Sometimes the person running for mayor is the person who is mayor.
Mayor Michael Hancock, by virtue of his powerful post, has a surround-sound speaker system to broadcast his message while his opponents rock boomboxes. At any moment, he can activate his public relations arm — or his public relations arm can activate him — to promote consequential policies or photo-ops of a purple line being painted on Blake Street.
The mayor’s megaphone sounds discordant to voters hoping for a new leader in an election season, and to the challengers hoping to unseat the incumbent.
As a result, Denverite readers and denizens of Twitter often posit that Hancock is puffing himself up for another term, so we sifted through almost four years of press releases from the Hancock administration’s “newsroom” to quantify things.
Mystery solved: It turns out that politicians running for public office do, in fact, promote themselves in order to win public office.
The analysis found that the mayor’s press releases and promotional events have increased over the last seven months, though they have not exploded in confetti of rainbows and sunshine. His public relations surge actually peaked in the fall and winter.
However you feel about boasting incumbents, it’s par for the course, according to Robert Preuhs, a professor of political science at Metro State University who studies urban politics.
“All office holders are using their position through their term to increase the probability of being reelected,” Preuhs said. “So whether it’s newsletters or ribbon cuttings, that’s something you see universally. That said, if you imagine the alternative of mayors not showing up to events, not cutting ribbons, not showing up for important constituents, they would have a problem and the constituents would have a problem.”
What about that announcement — in the middle of Nuggets and Avalanche playoff runs — proclaiming that the teams will stay in Denver for 20 more years?
Voters can decide for themselves whether announcing a new lease keeping two beloved sports teams in town for two more decades, less than a week before Election Day, was politicking or not.
Here is what we do know: Hancock’s team put together a rally with mascots and pep groups last week during an event complemented by a press release touting, “Denver, Kroenke Sports & Entertainment Commit to Long Term Agreement.” The contract was not signed, though, Hancock’s City Attorney’s Office said last week. The document was still in the works.
The current lease on the Pepsi Center and therefore the Avs and Nuggets was set to expire in 2023 (and still technically is).
The mayor hired a new communications director last August. She says that’s what the spike in outreach is all about.
As a former journalist at Denver7, Director of Communications Theresa Marchetta says her job was to revamp the media department, so that’s what she did. The spike in press releases and events could certainly account for her hiring in the nascent months of the campaign season.
“To me, it comes down to access and transparency … whether it’s good news or not so good news, we serve the public,” Marchetta said.
There are some things that paint the mayor in a bad light, but not many, because again, this is politics.
“Mayors use their office to promote their prospects for the next election and their agenda, but at the same time, they couldn’t very well not do that,” Preuhs said.
Elected officials cannot use taxpayer money to run political races — Hancock’s campaign has a separate communications team that deals with media — but the mayor won’t stop governing, Marchetta said, and it’s her job to tell the administration’s story.