Off Limits

The bottom of the tenth: The hottest race in the May 4 election is now smoldering in Capitol Hill, where four candidates are vying for the District 10 Denver City Council seat. For starters, while the incumbent, Ed Thomas, is a former cop and still has a brother on the force, the police union has already endorsed one of his opponents. Who used to dress a little like a cop when he was Mr. Leather.

Back in December, when Kevin Shancady first decided to run, his Mr. Leather title was one of his prime credentials: He ran for the slot back in 1992, when the passage of Amendment 2 made it a very hot spot and a "civil rights issue," he says. But two weeks ago he also picked up the Police Protective Association seal of approval, as well as the city firefighters' union endorsement. "I knew that there was no love lost between Thomas and the PPA," Shancady explains. "My campaign had been in touch with them since last fall--but I didn't know if they were willing to take this step. Not just oppose one of their own, but endorse an openly gay candidate."

But there's more to his campaign than his sexuality. "I'm openly gay," Shancady says, "but I'm not a gay candidate." An aide to state senator Dorothy Rupert, Shancady's been active locally and nationally on AIDS issues, and he worked closely with the cops as a member of the mayor's gay and lesbian advisory committee. "They knew that I had a record of cooperation," he says. "And I definitely supported the PPA regarding liability for off-duty officers."

That, of course, is the issue that got Thomas in so much trouble a few months ago when, after the city paid some heavy bills in connection with the cop shooting of Jeff Truax, the councilman suggested that moonlighting officers cover their own insurance. And Thomas wasn't exactly on good terms with his former colleagues before that, since he'd gone on record as supporting the city's residency rules (which were voted out on last November's ballot). So the PPA went looking for a new candidate and found Kevin Shancady.

Or, more accurately, Kevin Smith. Born into a Denver family of twelve--one of his brothers, Jerry Smith, is running against incumbent Ramona Martinez in District 3--he changed his name after he got his degree in fine arts and the theater and found another Kevin Smith already working on the stage. He picked "Shancady" to "help me identify with my Irishness," the now-Shancady explains, and he debuted the new moniker in a Changing Scene program in 1988.

Shancady's not the only District 10 candidate with a new name: There's also Mason Lewis Byrne. If the first two-thirds of that sounds familiar, it's because the man's been all over the news this past week as Mason Lewis, the subject of a suit filed against his employer, Chancellor Media, by former KRRF-AM talk-show host Tom Jensen, who says he was dismissed by the station in a breach of contract and, oh, by the way, had also been sexually harassed by longtime radio exec Lewis.

The suit was filed on Monday. Lewis, who's never made a secret of being gay--he headed the city's first gay journalists' group--denies having harassed Jensen. On Tuesday he had to bail a brother out of jail. On Wednesday Chancellor decided that it was completely changing formats at its 1280-AM frequency, dumping yet another attempt at talk and going to a simulcast of KOOL. On Friday, Lewis says, "I had to fire the staff"--or what remained of it. In a word, his week was "nuts." And it's unlikely to get calmer anytime soon, although he notes that the station break at least gives him more time to campaign. Chancellor is keeping Lewis around through the election, and if he loses, he can explore radio options outside the city. As it is, he says, "I think I've hit every station in the city. I'm also the only candidate who's lived in every district."

That apparently didn't sway the PPA, even though Lewis has a long political lineage. His family has been in Colorado for five generations, his great-grandfather was a territorial judge whose portrait hangs over U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch's bench, and his father, Chuck Byrne, was once city auditor. Like Shancady, Lewis had changed his name for showbiz: "When I was first on the air in Greeley, with a guy named Berned, I was the rookie, so I had to change my name." By taking back his original last name, he hoped to "capitalize on both the Byrne and the Mason Lewis name, sullied as it now is."

Lewis blames another radio connection for the PPA's pick of Shancady: "All the boards said they'd do anything to get Ed out, and then Kevin was endorsed by Jay Marvin." And here's Shancady's explanation of Marvin's support, which is "worth its weight in gold," he says: "An officer was getting her hair done, complaining about Ed Thomas, and the stylist also does Mary, Jay Marvin's wife, and is a friend."

Thomas has a much simpler explanation for the PPA endorsement. "It's an ABT--Anybody But Thomas," he says. "I crossed the thin blue line. But I represent the people of this city, not the police union."

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