Longform

Race for the Cure

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Bailey, who is fifty, ran for an at-large seat on the city council last spring but was soundly defeated by incumbents Susan Barnes-Gelt and Cathy Reynolds. However, the exposure of that race will help him now. More than the other candidates, Bailey conducts himself with the smooth manner of one who thinks the race is already won. "I'm not that arrogant," he says, "but am I self-assured? Yes. I want these folks to feel me."

Bailey has the support of old-time politicians from northeast Denver like Caldwell and Groff, state senator Gloria Tanner and current state representative Penfield Tate. He'll need it, because one of his opponents, Elbra Wedgeworth, has the support of the mayor.

"I've always been supportive of the mayor," Wedgeworth says. "We have similar goals." Early in the race, she sounded uncomfortable being pegged as the mayor's candidate, pointing out that Webb had not endorsed her and saying that the race was about "me representing the district, not me being the mayor's person in the district. I feel I've paid my dues the last ten years." At last week's candidates' forum, though, she announced with enthusiasm that Webb was behind her and said afterward that the mayor "believes in my leadership."

That's no surprise. Over the years, Webb has appointed Wedgeworth to many positions: liaison to the city council when Webb was city auditor, member of the mayor-elect's transition team in 1991, deputy director of the Mayor's Office of Regulatory Reform in 1992, and Denver's clerk and recorder in 1995. She is currently the director of community relations for the Denver Health Authority.

Wedgeworth, however, isn't the only candidate with ties to Webb: Bailey was a campaign organizer for the mayor in 1995, and Duran works in the Webb administration, too.

But the only other candidate with as much name recognition as Wedgeworth and Bailey is Glenda Swanson Lyle -- and she can do them one better. She's already been elected to public office twice. She served on the RTD board of directors from 1986 to 1992, and from 1992 to 1997 was state representative for House District 8 (which covers much of the same territory as the council district).

"There's not a single [other] candidate in the race who has demonstrated results," Lyle says. "Not a single one of the candidates has held elected public office."

Lyle owns an urban planning firm and has been active for years in Denver and Colorado Democratic Party circles. She is also a founder of Colorado Black Women for Political Action and sits on the board of directors of the Inner City Development Corporation, which purchases and develops land in the community.

Even candidate Steve Garber, a research assistant at the University of Colorado at Denver, sees Wedgeworth, Bailey, Duran and Lyle as the front-runners. "I suppose a betting person would bet on one of them," he allows.

But the other candidates prefer to consider their own chances.

Most were raised in District 8 or have lived there for many years. Greg Pearson has lived in the community more than twenty years, working for the Colorado Board of Nursing and for an employment program called Colorado OIC (Opportunities Industrialization Center). He was also the second black commissioned officer with the Colorado National Guard. He is now a ramp-services worker for United Airlines.

The clumps of dirt scattered around the neighborhood remind Pearson "a little bit of the early Sixties, when a lot of cities went through urban renewal. They used to bulldoze everything down and build up new. Now people are buying up old homes to gut them and renovate them." And redevelopment, the fifty-year-old says, "tends to drive some people out and drives up the price of living. How the hell are we gonna try to keep some of the housing affordable?" Pearson has few answers, but he wants businesses that develop in the district to be made more accountable to residents. Redevelopment and affordable housing can complement one another, he says, but "they end up at cross-purposes when there are tax incentives given but nothing expected by the city. We can't give the bank away to get the business. It has to be a two-way street."

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T.R. Witcher