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Off Limits

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Since he was sworn in three short months ago, Denver mayor John Hickenlooper has kept busy naming cabinet members, popping up at every groundbreaking or envelope-opening in the city, and even playing himself (very well, too) in the Denver Press Club Gridiron 2003 skit "Leader of the City" on Sunday night. (Former Broncos Pony Express cheerleader Pat Woolseysang that number, backed by Channel 6's Cynthia Hessinand Claudia Lamb, now of the Colorado Department of Transportation, formerly of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.) The show gave some mayoral also-rans a few good, swift kicks, too, but in real life, Hick's former opponents insist they're happy, so very happy, with their post-election lives.

Hickenlooper came from the back of the pack to lead the field in the May election, then far outstripped Don Maresin the June runoff. And now Mares, a north Denver native, is taking off on another track, having recently joined Fleishman & Shapiro as special counsel. He's going to use his law degree, as well as his eight years as city auditor and seven years as a state representative and senator, to help "extend the firm's work in governmental relations," he says.

"I'm back among the living. I spent the last two-plus months reconnecting with my wife and kids," explains Mares, who ran the 26.2-mile LaSalle Bank Chicago Marathonon October 12 with his wife, Ruth(who beat him by three places). "It's just a matter of getting back into it. Practicing law is kind of like riding a bike. I'm enjoying it."

Mares won't say whether he's still flirting with the notion of political life beyond offering this: "Never say 'for good' to a politician."

Penfield Tate III echoes those sentiments. "I'm still keeping my hands involved politically," says fellow attorney Tate, who gave up his seat in the Colorado Senate last winter in order to concentrate on a mayoral run. While he won't divulge what pies the fingers connected to those hands might be in (beyond co-chairing Hickenlooper's transition team with Linda Alvarado), Tate's back practicing law at Trimble, Tate, Nulan, Evans and Holden. "Life is treating me extremely well," he says.

Susan Casey has returned to running political campaigns rather than running for office herself. The former Denver City Council representative and original soccer mom is working on Massachusetts Senator John Kerry's presidential bid, helping him prepare for the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries just a dozen weeks away. "I've taken on another great adventure. Right now I'm spending a lot of time in New Hampshire, my old stomping grounds," says Casey, who stomped there first for Gary Hart's presidential campaign and later for Bob Kerrey. "It's hard to sit on the sidelines," she adds. "I've got a few balls in the air here, and I hope that after the primary, I can find a way to be as involved as I'd like to be."

Like Casey, Elizabeth Schlosser is looking for ways she can stay involved in Denver -- but she's gone a little further afield in her hunt for inspiration. Schlosser and her husband, recently retired Denver Water exec Charlie Jordan, just returned from a five-week trip to Rome, where she "just toured around looking at city-planning ideas for Denver, kind of restoking the idea furnace," Schlosser says. Before that, she co-chaired the General Services committee for Hick's transition team; now that she's back in town, she's "generally trying to get back to organizing my kids and my house and thinking about what's next."

Jeremy Stefanek was moving on to the next big thing weeks before the May vote: He got bumped from the ballot for failing to follow proper petitioning procedure. The former dot-commer is still working for his parents' flooring company, but he's also interviewing to lead a sales division at a new startup company in Boulder. And not even a failed bid to be cast in NBC's upcoming reality show The Apprentice could discourage eternal optimist Stefanek.

And then there's campaign curmudgeon Phil Perington, who's concentrating on his real estate business -- and not wasting any time reading Westword, he's quick to point out. Perington's also changed his voter registration, although he's keeping mum on whether the Republicans or the Independents can claim the former head of the state Democratic Party. "I'm taking a sabbatical from politics," he says. "I was the only candidate who literally had to continue working through the campaign. Don Mares was double-dipping, and Ari Zavaras, well, we know that story. And everybody else pretty much didn't have a career or a business to deal with. I lost some ground doing that, so I'm back working hard."

Really hard, since the real estate market is "kind of soft, kind of mushy," Perington notes. "If Hickenlooper doesn't stop clowning around and start doing something about parking and the Convention Center, Denver will suffer."

No telling how Zavaras feels about Hickenlooper's work thus far; the former Denver Manager of Safety, who was initially seen as the man to beat in the mayoral election, appears to be MIA. (He did serve on Hickenlooper's Education & Children transition committee, however.) Numerous calls to his cell phone and home went unreturned, and Arnie Grossman, communications director for the Zavaras campaign, told Off Limits he wasn't sure where his onetime candidate could be reached.

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