Are you ready for April 2023?
If you’re not, these folks certainly are. Candidates vying to represent the city’s 11 council districts and two at-large seats have started coming forward. That was expected: Many were waiting for the new district boundaries to be set before figuring out whether they would run. The candidates include incumbents and some fresh faces.
Three council members are term-limited, so they can’t run again, though a few may end up running for mayor, which figures to be the most-watched race in the city. Both at-large council members, Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega, will be out. So is Councilmember Chris Herndon, who represents District 8, in northeast Denver. And last month, we learned Councilmember Kendra Black, who represents District 4 in far southeast Denver, will not seek reelection.
So that means at the very least, one-third of the council will be new. Historically, it’s difficult to defeat an incumbent council member. Yet 2019, when three incumbents lost to challengers, showed us that this may be a thing of the past. So we could have even more new faces on council.
Right now, all current Denver City Council members other than the ones we already mentioned have filed paperwork with the city’s election office or confirmed to Denverite they plan on running for reelection.
The following candidates have filed paperwork with the city as of Monday. We’re focusing on the new faces just to start, and here’s a bit about them.
Dominic A. Diaz (at-large)
Diaz, 24, is a Denver native hoping to become the youngest member in the history of the Denver City Council. A Denver Public Schools graduate, he lives in the Sun Valley neighborhood and works for the city as the Contract Compliance Coordinator for the Office of Children’s Affairs. He began his career with the city in 2014 by working at the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. He’s a member of Teamsters Local 17 and currently serves on the board for the Denver Employee Volunteer Opportunities. He’s also served as an election official with the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
Shannon Hoffman (District 10)
Hoffman is a former employee at Hope Tank, the quirky gift shop on South Broadway that closed last year due to rising rents. She currently works for a nonprofit developing mixed-used affordable housing and formerly served as the project manager for “From Allies to Abolitionists,” an Emancipation Theater project. She calls herself a resourceful advocate and educator, and she’s currently participating in Emerge Colorado’s latest class. The program trains Democratic women to run for office (Sawyer and CdeBaca both participated in the program).
“The average cost of rent, $1,600 a month, is untenable with a non-profit salary,” Hoffman said in a press release. “We need more representatives on the city council that reflect our city’s working class population, representatives who will prioritize the needs of people over profit, and will truly co-govern.”
Travis Leiker (at-large)
Leiker is the senior director of development at the University of Colorado and president of the Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, a registered neighborhood organization. He’s also served as president of the NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado board and worked at Conservation Colorado, where he says he’s fought for policies that led to greater equity and opportunity for people in the city. He said he wants to turn the city into a “national model for economic growth and opportunity.” He’s lived in Denver for 15 years. Leiker ran unsuccessfully for the city council in 2015.
“Right now, our city faces unprecedented challenges around homelessness, a housing shortage, safety concerns, and the urgent need to deliver long-term, smart growth policies that will shape our city for future generations,” Leiker said in a press release. “Today, I am rolling up my sleeves and ready to get to work on these and other issues.”
Tony Pigford (District 4)
A fourth-generation Denverite, Pigford formerly served as Student Voice and Leadership Coordinator at Denver Public Schools and is the founding Dean of Students at The Boys School of Denver, an all-boys charter school that closed in 2020. He’s served as basketball coach at Thomas Jefferson High School, his alma mater, and founded the Denver African-American Philanthropists, which provides money to local nonprofits. He was raised in the Southmoor Park neighborhood, which is the district he seeks to represent. He ran unsuccessfully for council in 2019.
“Denver is at an inflection point,” Pigford’s campaign website reads. “We need bold leaders that will co-govern with the community so that we are all working together to make the city we love more vibrant and sustainable.”
Jeff Walker (at-large)
Walker has served on several local boards and committees, most recently serving on the police reimaging task force that issued dozens of recommendations last year. He’s also served on the RTD board of directors, the Denver planning board and the Blueprint Denver task force, positions that he says on his campaign website have led him to make meaningful policy contributions. Walker moved to Denver from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1999, and says on his website he loves this city and wants to be a part of how it grows and changes.
“It’s the council member’s job to listen to everyone,” Walker says on his campaign website. “That means sometimes I’ll have to vote against my personal wishes. Sometimes I’ll have to find a compromise between differing opinions. But I will always vote for what’s in the best interest of the city and explain my reasoning.”
Darrell Watson (District 9)
Watson co-founded a consulting firm focusing on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion, and has lived in Denver for 30 years. He graduated from CU Denver, and currently serves on the city’s Housing Stability Strategic Advisors board, and served as a co-chair on the Denver Game Plan for a Healthy City task force, which published a report in 2019 to outline the city’s 20-year plan for its parks and recreation system. He calls himself a community advocate who says has created policies helping the city’s unhoused residents and addressed displacement and housing instability. Watson previously ran unsuccessfully for the city council in 2007.
“Growing up in the projects in a working poor family, I experienced the impact of hunger and the emotional impact that housing instability has on a family,” Watson said in a press release. “We need solutions to the housing crisis and other issues facing our city. Together, we can make progress overcoming ideologues who have failed to put the interest of the people ahead of their need for soundbites and retweets.”
This article has been updated throughout. Are you running for Denver City Council? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.