Khalatbari, a serial business owner, had up until this week been the main challenger to Mayor Michael Hancock, who is running for a third term in May 2019. But the race became decidedly more heated on Monday when former state senator Penfield Tate announced that he is also jumping into the mayoral race.
It's unclear how much Tate's candidacy is affecting Khalatbari's decision; On Tuesday night, Khalatbari first notified Westword that he was formally suspending his campaign first thing on Wednesday morning and would release a statement shortly thereafter. During that initial conversation, he would only say the decision was heartbreaking and is related to personal issues.
Khalatbari had first announced his campaign through a Westword article in February 2017. He is well known in the Mile High City for his local businesses, including Sexy Pizza and cannabis consulting firm Denver Relief, which he's used to support arts and culture outfits including Birdy magazine and Sexpot Comedy. He has also been an advocate for the homeless, and was the person who captured a viral video in December 2016 showing Denver Police officers confiscating blankets from the homeless. For a non-establishment candidate, Khalatbari had been a successful campaigner — even out-raising Hancock at times — and he ran a progressive platform that included such ideas as public banks.
On Wednesday morning, the Kayvan for Denver campaign released a statement (included in full below) clarifying that Khalatbari was fully withdrawing from the race. The statement does not mention Penfield Tate or specify the personal reasons for which the candidate is withdrawing, but Khalatbari wrote that he thanks supporters and is now focusing on his family and personal health and wellness.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Khalatbari went into more detail, writing:
I know this is disappointing for many, but there is no one more disappointed than myself. It is in fact true that I will be ending my campaign for Mayor of Denver and I am absolutely heartbroken over it. Sometimes life is incredibly unfair and throws you things that you simply can't control, things that force you to reprioritize how you spend your days. This is one of those moments. I'm not going to go into details and appreciate everyone respecting my privacy in this matter.In a follow-up email, Kayvan for Denver campaign manager Jessica Campbell-Swanson told Westword what would happen with the money that the Khalatbari campaign had raised since February last year.
To the 100+ people who have already reached out to make sure I am okay, THANK YOU. Your words are a testament to what we are building together here in Denver, a community that supports each other and fights for one another. Please know that I'm not going away, just taking a step back before I reenter this movement as an activist and an advocate for those who don't have a voice and are being cast out of Denver and major cities like it across the country.
I also need to thank the Kayvan for Denver staff and all our volunteers....there are so many of you! I cried a couple times yesterday thinking about how much I was letting you down by doing this. Know that your efforts were not for naught and that we have already changed Denver for the better. I encourage you to stay involved and fight alongside the many amazing candidates and ballot initiatives we have coming up this November and next May.
“Remaining campaign funds will go to invoices, obligations and taking care of our staff. Kayvan acknowledges the disappointment his withdraw will be to supporters and is offering to return contributions upon request,” Campbell-Swanson wrote. “Any leftover funds from the campaign will be reinvested into three Denver initiatives that Kayvan cares deeply about so we can try and pass those ballot efforts this November and next May. If donors choose to let us keep the funds they have contributed, we will split the remaining campaign balance amongst the following initiatives: Caring 4 Denver, Democracy for the People, Right to Survive."
Below is the official statement from the Kayvan for Denver campaign:
It is with tremendous sadness that I am ending my campaign for Mayor of Denver, effective today. For the past 18 months I have poured everything of myself into this campaign, as have countless supporters, all of us in the pursuit of a fair and equitable Denver. However, for personal reasons I must remove myself from this process to focus on my family and my personal health and wellness. I can not thank enough all the people who have been participants in building this movement, including those who have helped educate and inform me on Denver’s vast and vibrant communities and the many pressing issues we are facing.
I know we created a spark, and motivated others to get involved in this crucial time for our city. It is my hope that current elected officials, candidates and the residents of Denver will continue to listen to each other, to find common ground, and to work together, because we can’t resolve these issues divided. Denver has an exciting opportunity to engage in some very important conversations leading up to next May’s election. Even though I will not be continuing in my role as a candidate, I look forward to being a part of this dialogue, fighting beside you for the Denver that we love.
Update, Wednesday, 9 a.m: We have clarified that Khalatbari is fully withdrawing from the mayoral race and included statements from Khalatbari’s campaign and Facebook page.