Denver City Council District 9 Results: Final vote results show Darrell Watson defeating incumbent Candi CdeBaca

Watson got about 60% of the vote in District 9, according to the final vote results release.
7 min. read
Darrell Watson (left) and District 9 Councilmember Candi Cdebaca look likly to head to a runoff.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Update June 7 at 4:39 p.m.: With a commanding lead, District 9 challenger Darrell Watson appears to have achieved a rare feat in Denver: unseating an incumbent councilmember. With 16,538 votes cast in the district, Watson got 10,040 votes or about 60%. Incumbent Candi CdeBaca got 6,498 votes or about 39%. The Denver Clerk & Recorder's Office said all in-person and verified ballots have been counted. The remaining votes are from people overseas and 1,495 ballots need to be cured. Results won't be official until June 20.

With the final counting, Watson becomes the sixth person to defeat an incumbent in the last 36 years. He celebrated his likely victory Tuesday night, saying voters in the district wanted "a leader that's going to be focused on progress not division."

CdeBaca released a statement on social media after the final vote results were released thanking constituents.

"I'm proud of what my team and I accomplished over the last four years: We have been building the best world possible with what resources we have, and we have been fighting for what everyone deserves," CdeBaca wrote. "I will not stop fighting alongside my community for a city that truly cares for all of its people, because District 9 and Denver are my heart, always."

Our original story follows below.

With upbeat music bumping behind him, District 9 City Council candidate Darrell Watson celebrated his likely victory with supporters Tuesday night at Tracks.

An emotional and teary-eyed Watson hugged his campaign staff including his husband Micheal Wenk and former District 8 City Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth. Watson thanked his mother, who sat on a couch near the stage and his former District 9 opponent Kwon Atlas.

"It's all about the people. We have a message elevated from the community that they want, for the next four years, a leader that's going to be focused on progress not division," Watson said earlier in the night. "We feel it's caught on. We know that folks are really hungry for change and they're looking for progress on some of the big issues impacting their families, from a lack of affordability, the lack of safety. We know from them what the solutions are, and we're ready to go to work."

Denver City Council runoff candidate Darrell Watson and supporters at his watch party at Tracks on election night, June 6, 2023.
Tony Gorman/CPR News

At the 1 a.m. Wednesday drop, Watson had sustained his substantial lead of 61.58% of the counted votes against incumbent Candi CdeBaca, who had 38.42% of the vote.

Despite not receiving a concession from CdeBaca, Watson said he was declaring a win. CdeBaca told Denverite she would not be conceding until all the votes were counted.

CdeBaca said she's expecting more votes to roll in, though she acknowledge she was behind.

"In April, we didn't come back until the fourth dump, so we'll be waiting," CdeBaca said. "Even if we lose, it doesn't change the experience that the community had and now they're paying attention and changing the way they operate and engage. And that's the most important thing about what we're doing because four years is a blip on the radar."

In the April election, CdeBaca finished in first place with 44.24% or 7,398 votes but started off in a far second.

At CdeBaca's watch party, which she shared with running mates, District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis and District 10 candidate Shannon Hoffman, hopes were still high. Lewis, who is in a tight race in District 8, thanked CdeBaca for being a leader on council and running alongside of them. The slate of candidates agreed that CdeBaca would continue to be a force on city council regardless of a victory.

District 10 candidate Shannon Hoffman, District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis, District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca and former mayoral candidate Lisa Calderon, from left, want for election results on election night.
Desiree Mathurin/Denverite

CdeBaca is aiming for a second term. Prior to becoming a city council member, CdeBaca was a social worker and community activist. She co-founded the GES Community Land Trust, now called Tierra Colectiva, and Project VOYCE, a youth empowerment organization. She also headed the Cross Community Coalition, a group that strongly opposed the Interstate 70 expansion.

In 2019, she was also in a runoff race against then-incumbent Albus Brooks. Defeating an incumbent is a feat only five councilmembers have accomplished in 36 years.

Watson currently serves on the Housing Stability Strategic Advisors board. He's also the board chair of the Denver Park Trust and previously served as a co-chair on the Denver Game Plan for a Healthy City task force, which created a 20-year plan for the city's parks and recreation system.

Watson previously ran twice for council. Once in 2007, when he lost to Carla Madison and again in 2011, when he dropped out of the race due to a cancer diagnosis.

City Council District 9.
Data Source: Denver Elections Di

Out of the three City Council runoff races, the District 9 race was the most watched Tuesday night. The race was essentially between an establishment-backed challenger, Watson, and an outlier incumbent, CdeBaca.

CdeBaca is often seen as the lone wolf on City Council in terms of what bills she brings forward and what bills she votes "no" on.

CdeBaca said the goal in this race was to bring more progressive candidates to the table, which has already occurred with Denver Democratic Socialist Sarah Parady's win in the the at-large council race.

She added that progressives will continue having a presence on council, especially with Lewis being in such a close race.

"This was never about Candi, this was about having power for our community to shift the way that our city moves," CdeBaca said. "If Shontel leads, the goal's already been achieve and it's not like we lose anything for community."

The opposition CdeBaca gained during her four years on council backed  Watson politically and financially.

The District 9 race saw more funding than all of the other district races. According to city data, over $887,000 has been spent in opposition to CdeBaca.

Out of all the candidates in the city council races, Watson raised the most money via contributions, the Fair Election Fund and independent expenditures with more than $618,000. Many of Watson's donors are developers or city/neighborhood influencers such as Dick Monfort, owner of the Rockies, Andrew Feinstein, the CEO and Managing Partner for EXDO Development, and several partners with Westside Investment Partners, the developer that owns the Park Hill Golf Course.

CdeBaca said regardless of the outcome of the races, voters should look at the funding that went towards her opposition. This race, in terms of dollars, was similar to CdeBaca's 2019 race against then-incumbent Albus Brooks. CdeBaca raised about $145,000 during that campaign, while her opponent, Brooks, raised close to $400,000.

"We want people to stay paying attention. We want people to also be mad if it doesn't happen. We should be outraged that money can buy these seats if it does buy the seat," CdeBaca said. "We keep talking about [money] like it was just this race. Like it was isolated to the last six months, but the day I got in four years ago, they've been trying to get their seat back."

District 9 covers North Denver and experienced the most change during the redistricting process.

The current neighborhoods in the area are a portion of City Park, Clayton, Cole, Elyria-Swansea, Five Points, Globeville, Skyland, Whittier.

The district gained North Park Hill and South Park Hill but it lost Auraria, Central Businesses District, City Park West, Union Station and the other portion of City Park.

The biggest issues facing the district are housing and public safety. Watson and CdeBaca agree that affordable housing is at the center of many issues surrounding District 9, but where they differ is on how they will achieve adding more income-restricted housing to the pool.

Both candidates said public safety is an umbrella term for crime, mental and physical health, as well as assisting the unhoused.

Watson wants to build a better relationship with Denver police. CdeBaca wants to focus on why crime exists, such as low wages and mental health services.

This story will continue being updated as new results are received.

CPR News reporter Tony Gorman contributed reporting to this article. 

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