Mayor Hancock revs up his fundraising machine in Denver, challenger Khalatbari nearly keeps pace

The mayor’s campaign still has much more money in the bank.
4 min. read
Fundraising totals for Mayor Michael Hancock and challenger Kayvan Khalatbari. (Andrew Kenney/Denverite)

Election season has surely arrived, and the money's flowing.

Denverite's latest analysis shows that Mayor Michael Hancock and his most prominent challenger Kayvan Khalatbari have revved up their fundraising operations.

Both candidates have recently had their strongest fundraising months of the election, according to second-quarter financial reports. The incumbent brought in about $85,000 in May, while Khalatbari accelerated to nearly $70,000 in June.

Khalatbari looks like he will be a much larger force in this election than he was in 2015. He already has already raised roughly five times as much money as he booked in the entire 2015 campaign -- and the election is still almost 10 months away.

That money is coming from smaller donors. The median donation to Khalatbari for this campaign is about $50, compared to a $500 median donation for Hancock. Khalatbari has made personal calls to donors and the campaign is ramping up its online presence. The challenger also has collected larger donations from some of the businesses that he has a stake in, and he enjoys financial support from colleagues in the marijuana industry, among others.

"Our numbers are a reflection of our continued growing momentum and supporters believing in Kayvan and agreeing with his assessment of what's needed in Denver," wrote Jessica Campbell-Swanson, Khalatbari's campaign manager, in an email. She said he has "a diversified donor base -- not just big-money lawyers, lobbyists, and developers. "

Hancock's campaign has collected donations from many prominent people and organizations in the area, including Sen. Michael Bennet; Robin Hickenlooper, the wife of Gov. John Hickenlooper; the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association; and numerous city staff leaders. (His campaign says it doesn't intentionally seek or ask for donations from city employees.)

So far, the candidates have attracted nearly equal numbers of donors.

"Mayor Hancock is grateful for the support from so many people all across the city who are joining with us to keep Denver’s progress going. Our focus remains on extending Denver's economic successes to everyone in every corner of the city while protecting the history, culture and character of our neighborhoods," wrote Jake Martin, a spokesman for Hancock's campaign, in an email.

The candidates spent about the same amount of money in the second quarter of 2018 -- $41,000 for Hancock and $46,000 for Khalatbari. That paid for bookkeeping, events, credit card fees and phones for the Hancock campaign. Khalatbari had similar costs, though he also bought printed materials, T-shirts and other swag.

Khalatbari also is benefiting from "in kind" support -- free stuff, basically, including free rent at a property owned by the Zeppelin developers and free food from various restaurants.

The spending's sure to accelerate from here. Hancock's campaign had more than $500,000 in the bank, compared to about $93,000 for Khalatbari.

Overall, Hancock has signaled a new emphasis on equity -- particularly the idea that Denver's development should benefit more people, including through lower-cost housing -- and he also has announced new renewable energy goals.

Khalatbari has said that Hancock is doing too little, and that he's following the lead that activists established years ago. Khalatbari wants to see the government build more housing itself -- an increase to public housing, which he prefers to describe as social housing. He also has suggested that Denver pay to ensure that its public-school graduates can move on to college or technical education at institutions including the Community College of Denver, Metropolitan State University or Emily Griffith Technical College.

“We are at a pivotal moment as a community,” Khalatbari said this week. “We have grown rapidly over the last decade. This growth has been poorly managed and has led to displacement and a dramatic surge in the cost of living and tensions in our community."

Meanwhile, rumors in the city's political circle say that a well-funded and well-known candidate might yet enter the race.

The three other current challengers in the race haven't yet filed campaign finance reports.

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