state and national levels. Hinds has served on many boards and committees, including the board of Uptown on the Hill, Blueprint Denver’s board and the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing’s Medicaid Provider Rate Review Advisory Committee. Some of his top priorities include increasing affordable housing, improving transportation infrastructure, supporting arts and culture and improving support for social cannabis outlets.
Jean Lotus contributed to this report.