Politics

Is Denver Media Already Picking Winners and Losers in Mayor's Race?

Denver mayoral candidate Terrance Roberts was interviewed by 9News after he filed a lawsuit against the Denver Police Department in July.
Denver mayoral candidate Terrance Roberts was interviewed by 9News after he filed a lawsuit against the Denver Police Department in July. 9News via YouTube
Fifteen people have filed paperwork to run for mayor of Denver in the April 2023 election — but candidate Terrance Roberts doesn't believe all of the hopefuls are being treated equally.

Roberts, a longtime anti-gang activist and civil-rights advocate, is the subject of The Holly, which turned out to be the biggest attraction at the just-concluded 45th annual Denver Film Festival. The documentary by journalist/filmmaker Julian Rubinstein focuses on Roberts's prosecution for shooting a gang member at a peace rally in 2013 — an act for which he was found not guilty two years later. More than 1,300 people attended a November 10 screening at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, and during a Q&A session afterward, Rubinstein talked about inviting numerous public officials to attend, including Mayor Michael Hancock, whom he feigned looking for in the crowd.

At that point, an audience member suggested that Denver's next mayor — Roberts, who hopes to succeed the term-limited Hancock — was on the stage beside Rubinstein. The comment prompted a smile from Roberts, but he quickly turned serious, arguing that the local press — and specifically 9News — has essentially ignored his candidacy.

There are exceptions to this rule: Westword discussed Roberts's run in a post about a lawsuit he'd filed against the Denver Police Department for allegedly pepper-spraying him during the 2020 George Floyd protests downtown. But as witnessed by the attention paid yesterday to state senator Chris Hansen's November 14 announcement that he was joining the mayor's race, coverage varies widely from person to person.

Here's the complete list of candidates who've filed paperwork to run for mayor so far, along with the date the documents were submitted, as seen on Denver's candidates-and-initiative-tracking web page.
Marcus Giavanni
January 3

Ken Simpson
March 3

Jesse Lashawn Parris
April 4

Terrance Roberts
April 8

Ean Tafoya
May 5

Anna Burrell
June 1

Andre "Andy" Rougeot
July 13

Alex Cowans
July 26

Kelly Brough
August 15

Debbie Ortega
September 2

Thomas Wolf
September 6

Leslie Herod
September 8

Aurelio Martinez
October 10

Lisa Calderón
October 13

Chris Hansen
November 14
This list doesn't include nightclub owner Valentes Corleons, who told Westword he was running for mayor in September but apparently hasn't submitted any paperwork.

The Wikipedia page devoted to the 2023 Denver mayoral election refers to Giavanni as a "perennial candidate," and the description is apt; he filed a complaint against the city after being excluded from the mayoral ballot in 2011, and memorably refused to participate in a Westword Q&A about the 2019 contest. Both Simpson and Wolf also sought the office in 2011; click to read Westword interviews with Simpson and Wolf from that year.

Alex Cowans is another unconventional candidate; his Facebook page notes that he's making himself available to meet with voters from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays on the 16th Street Mall. Rougeot's website identifies him as "a father, former United States Army Officer, and small business owner." Parris is a homeless advocate and 2019 Denver City Council candidate whose fundraising page promotes "people over profits." Burrell is the CEO and founder of Twiggs & Co., a sustainability consulting and implementation firm. Tafoya is the Colorado state director of the environmental group Green Latinos. And Martinez is the president and CEO of IBtv Viewvision, a streaming-TV service.

As for the candidates getting more love from the media, they include Brough, the former CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and onetime chief of staff to John Hickenlooper when he served as mayor; Calderón, executive director of Emerge Colorado and past chief of staff to city council member Candi CdeBaca; state representative Herod; ex-city council member Ortega; and Hansen. Other people are rumored to still be looking at a run, including Mike Johnston, a former state senator who also figures in The Holly.

Hancock wasn't at the November 10 screening of the film, but a couple of other public officials did show up: Denver District Attorney Beth McCann and councilmember CdeBaca. And Roberts was able to share his mayoral ambitions with that audience, even if getting the word out via the traditional media is proving to be a challenge.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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