Amanda Sawyer made history during Tuesday’s runoff election by becoming just the third Denver City Council candidate in 32 years to unseat an incumbent council member.
Sawyer bested current District 5 Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman and will represent the east-central Denver district, which includes East Colfax, Hale, Hilltop, Lowry, Montclair and Windsor. Her win is not totally surprising given her finish in the May 7 municipal election, when she was the only challenger to earn more votes than an incumbent, forcing a runoff in the race.
“It feels amazing, I just got off the phone with Councilwoman Susman, and she congratulated us on our race. So I believe that makes it official!” Sawyer told Denverite.
As of 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sawyer had 58.45 percent of the vote and Susman had 41.55 percent. A representative for Susman confirmed her concession for Denverite shortly after those results were released.
“I’m just thrilled. This has been a hard-fought campaign all the way through. From the very beginning, this was about bringing the voice of the neighborhoods back to the process. And I’m just thrilled that the message resonated in the community. And the outpouring of support that we have received has been so humbling, and I’m just really grateful for the amazing community that we live in. And I really look forward to getting to work, to really represent the people who live here.”
Sawyer’s run was prompted by a Hilltop project that would have brought more density to the neighborhood. She opposed it publicly during a City Council meeting in January (Susman supported the project, but it ultimately failed at the council). Sawyer’s platform focused on decelerating development while increasing resident control over the development process. She’s also seeking to increase transit development to manage the city’s growth by providing more funding for it.
“Denver is going to have to continue to develop, and it should, because we need housing,” Sawyer told Denverite in March. “But on the other hand, we’ve got to be more thoughtful about this and building the infrastructure around it to support it.”
Susman sought her third and final term and had been a longtime advocate for sustainable transportation in the city. She had run her campaign on a promise to improve the city’s housing shortage by increasing the number of homes in traditionally single-family housing neighborhoods.
Unseating an incumbent city council member is rare in Denver. It’s only happened twice in the last 32 years. When Rafael Espinoza unseated Councilwoman Susan K. Shepherd in 2015 to represent District 1, it marked the first time since 1987 that a challenger unseated an incumbent. That’s the year Mary DeGroot unseated councilman John Silchia, according to the Denver Post.
DeGroot would go on to challenge Mayor Wellington Webb and force a runoff for the mayoral seat in 1995.