What will the new Denver City Council look like and how will it get along with Mike Johnston?

City Council will have seven incumbents and six new members.
5 min. read
Denver’s City Council chambers. Feb. 24, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

The 2023 election has come and gone. Denverites now have a sense of what the next four years will look like on Denver's City Council.

City Council will have seven returning councilmembers and welcome six newcomers. It will also have a record six Latinas represented on Council, according to Council spokesperson Robert Austin.

The biggest news from Tuesday came from the District 9 race, with Darrell Watson taking a large and early lead that incumbent Councilmember Candi CdeBaca just couldn't make up as votes were counted through the night. District 9 was the most expensive and most watched council race.

During the election, an opposition that included developers and area business leaders developed to CdeBaca, who came to be known for her contrarian stances during her four years on Council. She often voted no and spoke out against developers.

Some of those interests backed Watson, who got campaign support from people including Dick Monfort, owner of the Rockies, and Westside Investment Partners, the owner of Park Hill Golf Course.

In District 10, incumbent Councilmember Chris Hinds won re-election over Shannon Hoffman, who ran in coalition with CdeBaca and District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis. District 8 was by far the closest council runoff race. After the votes were counted, Lewis secured a 356-vote win over Brad Revare for the open council seat.

While Districts 8 and 10 did not see quite as much money as District 9, both Hinds and Revare far outraised Hoffman and Lewis. And in all three races, outside groups spent much more money in opposition to CdeBaca, Lewis and Hoffman than against Watson, Revare and Hinds.

Here's a rundown of the incoming City Council.

Members will be will sworn in on July 17.

City Council at-large: Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sarah Parady
District 1: Amanda Sandoval (incumbent)
District 2: Kevin Flynn (incumbent)
District 3: Jamie Torres (incumbent)
District 4: Diana Romero Campbell
District 5: Amanda Sawyer (incumbent)
District 6: Paul Kashmann (incumbent)
District 7: Flor Alvidrez
District 8: Shontel Lewis
District 9: Darrell Watson
District 10: Chris Hinds (incumbent)
District 11: Stacie Gilmore (incumbent)

Leaving Council are at-large Councilmembers Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech; District 4 Councilmember Kendra Black, District 7 Councilmember Jolon Clark, District 8 Councilmember Christopher Herndon and District 9 Councilmember CdeBaca. Most notably, Ortega is leaving after serving on Council for almost 28 years, and Kniech is leaving after 12 years.

While most of the Democratic Socialists-backed candidates did not win their races, the results do not necessarily mean Council will lack progressive voices.

CdeBaca, Hoffman and Lewis ran as part of a slate affiliated with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) along with Parady, who won a Council at-large seat in April. Other DSA candidates who failed to make the runoff included third-place mayoral candidate Lisa Calderón and Council candidates Tony Pigford (District 4) and Tiffany Caudill (District 2).

That voters in certain districts rejected most of the socialist-backed candidates, who pushed ideas like social housing and diverting police funds for other city services, presents a mixed bag of results for the city's DSA movement.

CdeBaca said in a statement Wednesday that, though she lost her bid for another term, "the goal in this election was to bring more progressive candidates to the table," referring to Parady and Lewis' wins.

Some voters and political organizers may see those losses as a lack of progressivism on City Council. But Councilmember Kniech points to policies the governing body has unanimously passed in recent years -- including worker protections and raising Denver's minimum wage -- as proof that Council is willing to make change happen. Kniech also pointed to decisions from Denver voters, like the variety of taxes Denver voters have levied on themselves to raise money for things like climate protection, homelessness and education.

"Did voters reject progressivism? I don't think so," said outgoing Councilmember Kniech. "The City Council of Denver will remain pretty darn progressive regardless of these outcomes. They may have rejected the furthest left brand name."

Of course, bills passed by Council will ultimately require mayor-elect Mike Johnston's signature. The question remains: how will Council work (or not work) with him?

Denver has a strong mayor system, so newly elected Johnston will set the budget and sign off on any bills passed through Council. But Denver's Councilmembers have sway over city zoning, approval of mayoral appointments and the ability to pass budget amendments.

And while the mayor signs final legislation, Councilmembers have taken the lead on major city bills in recent years, like  raising the minimum wage and decriminalizing jaywalking. Council pushed outgoing Mayor Michael Hancock on certain positions-just Monday, Council voted to make Safe Outdoor Sites permanent, a city sanctioned camping program Hancock opposed until agreeing to a pilot in 2020.

For the first time in 12 years, Denver has a new mayor, so the dynamics are likely shifting. Though we know the city's mayoral and Council lineup for the next four years, we won't know for a few months how the two groups will -- or will not -- work well together.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the number of Latinas on City Council. There will be six Latina members, not five.

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