A week ago, a record number of Denver voters shook up the system. More than 180,000 turned out, 80,000 on Election Day, May 7. They forced three incumbent councilpersons into runoffs, plus the mayor.
Hancock starts with advantages. He only has to find 11 points from 39 to 50 percent, whereas Jamie Giellis must double her votes. He spent $2 million in the first election and will likely find one or two more for the runoff. And, he will argue that the city is more than just community development and zoning and that he’s experienced in running it – public safety, public works and social services. Politically, he knows how to run a campaign in Denver and has a team in place.
But, Giellis has the benefit of a new enlarged electorate and a desire for change. Sixty percent of the electorate voted for someone besides Hancock. All three city council incumbents pushed into runoffs had major development and gentrification issues in their districts, and Giellis is advocating limits. Finally, an unknown factor is that many people believe it would be nice to have a woman mayor. It relates to some of the City Hall controversies.
Incumbents are hard to beat. In two recent runoffs, Federico Pena and Wellington Webb, who came in second in the first round, went on to win in their runoff. But as the Pena’s and Hickenlooper’s first elections demonstrated, sometimes Denver voters support newcomers with little government executive experience.
Expect an interesting three weeks.