Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Campaigns struggle for publicity in 2007

Denver Post reporter George Merritt today highlighted the very issue that initiated this blog. The article was entitled "Slew of council candidates under the radar."
No fewer than 18 candidates are vying for three open seats on the Denver City Council this spring, but the contests have largely gone under the radar without a high-profile race for mayor to draw attention to the campaign season.

...No one currently in Denver government knows the difficulties of running for office in a low-profile election year as well as outgoing Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie. She won the only open seat on the council in 1999 - a year in which the incumbent mayor, Wellington Webb, won handily.

"I think that was one of the worst turnouts ever," MacKenzie said. "I was nervous as the day went by and the turnout was so low."

Similarly, this year's race for mayor is not likely to drive people to the polls. Mayor John Hickenlooper has a war chest closing on $600,000, and the only opponent to turn in petitions, Public Works employee Danny Lopez, does not have a campaign budget.

Hickenlooper officially launched his re-election bid Tuesday, filing more than four times the necessary 300 signatures.

Adding to the difficulty of stirring public interest, this year's election will be by mail ballot - effectively shortening the campaign for candidates because ballots go out about a month before the May 1 election day.

Regardless of the lack of buzz surrounding the election, Mac Kenzie and others said council seats are still won by pounding the pavement.

"The papers tend to cover the mayor ... but there's still not much coverage of the council race," MacKenzie said. "Those races are won by a real, door-to-door grassroots effort."

...Challengers facing the 10 council incumbents seeking re-election face the biggest obstacle. Since the 1970s, just three incumbents have been knocked out of a council seat.

"There is approximately a 95 percent re-election rate among incumbents" on the City Council, said John Bennett, a former council administrator who analyzed the council elections. "The chances of an incumbent losing is almost nil."

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