The Message

The Mayor's Race

If representatives of the Mares camp feel otherwise, they're not letting on. The campaign wasn't thrilled with the election coverage, as indicated by a flier distributed in May by the northwest Denver outreach office. Number nine on a list of "10 Things You Can Do to Help Don Mares Become Mayor" was "Write a letter to the editor of the major papers, pointing out that you have noticed their biased coverage against Don Mares." Even so, Mares allowed former communications director Cody Wertz to speak for him about the implications of the Post articles. Wertz's quote: "We at the campaign weren't privy to what every volunteer said at every door, but we were very proud of the outreach we made in every community and the broad-based support we got around the city."

Obviously, Hickenlooper's support was much greater; he won by landslide proportions. In spite of this, Rodriguez figuratively threw down the gauntlet at Hickenlooper in her first column, writing that he's "got two-thirds of the city cheering him on. Getting that other third will be tough." Since then, her stance has softened: Her June 13 column, in which she and Hickenlooper strolled the city talking about downtown parking, was so positive it seemed like something of a make-good. (No sense running crosswise of the guy who'll be mayor for the next four years.) Meanwhile, the Post has printed a pair of additional, and prescient, campaign post mortems -- a column by Fred Brown and an article by Karen Crummy positing that Mares may have been done in not so much by his ethnicity, but by his high-minded refusal to go negative.

In other words, Mares may have spent too long in another type of Fantasyland -- where being nice pays off. Say cheesy: The June 8 edition of Spin Cycled, the Denver Post's political column, featured an item about Helen Thorpe, wife of aforementioned mayor-elect John Hickenlooper, who reportedly "grew visibly upset at having her photo taken on a LoDo sidewalk [on June 4] and verbally snapped at the photographer and then grabbed at his camera." As it turns out, there was more to the picture than that.

The Spin Cycled text stated that shutterbug Brian Brainerd was snapping shots of auditor-elect Dennis Gallagher at a coffee shop (Common Grounds, actually) when Gallagher spotted Thorpe outside and excused himself to congratulate her. When Brainerd trailed behind and started taking photos, "Thorpe apparently grew angry" and before "storming off," she "grabbed at Brainerd's camera and ripped off a sheet of paper he was using as a flash 'bounce card.'"

Hickenlooper spokeswoman Lindy Eichenbaum Lent responded by saying that Thorpe, who didn't comment for the piece, felt "ambushed" and didn't want to be seen as a public figure. On June 10, a Post editorial chided Thorpe, a former journalist, for this stance, stating, "The Hickenloopers need to understand that the ample amount of privacy afforded them as Denver citizens began to dissolve the moment John announced he was running for mayor.... Thorpe's right to privacy doesn't supersede a photographer's First Amendment rights if she's walking down a public street."

Gallagher wasn't contacted by the Post in advance of the Spin Cycled piece or the editorial, and had he been, he might have supplied a far different account from the ones published. He says he asked Brainerd and the reporter accompanying him, Trent Seibert, to stay in the coffee shop while he went to greet someone -- Thorpe, it quickly turned out -- privately, and was startled when a camera started going off in their faces. Afterward, he says, he expressed his hope to the Post pair that the entire exchange would be seen as off the record.

Seibert, who remained in Common Grounds during the impromptu photo session, remembers Gallagher telling him and Brainerd to "wait a minute" while he went to greet Thorpe. He also verifies that Gallagher asked that their encounter be off the record, "which I didn't commit to one way or the other." The mayor-to-be certainly wasn't thrilled over how things turned out. Post editor Moore says that Hickenlooper phoned Karen Crummy, who had no involvement in the incident, to express his displeasure.

No doubt there will be more displeasure to come.

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