The city of Denver holds its next elections in May 2019, but candidates are coming out of the woodwork already. Four new candidates have stepped up to the plate in council elections, plus two challengers to Mayor Michael Hancock.
Here’s what we know about the races so far. This article was last updated on Feb. 12, 2018 and will be kept up-to-date as new candidates register.
First, a map:
If you’re confused about which district you live in, refer to this map. For now, this list only includes the open seats and the races where council members face a challenger.
None of the current council members have said that they won’t run again, except for Paul López, who is term-limited.
Councilman Paul López currently holds this west Denver seat, but he can’t run again because he has served the maximum number of consecutive terms. He may run for city clerk and recorder instead.
Raymond Montoya is the first registered candidate for the open seat. Montoya, 36, works as a transportation specialist for Sheridan School District #2, driving buses and accompanying children to events. Raised in Cheyenne, Wyo., he has lived in Colorado since 2002 and currently resides in Mariposa, the mixed-income community near the 10th & Osage station.
Montoya named affordable housing as his top priority. “It’s a crisis in our district, and I think in all of Denver,” he said. “I just think that we need to do more. I think it’s coming along, but we need to do more, and more quickly.”
He suggested that the city could try to pay to place people who need housing into vacant apartment units, an idea similar to the “LIVE” project announced last year.
Montoya also hopes to get the city to invest in capital projects for west Denver, he said. “I think west Denver has been off the radar for so long. Paul (López) has done a great job of us getting noticed,” he said. “I want to follow that.”
Colleen Zaharadnicek, 36, is running as a challenger in southeast Denver. Councilwoman Kendra Black is the incumbent.
Zaharadnicek is a real estate broker who grew up in Denver. She spent several recent years in Prague, and returned in 2013 to find the city dramatically changed.
“The boom just blew my mind. I kind of wasn’t really expecting it,” she said. “Denver was starting to turn into a town that I didn’t recognize, that I didn’t like. I saw a lot more visible homeless people. I had a lot of friends that are complaining about the market — they still can’t rent and they still can’t buy.”
The University Hills resident said the council incumbents should push affordable housing harder, and she described incumbent Black as “kowtowing” to developers.
“If we’re going to allow developers into our neighborhoods, they need to act like good neighbors,” Zaharadnicek said, calling for better planning, more affordable housing and greater walkability.
Councilwoman Kendra Black also has laid out visions of a more walkable southeast Denver with pockets of density.
“Working together with thousands of constituents, we’ve celebrated great accomplishments over the last few years, including community visioning and planning,” she wrote in an email to Denverite.
“I am asking District 4 voters for another four years in office to continue the work that we’ve started. We’ll need another term for our community vision, aspirations and goals to come to fruition. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”
Candi CdeBaca is running for the northeast Denver seat currently held by Council President Albus Brooks. Brooks will run for re-election.
CdeBaca, the executive director of Project VOYCE, argues that Brooks hasn’t done enough to combat gentrification and displacement, and that he didn’t “understand the nuances of involuntary displacement,” as we reported earlier.
“Our focus will be on activating those people who have not been active,” she said. “A lot more people are paying attention than ever before.”
Councilman Albus Brooks pointed to the high number of affordable homes in District 9 as an example of his record.
“All of the work that we’ve been doing shows that we understand gentrification, and it’s allowed people to stay in their homes and not be displaced,” he said in December. “Now, it’s moving very fast, and we need to put more money into these policies, but all the policies we’re implementing show that we understand it and we’re following best practices.”
Patrick Key is registered as a challenger. He did not immediately respond to an interview request.
Councilman Wayne New is running for re-election. “My goals are to increase community engagement while prioritizing traffic calming, residential speed limit reductions, pedestrian infrastructure and neighborhood safety. Capital improvements in neighborhoods throughout District 10 are also a high priority,” he wrote in an email to Denverite.
McKael Elise Grayson has registered as a challenger. However, she said in an email that she plans to withdraw.
Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore currently holds the seat.
Mayor Michael Hancock has two registered challengers so far. We’ll cover that race in greater depth in a later article, but here’s a quick rundown anyway.
Kayvan Khalatbari, 34, an outspoken entrepreneur who owns stakes in the marijuana-related business Denver Relief Consulting, along with Sexy Pizza, Sexpot Comedy and Birdy Magazine.
In an interview with Westword, he said he was compelled to run because he realized “the detriment this city is placing on the people that I care about.”
He wanted to guarantee, at the least, that there would be a civic conversation about issues from housing to public health and government transparency, as he told The Denver Post.
He reported about $31,000 in contributions in 2017, plus a $30,000 loan from himself
Marcus Giavanni, 58, is the other challenger so far. He previously took second place in the mayor’s race in 2015 with 8.5 percent of the vote. He describes himself as one of the “hottest unsigned vocalists in the 1980s.”
“My goal is to be mayor and sing the National Anthem,” he told Denverite. “I can belt, bro — I’m a heavy metal dude.” He also hopes to start a program to support underprivileged children, and he wants to streamline family courts.
Mayor Michael Hancock is hoping for a third term.
“I’m proud that we have led Denver out of the recession and helped it become one of the best cities to live, work and play,” he said in a written release.
” … I grew up in Denver and know how important it is to protect Denver’s unique character. Our focus for the next term will be on keeping Denver’s future open for everyone who calls this city home, reaching those who need help the most, and addressing our most pressing challenges like affordable housing, traffic congestion and homelessness.”
Hancock raised $235,000 for his campaign in 2017.