City Council at-large: Who’s running and what you need to know about the citywide race
It’s a wide-open race for two spots on Council, as the current seat holders are term-limited.
In addition to every District having a representative, Council also has two at-large seats that represent the entire city. You’ll vote for both seats on top of your vote for who will represent your district. Unlike the district races, which could go to a runoff if no one gets at least 50% of the vote, the at-large race is one-and-done. The top two vote-getters join council, regardless of what percent of the vote they get.
With incumbent at-large councilmembers Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega (who’s also running for mayor) term-limited, it’s a crowded, wide-open race. Career politicians, newcomers and everyone in between (sound familiar?) are in the running.
Travis Leiker has a background in fundraising and politics. He worked for Gov. Jared Polis on the State Board of Education back in the day, and currently does development at the University of Colorado. He helped grow Capitol Hill United Neighborhoods, and has eight top issues he wants to tackle: housing, homelessness, community investment, crime and safety, government efficiency, electoral process, economic development and “getting big things done.”
He said that “One of the beauties of being able to run citywide is you see the inequities in urban planning, all across the city, and so my passion and my interest area is making sure that all neighborhoods are equally represented and funded.”
Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez is on her second term representing House District 4 in the State Capitol, with a background as a juvenile caseworker for struggling families. She’s worked on state legislation on affordable housing, crime prevention, healthcare and air pollution protections. She said she wants to continue working on affordable housing and mental health if elected to City Council.
“I really want to go in and focus and hone in on the city and county of Denver, the place I’ve called home pretty much my entire life, am raising my family in, and continue to work with the kids and families that I worked with over the years,” she said.
Penfield Tate III
Penfield Tate III also comes to the race with State Capitol experience. He served in the State House in the 1990s and the State Senate in the early 2000s. He placed fourth in the 2003 and 2019 races for mayor. Tate has been a leader in opposition to the proposed Park Hill Golf Course development, advocating for open space. He also wants to address affordability and crime downtown.
“It’s all driven by a desire to positively impact the quality of life in Denver,” he said. “Denver is not as affordable as it once was when I was a kid growing up in the state.”
Sarah Parady is a labor and civil rights attorney who helped employees win one of the largest disability discrimination cases in the state, along with wage theft, police misconduct and transgender rights cases. She wants to make Denver more affordable and is a proponent of policies like social housing, renter protections and wage theft enforcement.
“One of the things that excites me about city government is the chance to try to be innovative,” she said. “If we have some of the leading housing costs in the country, we should try to be one of the cities that’s being the most creative about how to get involved and do whatever we can about that.”
Jeff Walker has a background in urban planning, and currently works in land rights and property acquisition for Xcel Energy. He’s served on a range of boards, including RTD Board of Directors, Denver Planning Board and the Reimagining Policing Task Force. He wants to focus on housing, homelessness, traffic and the environment. He’s not a fan of government intervention into housing, opting instead to focus on winterization assistance to improve affordability.
“The reason I’m running for City Council… is I enjoy the public engagement, and I wish I could do more of it,” he said.
Marty Zimmerman comes to the race from the nonprofit world, where he’s worked with many groups across the city. He thinks Denver could do a better job of partnering with local organizations, and wants to bring those connections and experience to Council to address affordable housing, homelessness, public safety and economic development.
“I want to make sure that the voices of the nonprofits and voices of the people who are not represented are at the table and are included, and not just go back to the same people because we’ve always gone back to them,” he said.
Will Chan works for Denver’s economic development office. Before that he worked with immigrants and refugees at the Denver Public Library. As the child of immigrants himself, he said he wants to listen to communities all across the city that don’t often have a voice where decisions are made. He also plans to focus on economic mobility for small and minority-owned businesses and independent contractors. If elected, Chan would be Denver’s first Asian American councilmember.
“Knowing that that growth is happening, how can we do it in an intentional way,” he said. “I know what it’s like to be on the outside. Those frustrations and challenges I had growing up here, we can do better and I know we can do better.”
Dominic A. Diaz
Dominic A. Diaz could become one of Denver’s youngest elected officials, running at the age of 25. He’s worked as an election official with the Clerk and Recorder’s Office and now works in the Office of Children’s Affairs. He wants to improve Denver’s transportation and traffic infrastructure by growing micro transit options and affordable housing around transit, as well as focus on youth violence prevention.
“Having worked with city government for over 10 years, I know how to get things done,” he said. “Council should be reflective of the diversity that it serves. I think it’s time we have a renter on city council and I think it’s time we have a young person on city council.”
Tim Hoffman comes to the race as a prosecutor at the Denver District Attorney’s Office. He’s focusing on crime, and how it connects to housing, homelessness and economic stability. After recovering from a hit-and-run on his bike, Hoffman also wants to work on transportation, including growing rapid bus lanes and protected bike lanes.
“A big part of this campaign and what the election in 2023 is going to be about is, are we creating and promoting a city that’s going to be sustainable and thriving in a way that our kids will want to live here too,” he said.
Janelle Jenkins (Write-in)
Janelle Jenkins has a background in social work and community advocacy, working in care for older adults. She wants to focus on community safety by growing drug and alcohol treatment centers, improve affordability and quality of life for seniors and grow food access and sustainability in Denver.
“My goal is to bridge the gap between the multi-generation population among my neighbors in effort towards us working together to ensure and stabilize safety and equity for our environment,” she said.
What’s going on in the city?
Phew, what a question.
Since the at-large candidates represent the entire city, this race looks a lot like the mayoral race, with candidates speaking to the city-wide issues that have dominated this election cycle, including housing, homelessness, affordability and public safety.
There’s also two big wedge issues: the Park Hill Golf Course and the urban camping ban sweeps. At February’s at-large debate, Chan, Hoffman, Walker and Zimmerman supported the proposed Park Hill Golf Course development plan, while Diaz, Parady and Tate were opposed. Gonzales-Gutierrez and Leiker did not answer the question.
When it came to sweeps, Hoffman, Leiker, Walker and Zimmerman supported the urban camping ban, while Chan, Diaz, Gonzales-Gutierrez, Parady and Tate were opposed.
Of course, yes-or-no questions hardly begin to capture the policies and proposals candidates have for the city. There were a few topics at that debate that received broad at-large support, including a housing first approach to homelessness, safe outdoor spaces, more mental health clinicians, rezoning for accessory dwelling units and faster permitting.
There’s also a ton of different ideas to tackle major issues. There’s calls for social housing and market rate housing, more police and more mental health responders, transit oriented development and youth crime prevention programs-just to name a few.
Of course, the ability to accomplish many of these ideas will also depend on who Denver elects as mayor, and how that person sets the budget, prioritizes issues and approaches city problems.
So what’s going on in the city? A lot. If that doesn’t satisfy, you can always find the answer here.
Need more help voting? Check out the rest of our voter guide here.