Lisa Calderón, community advocate and vocal critic of Mayor Hancock, will run for mayor

Calderón is co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum.

The Colorado Latino Forum's Lisa Calderón at public meeting about the Stapleton neighborhood's name and whether or not to change it, Dec. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Colorado Latino Forum's Lisa Calderón at public meeting about the Stapleton neighborhood's name and whether or not to change it, Dec. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

Lisa Calderón, a community activist known for her work with the Latino community and former prisoners, has consistently criticized and even sued Mayor Michael Hancock. Now she’ll oppose the two-term incumbent in the 2019 municipal election, she told Denverite.

Calderón is co-chair of the Colorado Latino Forum, which works to bolster political strength and civic engagement among Latinos.

“I believe the time has come to elect a mayor who will set a new direction for Denver by creating a more affordable, accountable and humane city, where every voice matters,” Calderón said in a statement Monday. “Quite simply, it’s time for a new vision and new leadership where the principles of equity, fairness and justice are the touchstones by which we measure a great city.”

The longtime educator will discuss her platform at a press conference Wednesday. Her announcement promised a “research-based public policy approach to the problems facing the most vulnerable populations in the City,” if elected.

In April, Calderón sued Hancock and members of his administration, claiming they violated the First and Fourteenth amendments. The lawsuit is still pending.

For about a decade, Calderón led a city-funded nonprofit, the Community Reentry Project, which helped former prisoners return to society. She lost the contract this year. The sudden change was retaliation for criticizing the sheriff’s department in her role at the Latino Forum, Calderón alleged.

She claimed also that male members of the administration discriminated against her because she is a woman, and spread false rumors about her sexual conduct, according to court documents. Hancock ignored complaints that competing applicants “had a history of sexual harassment and misconduct,” the documents state.

Hancock’s office denied all allegations. Calderón lost the contract during a standard review, which the city is required to perform every three to five years, officials said.

“The competitive contracting process is something this city takes very seriously and politics has no place in securing the best program operators for the people of Denver,” a Hancock staffer told Denverite then. “We are disappointed to hear Ms. Calderón continues to try to impact the process by making these claims.”

After the Community Reentry Project closed its doors, some newly released prisoners went without the services, however, according to Rudolph Gonzales, executive director of Servicios de la Raza, which was awarded the new contract.

“I have spent my entire adult life in the service of others,” Calderón stated in Monday’s press release. “It is precisely because I am not a politician, but rather a public servant, that I have decided to run for public office.”

In March, Calderón led a choir of activists who called for Hancock’s resignation following revelations that the mayor had sent lewd text messages to a member of his security detail, police detective Leslie Branch-Wise.

“What we want Mayor Hancock to know, is he needs to be held accountable for his misdeeds just like he’s supposed to hold others accountable,” Calderón said back then.

Speakers at that press conference, on the steps of the City and County building, also condemned the administration’s role in the I-70 expansion through mostly low-income, Latino neighborhoods, as well as its bid to bring the Olympics here.

In addition to the lawsuit and consistent calls for Hancock’s resignation, Calderón has called for the Denver sheriff to become an elected position instead of an appointed one to enhance accountability. “The jail should run independently regardless of who the mayor is,” she said in February.

Calderón joins a growing slate of mayoral candidates that includes Kalyn Rose Heffernan, Penfield Tate III, Stephan Elliot Evans (better known as Chairman Seku), Marcus Giavanni, and Kenneth Simpson. Kayvan Khalatbari announced he was suspending his campaign earlier this month.

As of Monday morning, Calderón was not listed as an official candidate. If elected, she would be Denver’s first female mayor.

Calderón will hold a press conference Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. at City Park at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. statue, where she will unveil her platform.

An earlier version of this article stated that the alleged retaliation stemmed from Calderón criticizing the mayor directly. She criticized his sheriff’s department.