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Two Councilmembers to Watch — in Aurora and Denver — in 2021

Polar opposites politically, Dave Gruber and Candi CdeBaca are both proud disruptors.EXPAND
Polar opposites politically, Dave Gruber and Candi CdeBaca are both proud disruptors.
Aurora City Council and Denver City Council
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Anyone who says local politics are boring has never watched city council meetings in Denver and Aurora. Every week, the two groups dive into some of the most important issues facing the Denver metro area — from homelessness to immigration to development to the environment — as well as grind plenty of political axes.

But what makes these meetings so enthralling are the councilmembers who, for better or worse, are most willing to disrupt the proceedings, and they're equal opportunity offenders. The top disruptor on Aurora City Council, Dave Gruber, and Denver City Council's top disruptor, Candi CdeBaca, come from different ideological corners — but both rate as people worth watching in 2021.

Undoubtedly the most polarizing member of Denver City Council, CdeBaca has both ardent supporters who love her every action and critics who loathe them. Depending on whom you ask, in her first term representing Denver council District 9, CdeBaca is either shaking things up in a positive way that is pulling the power away from influential developers and the political establishment — or she's a political grandstander and bomb-thrower.

Either way, there's no denying that she makes Denver politics more exciting. And her opposition to the administration of Mayor Michael Hancock keeps the term-limited pol on his toes, which is not always the case with lame-duck mayors. While CdeBaca has been on council, there have been a lot of 12-1 votes, with her accounting for the lone dissent. Given that history, the big question for CdeBaca in 2021 is whether she can gain more support from her colleagues on council in order to pass some consequential ordinances.

A dozen miles to the east, Gruber is ensuring that politics stay spicy in Aurora, Colorado's third-largest city.

Aurora City Council meetings often see Gruber, one of four Republican members, clashing with one of the five Democratics on council in heated arguments that make Denver look tame by comparison. But while progressives in Aurora generally can't stand Gruber, the retired Air Force colonel has been quite successful in politicking as a conservative Republican, helping quash both a minimum-wage increase proposal and ordinances to protect undocumented immigrants. In the process, Gruber earned the ire of progressives when he brought in a top Colorado ICE official to rebut arguments in favor of the latter.

It’s safe to expect more of the same from Gruber in 2021, especially since Democrats and the lone independent on council have been unable to form a cohesive working relationship to counter the weight of the four Republicans.

Unfortunately, the Aurora and Denver council meetings generally run concurrent to each other on Monday evenings, making it tough to watch both at the same time.

But if you miss one fascinating fight, you can be sure there will be another battle to watch the following week.

See more of our people to watch in 2021 here.

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