Walking into Penfield Tate’s 29th and Franklin campaign headquarters in Denver gives an indication of just how harried the sprint to the election finish line has become. A worker---Emily---is busy on the phone either coordinating volunteers in the field or trying to get warm bodies to volunteer for the last week of the election.
The headquarters is cluttered with boxes of tee-shirts that volunteers are encouraged to wear as they canvass neighborhoods. Making certain that his name is out front of everything is paramount. The other half of the room is chockful of charts and miscellaneous paperwork, easels holding Sharpie-scribbled messages and, of course, snacks that a few volunteers pick through before hitting the streets. There’s also the most important sign that sits prominently in front of Emily. It has a single-digit scrawled in bold Sharpie; the number of days left until the election.
For campaign workers in this mayoral election these are the days when nothing can be left to chance if there’s any hope of unseating a strong incumbent, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. Hancock’s served two terms as the city’s chief executive.
For Estevan, a Denver native, college student and volunteer, sacrificing his Sunday to knock on doors for Tate is a small thing. He said he’s not pleased with Mayor Hancock and how the city has gotten overpriced for people like him. He thinks his candidate’s experience in the state legislature---three terms in the House of Representatives---has more than prepared him for the job. “Penfield Tate has worked with multi-billion-dollar budgets,” he said. “I think he can handle Denver’s billion- dollar budget.”
With just days until the May 7th election, every vote is critical. But more important to voters like Laura Altobelli, believing in a candidate is just as important. That’s why she’s giving her vote to university professor and political newcomer, Lisa Calderon.
“The main reason I am supporting Lisa Calderon is that I agree with the sentiment, first voiced by Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, that the people closest to the pain need to be closest to the power.” Calderon’s biography tells of her growing up in poverty and watching her single mother struggle just to keep a roof over their head. Despite the odds, Calderon ultimately earned a Ph.D. and now teaches at Regis University. Calderon’s challenge, along with her desire to change Denver’s trajectory, is another selling point to Altobelli. “We need committed activist leaders that are not afraid of change or emotionally attached to the status quo if we’re going to do the right thing for the people in this city. I believe in Lisa Calderon.”
For Mayoral challenger and businesswoman Jamie Giellis, rest has become a luxury. “I am feeling very strong and focused,” with next Tuesday looming on her calendar. “We’ve been walking neighborhoods, visiting community events and the response and support is wonderful.” Like her competitors, Giellis and her team have papered neighborhoods with yard signs and they’re still not finished. “We are releasing my first 100 days plan today (Monday) so folks know I’ve got a strategy for taking office.”
While each of the challengers is squeezing every single second out of the clock as it ticks toward May 7th, it should not be forgotten that the man they’re trying to unseat, Michael Hancock, is working just as hard to keep his job. While as an incumbent he may have a built-in advantage, neither Hancock nor his supporters are taking anything for granted or leaving anything to chance.
“This is the most important week for the campaign,” said campaign worker April Valdez Villa. “As we inch closer to Election Day, we are doing everything we can to make sure every voter has a plan to return their ballot, knocking on doors, making phone calls, delivering yard signs and visiting with voters throughout the city.”
At press time, the city was reporting that less than ten percent of all ballots have been returned. As Calderon supporter and symphony violinist Niccolo Casewit shared on Facebook, “The election’s still wide open!”
Challengers are hoping that the 2019 voter turnout is heavy because that increases their chances of making it to a run-off. If the winning candidate does not snare 50 percent of the vote then the top two finishers will compete in a June election.
But a run-off may only be a pipe dream. In 2015 only 29 percent of eligible voters turned out in an election that Hancock won. But with four significant candidates running this time---each with their own strengths---a run-off could be in the offing. As Bette Davis said in the 1950’s classic movie, “All About Eve,” ‘Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”