Danny Lopez: A Denver mayor's race profile

With John Hickenlooper having been elected Colorado's governor, we know Denver will have a new mayor next year, and the race promises to be wide open. To introduce you to the players, we're offering profiles of official candidates. Next up: Danny Lopez.

Danny Lopez hopes that not having an official campaign photo will work to his advantage. "Maybe it'll get me some attention," he says.

The media tends to lump Lopez's candidacy in with that of long-shot candidates Ken Simpson and Dwight Henson, who we at Westword also hope to profile; we encourage them or their representatives to contact us. But Lopez, a television unit supervisor tasked with inspecting pipelines for Denver's Wastewater Management division, part of the Public Works department, has a couple of campaigns under his belt, and in the most recent, he made an impact.

"In 2003, I ran for city council in District 2 and got 865 votes," he says. "And then, in 2007, I ran against Mayor Hickenlooper and got over 12 percent of the vote."

As Lopez points out, he was Hickenlooper's sole opponent three years ago -- "the only alternative on the ballot. He was too popular, and everyone was afraid to run against him. But I believe that when you run for a position like mayor of Denver, you shouldn't run unopposed."

This time around, the field will be crowded, with the aforementioned candidates facing off against the likes of James Mejia, Doug Linkhart, Michael Forrester and Michael Hancock, plus others who've yet to announce, in all probability. Lopez is especially looking forward to challenging city council members Linkhart and Hancock, as well as any of their peers who may decide to get involved.

"When I ran for city council before, I ran on a platform of repudiating the recent raise they'd given themselves," he recalls. "And since then, they put other city employees on a sliding pay scale, but they've received two $6,000 raises. When we debate, I'm going to ask them why they did that.

"Under this administration, we've seen a lot of upper-management positions created -- over $100,000 positions created in a budget crisis. And I think these managers, the council and the mayor himself should all take a cut in pay. They should share the burden of this budget crisis instead of putting the brunt of it on the average laborers, who barely make ends meet from paycheck to paycheck."

A Colorado native born in the San Luis Valley, Lopez says, "I bring diversity to the table. I was very fortunate to have gone through busing back in the '70s, when I lived in Montbello and was bused to Smiley Junior High. I also went to Saint Dominic's Catholic school and Skinner Junior High, when Saint Dominic's closed, and Thomas Jefferson High School -- and I graduated from Ranum High School out in Westminster."

Afterwards, Lopez attended CU for a couple of years, "until my scholarship money ran out" -- but he doesn't think a lack of a degree disqualifies him for high office. "I'm a graduate from the University of Common Sense," he says.

Lopez's priorities include dealing with the city budget problems by "putting a moratorium on spending and reevaluating contracts" in ways that will put local companies and workers first: "The city had a $9 million contract in south Denver to realign some of the sewer lines, and the contract went to a company out of state. I want to work out contracts with businesses in town rather than sending our money out of state."

In his view, the city's budget shortfalls could be improved if salaries were to rise inside and outside of government. "I think businesses like King Soopers and Safeway should do a better job of paying a livable wage," he maintains. "We have foreclosures of homes, we have a poor tax base, and the only way to improve that tax base is to make sure employees are making more. So I'd use my bully pulpit as mayor to chastise banks to free up more money for small businesses, and chastise employers who are underpaying their employees. I would be more vocal in speaking up for the common man out there."

He'd also like to address excessive-force complaints against the Denver Police Department -- an issue that's nothing new, he notes. "When I ran for city council eight years ago, one of my concerns was overzealous police officers. Now, there are a lot of good officers out there. I'm very proud of the ones I meet, and I always thank them for the job they do. But the problem with overzealous officers existed eight years ago, and it still exists today."

In addition, he wants to shine a light on the plight of city workers like himself. "There are real problems with employee morale and the way employees are being treated," says Lopez, who serves as a union steward. "I think the personnel system is broken, but there are a lot of city workers out there who are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation."

Obviously, Lopez has no such concerns personally -- and he hopes his plainspoken opinions will compensate for his lack of funding. "When I ran against Mayor Hickenlooper, Dean Singleton of the Denver Post told me there was no way I'd become the next mayor of Denver if I didn't spend two million dollars," he says. "But I didn't spend a dime of anyone else's money. All I did was put up a few fliers out of my own pocket. And this year, I like my chances. With seven or eight candidates out there, this might be the one true opportunity for a common man to become mayor.

"I'm the real anti-establishment candidate. I was the Joe-the-Plumber candidate before there was a Joe the Plumber, and I was a Tea Party candidate before there was a Tea Party. If people want to vote for people who'll spend millions of dollars to get into office, they can vote for professional politicians like James Mejia or Michael Hancock. But if they want someone who doesn't owe anybody anything, and who's not afraid to rattle cages, they should think about voting for me.

"I believe over 50 percent of the mayor's duties are ceremonial. So I don't think I could screw it up any worse than the rest of these fellas."

More from our Politics archive: "James Mejia: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Doug Linkhart: A Denver mayor's race profile," "Michael Forrester: A Denver mayor's race profile" and "Michael Hancock: A Denver mayor's race profile."