Beth McCann ran on criminal justice reform. Democratic primary voters gave her a big win.

“I thought it would be closer.”

staff photo

Going into Tuesday’s Democratic primary for district attorney, a lot of people assumed Michael Carrigan was the favorite to win. He had the endorsements of current Mayor Michael Hancock and former mayors Wellington Webb and Federico Peña, and he had the most money.

But the polls had barely closed when it became clear that State Rep. Beth McCann had secured a solid majority in the three-way race with Carrigan, a University of Colorado regent, and Senior Deputy District Attorney Kenneth Boyd.

“I thought it would be closer,” McCann told the Denver Post.

McCann won nearly 53 percent of the vote to Carrigan’s 36 percent and Boyd’s 11 percent.

Boyd was endorsed by Mitch Morrissey, the term-limited outgoing district attorney, and the Colorado Independent notes that Boyd’s poor showing may reflect on his boss’ popularity. Morrissey was targeted for recall last year.

Carrigan raised the most money in a race that saw unprecedented spending for a district attorney position, but the advantage may have been tainted by the revelation, first reported by the Colorado Independent, that personal injury attorney Frank Azar gave Carrigan $50,000 through a Texas holding company.

McCann is a former prosecutor and manager of public safety under Webb. McCann emphasized criminal justice reforms in a city with a history of high-profile controversies over use-of-force. Things like community-based early interventions for at-risk youth and a higher level of review and public accountability for police.

The winner of the Democratic primary is heavily favored to win any general election in Denver, but McCann does have an opponent in November.

That’s Helen Morgan, chief deputy district attorney in Morrissey’s office, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate. She has the backing of the police union.

Both candidates would be the first female district attorney in Denver history.

And as election night wound down, Kyle Clark of 9 News pointed out one likely implication of McCann’s win. She has said she would not pursue the death penalty, 9 News reported.

Morgan, however, has stated that she would continue to enforce the death penalty, calling it “the law.”

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