It is not Groundhog Day; it only feels that way in local Denver politics. Like February 2nd, when the revered rodent fails to see its shadow, we have six more weeks of winter. In Denver, it means not six but about four more weeks of campaigning. Denver Mayor Michael Hancock did not hit the 50 percent mark and now must face Jamie Giellis in a runoff next month.
Voters decided on a lot more than Mayor in this election. They also had nine City Council seats, including two at-large seats, to decide. They also voted on a new Clerk & Recorder and made their minds known on a couple of interesting and controversial ordinances. In Denver, City Council races are won by the candidate that reaches 50 percent plus one. If no candidate reaches that plateau, the two candidates with the most votes must runoff.
Three council seats---Districts 2, 6 and 7---now occupied by Kevin Flynn, Paul Kashmann and Jolon Clark, respectively---went unchallenged. Two incumbents, Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech, along with four challengers competed for Council-at-Large seats. With nearly 65 percent of the vote, it would take a miracle for the four at large candidates to catch the two incumbents who appear to be assured another term on Council.
In District 1, Amanda Sandoval, daughter of the late Paul Sandoval, a legend in Colorado and Denver politics, won a majority of votes but fell short of 50 percent. Running second was retired Denver cop and firefighters Mike Somma. A runoff will take place.
District 3 voters will decide in June between NEWSED founder and businesswoman Veronica Barela and Jamie Torres. Kendra Black easily won a Council seat in District 4 over Colleen Zahradnicek. In District 5 Amanda Sawyer and Mary Beth Susman will square off in June. Chris Herndon met the 50-plus-one bar and won election in District 8. But a runoff between incumbent Albus Brooks and Candi CdeBaca will determine District 9’s new Council member. In District 10 Wayne New and Chris Hinds will face off next month, New falling just short of the tipping point total. In District 11, Stacie Gilmore won handily over labor organizer Christin Alonzo.
In the race for Denver Clerk and Recorder, term-limited Councilman Paul Lopez and second place vote getter (Second place---between Sarah O. McCarthy and Peg Perl is too close to call right now) will runoff. While the job essentially oversees elections and issues marriage licenses and maintains records, 2016’s Presidential Election has, perhaps, given it new weight. Tampering by foreign elements has heightened concern that elections may be tilted via tampering from trolls and bots, thus, a whole new dimension has been added to the office.
The City Auditor will remain the same for the next four years. Current Auditor, Timothy O’Brien was unopposed.
There was a huge and emotional battle in the city over Initiated Ordinance 300. It was inspired by a growing homeless population across the city. Voters decided overwhelmingly they wanted to keep the city’s current laws on the books and maintain prohibitions on just where homeless people were allowed to sleep. But the homeless issue is not going away and one way or another the new Denver City Council will have to figure out how best to deal with this population.
Denver became the first city in the nation to vote on an initiative decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms for people age 21 and over. It also became the first city to defeat such a measure. Ordinance 301 was defeated. But the margin of defeat---less than ten percent of the vote---may have provided encouragement to supporters to, perhaps, try again. Passage would have allowed possession, use and home cultivation of what has been described as ‘magic mushrooms.’ It would have also established a panel to review the law’s impact on public health and safety and prevented Denver from using public funds or resources to prosecute people charged with psilocybin-related crimes.
Due to a late count of ballots, La Voz Bilingue---along with most Denver, Colorado and national media---reported that Ordinance 301 or the Denver Psilocybin Mushroom Initiative had been defeated. In fact, the ordinance won by a 50.5 to 49.4 margin. La Voz Bilingue regrets the error.