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."
Don't miss the vote: One name missing from last Friday's final list of city candidates was that of anti-graffiti crusader Mike Quintana. Last year, when he was taking justice into his own hands at his family's westside gym, Quintana vowed to run for council--even though he lived in Arvada and his campaign manager lived in Pueblo. But when the deadline for filing passed, Quintana was too busy watching over his father, who'd received a heart transplant, to pay attention to a political career.
But you can expect the zealous crimefighter to return to the public stage very soon: He just sent an intent-to-sue letter to the Denver Police Department. Last Memorial Day weekend, Quintana was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and tossed in jail, even though he claimed he never had a weapon. Now he does, however: a civil lawsuit that will charge the men in blue with wrongfully imprisoning him, seeking $1 million in damages as restitution.
And you can chalk up another tough campaign season for Ben Klein, former RTD chair, current Edgewater judge and the only politician in Colorado officially ruled sane. (He had to be, in order to get back his license to practice law in the Seventies following a tax conviction.) He made the Friday deadline for filing his petition to run for the Denver Election Commission--and wound up listed eighth out of nine candidates on the ballot, a spot almost as lousy as his last-place line on the RTD ballot last fall.
Earlier, Klein had said he might not run if he landed another bad ballot location. Now, though, he thinks he has to if he's going to make a point. "I probably should stay in it for the principle, even if the cards are stacked," he says. "As a matter of mind and conscience, somebody needs to get out on the street and hope for a change." And that change is? "I think, frankly, the Denver election commissioners should not be succeeding themselves. They run their own election. When I was over there, one of the clerks told me that they would get one, two and three places on the ballot. They got one and three--that's suspect in my mind. All those employees are beholden to them. They work patronage--excuse the expression--all year long. They should not be running their own elections."
Klein provides a corollary. When he was in the legislature and voted for a pay raise, the lawmakers couldn't take it while they still served. And when he served as attorney for city auditor Tom Currigan, he studied the matter further. "They're getting away with political murder down there. Incumbents should not run for re-election when they're running the election," he says. "I'm not sour-graping. I've been through all this stuff before. In my opinion, it's a pretty stacked deck."
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But Klein's not the only one to suffer the luck of the draw. Wellington Webb wound up fourth of the four mayoral candidates.
What's black and blue and read all over? In New York, it's New York magazine, whose current issue includes a garish double-whammy homage to Denver. According to the full-page "Gotham Style," designer Calvin Klein has chosen "orange and blue" as the "essence of spring" fashion. Orange and blue, of course, are the colors of the Denver Broncos--and also of the Armani dress that Felicity star and former Highlands Ranch high-schooler Keri Russell is shown modeling in the magazine.
"It's really a symbolic color combination in terms of the millennium," Leatrice Eiseman, director of the Pantone Color Institute, told the magazine. "You have to look at them, whether you want to or not."
Particularly if you live in Denver, where a new stadium set for the orange-and-blue team will soon be blocking the view of the mountains.