Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Petition drive to make marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority

Citizens for a Safer Denver is holding a press conference later this week to kick off a new petition drive. The proposed initiative would make adult marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority. Their press release is excerpted below:
The proposed measure would create a new city ordinance designating private adult marijuana possession Denver's lowest law enforcement priority. Approximately 4,000 valid signatures of registered Denver voters will be required to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

Prior to the press conference, at 8:30 a.m. in the Denver City & County Building, a 21-year-old Denver woman will plead "not guilty" to charges of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Sara Tafoya was cited for marijuana possession in Denver after police stopped her on an unrelated traffic matter (for which she was not cited) and found about one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana in her purse. Ms. Tafoya was arrested and handcuffed. She was kept in a police squad car for more than 90 minutes while the police had her car impounded, then she was taken to jail where she was held overnight. Four officers and three squad cars were on the scene when she was arrested, and she was forced to pay a $200 bond to get out of jail and $300 to retrieve her car from the Denver impound.

"Using so many of our city's limited resources to arrest and jail a harmless citizen like Ms. Tafoya is an outrage," said Citizens for a Safer Denver spokesman Mason Tvert. "This type of incident is a perfect example for why we need to enact this initiative."

"If police can refrain from citing people after they leave our Mayor's bar a little 'Hicken-loopy' -- public intoxication is, in fact, illegal -- there is no reason why they can't refrain from citing adults who are simply possessing a small amount of pot," Tvert said. "We appreciate that our police are out there working to keep us safe, but we believe they could better spend their time arresting drunk drivers and violent offenders than adult marijuana users."

Seattle voters approved a similar "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative in 2003, and the number of marijuana arrests and prosecutions have dramatically decreased in the city without any negative fallout. The measure there was supported by multiple members of the city council and the state legislature, and those city officials who opposed the measure have since recognized its implementation as safe and effective.

Denver voters approved Initiative 100 in 2005, calling for the removal of all penalties for private adult marijuana possession in the city. Since then, arrests for such behavior have increased in Denver, and there were more marijuana arrests in the city in 2006 (the year following the initiative) than ever before.

WHEN: Thursday, May 31, noon (12 p.m.). Ms. Tafoya's arraignment, at which she will be pleading "not guilty," is scheduled for 8:30 a.m.

WHERE: In front of the Denver City-County Building, 1437 Bannock Street. Ms. Tafoya will be appearing in the general municipal courtroom in the Denver City & County Building.

Who's showing up, and what does it mean?

The votes are coming in at a pretty good clip now, representing 61% of the general election total.

The scariest numbers come from District 3, which at 1,786 votes has barely over half of its anemic general election votes. In this case, lack of interest probably benefits the frontrunner, Paul Lopez.
Dist %ofGenElectVotes
CD3 50%
CD7 68%
CD8 61%
But the most interesting numbers are in Council District 8, where Carla Madison seems to be winning the "get out the vote" effort. Turnout in the whiter western neighborhoods is far heavier than in the minority-populated eastern neighborhoods, which could spell trouble for Sharon Bailey.
Neighborhood %ofGenElectVotes
North Capitol Hill 105%
Central Business 89%
City Park West 86%
Five Points 82%
City Park 66%
Cole 64%
Clayton 57%
Northeast Park Hill 55%
Whittier 54%
Skyland 54%
South Park Hill 47%
North Park Hill 42%
If the candidates maintained the percentages received in each neighborhood in the general election, Sharon Bailey would still win by a margin of 54% to 46%... but that probably isn't reassuring, especially if there is something more behind the Madison rush to the polls than just proactive voters.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Denver Politics endorses... Chris Nevitt in Council District 7

We judge City Council candidates by 4 simple qualifications:
  • Intelligence applied to real-world problems
  • Commitment to public service
  • Identification with ordinary citizens
  • Experience in city government
Based on these criteria, we enthusiastically endorse Chris Nevitt for Council District 7.

Chris Nevitt has a Ph.D. in economics, and has focused his career on the application of that knowledge to the problems of working men and women.

His support runs wide and deep in this district. The Nevitt coalition includes virtually every labor organization, the city's entire safety apparatus (police officers, firefighters, and the District Attorney), and the entire Denver delegation to the Colorado House and Senate. That says something about him. He has had the most small donors as well, engaging neighborhood leaders and small business owners throughout the district.

Shelly Watters is a fine person who has already served the public well, working as an aide to two city councilwomen. But access doesn't imply leadership, and her reliance on big business donors raises questions of perspective. In addition, her timid answers in public forums lead us to question her ability to be a powerful advocate for District 7.

Nevitt's primary criticisms regard his close labor ties and alleged political aspirations, yet even these mild concerns seem wrongheaded. While one could certainly imagine a bullheaded ideologue marring City Council with far-reaching ambitions, Chris Nevitt is not that man. He is a pragmatic-yet-principled populist.

That's the kind of leadership we look forward to in City Council in District 7, which is why we urge support for Chris Nevitt: the intelligent, committed, and experienced choice for Council District 7.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Lopez controversy uncovers a "smoking gun"

Political scandal have a fairly standard routine way of unfolding:
  1. An accusation is made.
  2. The accused denies it, stating the accusation is false.
  3. More evidence comes out.
  4. The accused denies it, pleading political attack.
  5. More evidence comes out.
  6. The accused denies it, claiming the facts are complicated.
  7. A "smoking gun" is discovered, destroying the accused's pretenses.
  8. The accused resigns in disgrace.
In case you're keeping track, the question of Paul Lopez's residence has recently been at Stage 6. We now seem to be entering Stage 7.

Dear Denver reports that irrefutable evidence has arrived from the Denver Election Commission. An open records request reveals that on September 16, 2006, Paul Lopez formally changed his address from 3400 South Lowell Boulevard to his grandmother's residence at 4411 West 2nd Avenue, effectively moving him from Council District 2 to Council District 3.

Most damning is Mr Lopez's own response to the question: "On which date did you, or will you, begin living at your new address?" His handwritten answer? September 1, 2006.Lopez was therefore not a resident of District 3 for the required 1-year prior to election, as supported by court documents, personal accounts, and most importantly, by his own signed form with the Denver Electoral Commission.

See the full Lopez document from the original source: Denver Denver's article entitled "The damning voter registration docs."

Hickenlooper gives Nevitt the business

Yesterday's Denver Post issued a missive from George Merritt entitled "Mayor: Candidate flier misleading."
Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper delved into the City Council races for the first time today, calling out District 7 candidate Chris Nevitt for "misleading voters."

Nevitt's campaign used a picture of Hickenlooper on its latest flier.
The Nevitt campaign responded that the flier was intended to be light. I guess the Dr Seuss-themed cover and the fanciful rhymes weren't a strong enough tip-off for that, to wit:
Denver parents and teachers think his plans are just super,
and hopefully so does Mayor John Hickenlooper
Of course, the Watters campaign was elated, thanking the mayor for "setting the record straight." But the bigger story here is the culmination of a threat made by the mayor earlier this month. On May 2nd, the day after the general municipal election, Colorado Pols featured an article entitled "Hick May Pick Sides in One City Council Race." It read, in part:
Hickenlooper doesn't normally make public endorsements of candidates for city office, but there was a lot of talk last night that he would soon endorse Shelly Watters over Chris Nevitt in City Council District 7 because he is uncomfortable with Nevitt's close ties to organized labor.
Anyone who recognizes Hickenlooper's business origin can see that a candidate who would support the larger working community would be an ideological opposite. Still, some insightful comments ensued over at Colorado Pols, none more perspicacious than the first:
Nevitt's base will stay with him, and he only needs to pick another 3.1% to win in the runoff. Shelly has a much higher hill to climb. Nevitt wins this and Hick would be foolish to get involved publically (though everyone knows he was involved behind the scenes).
Hickenlooper involved behind the scenes? You mean Hickenlooper has been actively campaigning against a pro-labor candidate this whole time, perhaps through The Kenney Group, who managed both Shelly Watters' campaign and Hickenlooper's re-election bid with the same large donations from big businesses and land speculators? Say it ain't so.

This background information provides insight into Chris Nevitt's incredulous response to the pseudo-controversy, as quoted in yesterday's Denver Post article:
"A couple people called and said, 'You are implying that John Hickenlooper endorsed you,'" [Nevitt] said.

"I actually called them back and said, 'Nothing could be further from the truth.'"
You can say that again.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The case against Lopez (video)

Lisa Jones of Dear Denver continues to provide insight into the Paul Lopez residency question in an article entitled "Court challenge may be in the works." In the article, Jones supported the decision to bring this matter to court, and added new insight into this now quite-public story:
All the evidence I've seen indicates that the Denver Election Commission staff erred in putting Lopez on the ballot. Earlier this week I spoke to one commissioner who had serious doubts about Lopez's eligibility. Her hands were tied, however, because the May 1 vote had already been certified. She had not been presented with facts about Lopez until recently. She hastened to point out that it is not the fault of the election commission if Lopez misled them about his eligibility.
She also includes a 5 minute clip from last night's meeting of the election commission, which provides further details about mounting evidence against Paul Lopez's credentials:
To round out the discussion, a critic of the Lopez campaign added an impassioned comment, which is excerpted below:
Honesty, credibility and trust is a huge part of the job. Based on court documents and the information supplied by the Denver Police Department, there is no way anyone should trust what Lopez says.

I hope the District Court challenge is made as certainly the requirements for elected office will be upheld by the Court. From what I’ve read – the case is solid and Lopez will be disqualified.

Dear Shelly endorsement

Lisa Jones of Dear Denver has endorsed Shelly Watters in the District 7 runoff in an article entitled "Watters, please, in District 7." Her reasoning is mainly directed against the current frontrunner in the race:
I suppose I should start getting used to the idea of Chris Nevitt on Denver City Council. I'm among the few who aren't favorably impressed by him. Not that I'm jumping up and down about Shelly Watters, mind you. But I do think Watters is the better choice.
She prefers Watters for two reasons: first, because Watters has been a council aide for Carol Boigon (whom Jones likes), and second, because she is concerned that Nevitt may be too ideological, to wit:
we all love Jimmy Stewart-style politicians who stick to their principles. Sometimes, however, noble motives conflict with practicality and political reality. "Being right" doesn't always translate into "getting it done."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Updates on the runoff endorsements

In the three runoff City Council races, frontrunners lead each race by substantial margins. For that reason, the challengers need endorsements from the now-expired candidacies of their general election opponents in order to have any hope of winning.

Council District 3: JoAnn Phillips now has the endorsement of three former candidates: Kathy Sandoval, Mark Roggerman, and Antoinette Alire. These candidates represented 11%, 10%, and 2% of the votes in the May general election. Added to Phillips own total of 15%, this coalition represents 38% of the electorate. Compared against Lopez's 45%, the gap has narrowed considerably. One also wonders whether questions surrounding Lopez's official residency will swing the tide in favor of Phillips.

Council District 7: Julie Connor has declined to endorse either candidate, leaving her 19% of the vote unaccounted for. Shelly Watters is left to battle Chris Nevitt without further support. With Nevitt needing just one sixth of Connor's union-friendly, small-donor constituency to obtain a majority, it's hard to see how Watters could overcome the 20% deficit from the May election, when she received 27% to Nevitt's 47% of the vote.

Council District 8: Greg Rasheed has endorsed Sharon Bailey, doubling Madison's deficit from 8% to 16%. With virtually no news coming out of that race since the May election, there appear to be few dynamics working on Madison's behalf.

Joanne Phillips questions Paul Lopez's residency in Council District 3

George Merritt of the Denver Post reported this morning that Council District 3 candidate Joanne Phillips asked the Denver Election Commission yesterday to have her opponent, Paul Lopez, declared ineligible for the office. The article was entitled "Candidate cries foul to election panel."

The Lopez campaign did not comment on the matter. The article indicates that Lopez has previously denied the claims, but no further information or evidence was provided.

The most important news here is that the Election Commission apparently is not going to get involved, as "Assistant City Attorney Vicky Ortega said the only way to take action would be for someone to contest the election in district court." Apparently the Phillips campaign is considering just such a lawsuit.

Update: An unnamed author over at Colorado Pols takes a cynical view of the question here. It's not clear why the author considers court appearance documents and electoral change-of-address forms unimportant, but the weight of such evidence certainly raises an eyebrow to those who would dismiss the question out of hand.

For more detailed information on this issue, visit "Analysis of the Lopez residency question" and "Lopez residency under formal investigation."

Monday, May 21, 2007

Connor declines to endorse in CD7

In Council District 7, Julie Connor has declined to endorse either of the remaining candidates. While the material effect of this decision is to put her supporters "up for grabs," Shelly Watters' candidacy suffers a greater harm. That's because Watters needed the support of Connor's entire base to stay within shouting distance of Chris Nevitt, yet now will have to make up the difference on her own.

Below is an excerpt from Connor's letter to supporters.
Voters groused that it was a field packed so full of smart choices that they couldn’t make up their minds, and indeed we are all experienced and deeply committed to community service. The field has narrowed, but the expertise has not.

For the runoff, rather than direct voters towards one candidate or the other, I am suggesting people think about what aspects are most important for a councilperson to get the job done (responsiveness, experience, philosophy, vision, fight, commitment, ambition, personality, connections, endorsements, confidence, whatever), and then have a conversation with each one to determine which one possesses those requirements/needs/qualifications...

Don’t be reluctant to talk to the candidates: After a five-minute talk with each of them one-on-one, you will get a clear picture of who is going to serve you better. And there aren’t many political candidates who you can actually call and talk to; a City Council race is one of the few with accessible candidates. Plus, regardless of who gets elected, it will be remembered that you were engaged enough to call and sound them out – that’s a constituent who it would be wise to pay attention to down the line.

Most importantly, whoever you decide to vote for, get that ballot back to the Election Commission by Tuesday, June 5 before 7:00 p.m.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Write-in candidate results

The write-in candidate results are in, and boy are they underwhelming. None even reached three digits, with Lynn Smith leading the pack at 93 votes.
Clerk & Recorder: Kevin Slevin 61
City Council D01: Gerald Styron 6
City Council D08: Lynn Smith 93
City Council D09: Ray Barela 9
City Council D11: William Helfrich 0
If you voted for someone who was not an authorized write-in candidate, your vote was not tabulated. That means we'll have no official tabulation of the votes for "Santa Claus," "George Washington," "Martha Stewart," or the ever-popular "John Elway." Sorry, folks!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Voter turnout in Denver since 1987

When the Denver Election Commission purged voter lists earlier this year, many folks were outraged. However, the graph below shows that the number of "active voters" was actually near the historical average even after the purge.

The graph also shows that turnout was very respectable, especially when you consider that the percentage of active voters submitting ballots hasn't exceeded 50% in Denver since 1995. Indeed, see how similar the numbers are between the "exciting" 2003 campaign and its open mayoral seat and this year's "boring" election, which got virtually no media attention.
Prior runoff elections have involved virtually the entire city, and gained more or less the same number of votes as the general election. Since this year's races are limited to only Council Districts 3, 7, and 8, we should expect to a much smaller turnout - perhaps a few thousand less than the 16,427 votes in those districts earlier this month.

Watters picks up endorsement

The Shelly Watters campaign issued a news release yesterday trumpeting the endorsement of Colorado State Senator Ken Gordon:
Denver, CO - Today, Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (D-Denver) endorsed Shelly Watters in the City Council District Seven Run-Off Election. Senator Gordon has worked with Shelly since 1999, when she was first an aide to Former Councilwoman Joyce Foster and then Councilwoman Carol Boigon.

"Shelly will be a great asset to Denver's City Council. She is balanced and thoughtful in her approach, and her experience with City processes makes her the best choice to represent the residents of District 7. I enthusiastically endorse Shelly Watters for City Council District 7," said Gordon.

Shelly added, "Senator Gordon is a well-respected public official and I am honored to have the support of someone who has worked so hard for the citizens of Colorado. He understands the issues facing the residents of Denver, from graffiti to improving our schools, and I am thrilled that he believes I am the best choice to address these issues."

Earlier this week, Shelly earned the endorsements of a majority of Neighborhood Association Presidents. Out of the ten Neighborhood Association Presidents, six are supporting Shelly's bid to be the next Councilwoman . The other four Neighborhood Association Presidents have chosen not to endorse a candidate to date.

For full list of Shelly's endorsements please visit

Your Money Or Your Vote: Citywide voting patterns in the May 2007 Denver municipal election

Did you vote for the mayor? If you've got a nice income and live in a wealthy neighborhood, odds are that you did.

Truth be told, the odds are that you voted for the mayor no matter where you live. It's just that folks in wealthy neighborhoods tended to support him more heavily than folks in poorer neighborhoods.
That dynamic wasn't true of all incumbents. Auditor Dennis Gallagher, for instance, seemed to do best with the middle class.
And then there were challengers like Carol Campbell, candidate for City Council At Large. She did considerably better among the poorer neighborhoods.
Talk of an uninterested electorate this year thus speaks more to the interests of the wealthy than of the poor. Poorer neighborhoods naturally were far more interested in change. Thankfully for incumbents, the rich vote more often and thus get the final word.

Note: for this study, year 2000 census figures were used. The average income in 16 neighborhoods was less than $40,000 per year in income; 15 averaged between $40,000 and $49,999; 13 averaged between $50,000 and $69,999; and 11 were above $70,000.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Upcoming ballot questions

Even after the June 5 runoff election, Denver voters will be treated to one more election at the end of this year: the statewide election in November.

Potential ballot initiatives should now be submitted to the Secretary of State. Does anyone know which (if any) were submitted?

For fun, I'd also recommend that you look at "Taste For Taxes," which provides a primer for folks looking to raise your taxes. They noted that:
A political campaign ultimately is merely an exercise in marketing. The key to success is making sure your ballot issue – the product you’re marketing – responds to the public’s wants or needs.
So do we have any "wants or needs" on the upcoming state ballot?

May election results in Council District 9

Would you be surprised to learn that incumbent City Councilwoman Judy Montero nearly lost an entire neighborhood against wild-eyed Waldo Benevidez? Well, it happened in Valverde, where the penniless challenger received 45.2% of the vote. Below is a graph indicating the results.

May election results in Council District 4

City Councilwoman Peggy Lehmann won re-election in Council District 5, as should be expected. Below is a graph of the results of her campaign vis-a-vis challengers Ike Kelley and Bill Rutherford. Lehmann did best in Wellshire; Kelley got a quarter of the vote in Goldsmith; and Rutherford hit 28.8% in Kennedy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Analysis of the Lopez residency question

Say what you want about the question of Paul Lopez's candidacy (and frankly, folks ain't sayin' much...), but Lisa Jones of Dear Denver continues to churn out thoughtful and fact-based analysis of the situation, and ought to be commended.

Today's piece entitled "Home is where Paul Lopez's heart is?" begins with a look at the workings of the Denver Election Commission:
Contrary to the impression conveyed to some by today's Denver Post story, DEC Executive Director John Gaydeski does not have the authority to make a ruling on a voter challenge to Lopez's eligibility. Until the charter change eliminating the commission takes effect in July, Commissioners Sandy Adams, Susan Rogers and Stephanie O'Malley still have the power and responsibility to hear a challenge (if one is filed) and make a ruling regarding Lopez's eligibility...

I hope that someone files a challenge regarding Lopez; I'd like to see the DEC go out with one final demonstration of relevance. The current Denver Election Commission has made huge mistakes, as we all know, but the structure does (or did) serve a larger purpose, namely representing multiple interests (in terms of political party, demographics, etc.) and settling election-related disputes in a public forum.
With regard to the question of whether Paul Lopez was a "resident" of District 3 (in quotes because the definition is apparently not formally defined), she says this:
One of my friends made an interesting observation this morning. She pointed out that the DEC allows voters to list an alternate mailing address. For example, you can live in Denver but ask that your ballot be mailed to your winter home in Florida. You can vote in only one jurisdiction, and it must be that of your primary residence, not your alternate mailing address.

Lopez claims that he considers his parents' home his primary address, yet he changed his primary address more than once in his voter registration record. If he had wanted to keep his parents' address as his primary address, he could have. But he didn't. He changed his residency to District 2, per official election commission records, and failed to change his residency "back" to District 3 within the one year rule.
Read the original article for the full discussion and the opportunity to comment.

POLL: Council District 3, sans Paul Lopez

What's your opinion of the potentially-revised Council District 3 race?
Official Disclaimer: Internet polls are NOT scientific and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool.

Lopez residency under formal investigation

Today, George Merritt of the Denver Post investigates whether Paul Lopez was officially a resident of Council District 3 since May 1, 2006... and thus whether he is even eligible to run for City Council in that district.

The article is entitled "Candidate Lopez insists he's resident," and adds several new wrinkles to the story.
  • Indicates that the Denver Election Commission is formally investigating the matter.
  • Clarifies that the District 3 home is Paul Lopez's family residence, and that the Lowell address is an apartment Lopez lived in while attending CU-Denver.
  • Adds a third address to the list: an apartment on West 38th Avenue. Lopez said he simply "paid a couple bills there."
Read the Denver Post story and let us know what you think.

Neighborhood analysis, Council District 3

In Council District 3, second-place finisher JoAnne Phillips trails frontrunner Paul Lopez by 30 points. Her prospects seem even worse in light of the fact that she didn't challenge him in a single neighborhood.
Indeed, Phillips didn't close the gap to single digits in a single precinct. Even her best showings were pretty dismal: in Villa Park's 438th precinct and Mar Lee's 234th precinct, where she trailed Lopez by "only" 13% and 10%, respectively.

Of course, if Paul Lopez is declared ineligible for the Council District 3 seat, the race would become far more contested. Phillips would then have a lead over Roggeman in virtually every district except Barnum West, with a huge percentage of voters formally undecided.

Runoff election polls (May 15th update)

The current runoff election polls are pretty interesting.

In the Council District 3 poll, Paul Lopez leads JoAnne Phillips by 53% to 47%. However, the current margin of just 7% is a rather dramatic departure from Lopez's general election margin of 30%. The close online race is even more impressive given Phillips lack of online presence: she doesn't appear to have a website, has never responded to any posting online, and barely even registered 1% in our March poll of this district.

The real-world margin appears to be holding in our tally of Council District 7 preferences. Chris Nevitt leads by 20, with 60% against Shelly Watters' 40%. This is especially impressive as Nevitt was drubbed by Watters fans in the previous Denver Politics poll of District 7.

The most inverted results were found in the Council District 8 poll, in which Carla Madison leads frontrunner Sharon Bailey with 56% to 44%. This is likely due to the online presence of Madison troops. In the Denver Politics poll of District 8 leading up to the May general election, Madison had an even more commanding lead of 56% versus Bailey's 7%... yet we see how that turned out.

These polls will remain open until June 5th, so be sure to register your preference.

And as always, our disclaimer: "Internet polls are NOT scientific and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool."

Monday, May 14, 2007

Neighborhood analysis, Council District 7

In Council District 7, Shelly Watters doesn't have a ghost of a chance of winning. As the graph below shows, she only challenged Nevitt's lead in three neighborhoods: Overland, Valverde, and Rosedale. Throughout the rest of the district, including her own Platt Park, she trails by 14% or more.

West Wash Park, Athmar Park, and College View weren't even competitive, with Chris dominating by a margin of more than 30%.

More facts disqualifying Paul Lopez from Council District 3 seat

On Friday, we reported that there were questions as to whether Paul Lopez has been a resident of District 3 since May 1, 2006. On Saturday, county court records proved that Lopez himself reported living in District 2 in August 2006.

Today, Dear Denver provides yet more documentation. In an article entitled "Paul Lopez, phone home (wherever that is)," we learn that candidate Lopez changed his official electoral address after the traffic incident and well after he was supposed to be a full time resident of District 3.
Lopez filed his change of address with the Denver Election Commission on September 22, 2006. The DEC entered the change on October 5, 2006.
Yet according to electoral rules, no investigation will take place unless a registered elector in District 3 requests validation of Paul Lopez's eligibility.
Unless an investigation is requested, voters and the DEC will just have to take Lopez's word for it, despite a court record that contradicts his story.
The potential consequences on the race for City Council in District 3 are thus outlined:
Mark Roggeman ended up in third place in the May 1 vote. If Lopez had been disqualified, Roggeman would likely be the candidate facing JoAnn Phillips in the run-off.
What do you think? I hope in the end this can be settled with facts.

We all want to be treated fairly when issues come before the city, and can only hope that folks enforcing rules will also be willing to follow them.

Unopposed candidates get little flack in Denver neighborhoods

Denver loves its incumbent City Council members, more so in some neighborhoods than others.

Northeast Park Hill is the most enamored neighborhood. Just 2 of its 388 voters failed to select Councilman Michael Hancock in May's general election.

Jefferson Park is the most unruly. Nearly 15% of Garcia's constituents in this neighborhood wrote in an alternative name. One suspects this was the political base of candidate Gerald Styron.

But Charlie Brown was the only Councilman without an active candidate to exceed 5% write-ins over an entire neighborhood. Seems that Washington Park folks don't like him that much, with 100 alternative names written into its 1407 ballots. It'd be interesting to see who they wrote in, wouldn't it?

Below are all the numbers as compiled by Denver Politics:
Michael Hancock
Northeast Park Hill 99.4%
Stapleton 99.1%
North Park Hill 98.3%
Montbello 98.3%
Green Valley Ranch 96.8%
Denver International 96.4%

Jeanne Robb
Cherry Creek 98.6%
Civic Center 98.5%
Hale 98.0%
Cheesman Park 97.3%
Congress Park 97.1%
Speer 97.1%
Country Club 96.7%
Capitol Hill 96.4%

Jeanne Faatz
Fort Logan 98.4%
Mar Lee 98.3%
Harvey Park South 98.0%
Marston 97.4%
Bear Valley 97.2%
Harvey Park 97.0%

Charlie Brown
Indian Creek 98.1%
Goldsmith 97.4%
Virginia Village 97.2%
Washington-Virginia 97.0%
University Hills 96.4%
University Park 95.7%
Belcaro 95.3%
Cory-Merrill 95.0%
Washington Park 92.5%

Rick Garcia
West Colfax 96.7%
Sunnyside 96.1%
Regis 95.4%
Sloan Lake 95.3%
West Highland 95.2%
Berkeley 94.8%
Chaffee Park 94.1%
Jefferson Park 85.7%

Post-election reactions from candidate Greg Rasheed

Last week, Denver Politics sent a short questionnaire to all of the candidates in runoff districts who are now out of the running. We asked for their thoughts and endorsements.

Below are the answers from Greg Rasheed in Council District 8:
1. What were the best and worst parts about running?
My best experience was going door to door and meeting the residents. Discovering their community concerns and just their happiness in having the opportunity to talk to a candidate was a rewarding experience. I want to also say that this experience was a new one for my wife and she felt it brought us closer together.

The worst experience was dealing with the unknown bloggers who ask so many questions and are so opinionated. LOL!

Seriously the worst experience was dealing with the weather during January and early February. Walking door to door in 8 degree weather was not fun but rewarding.

2. What was your reaction to the results?
I cried like a baby. LOL!

3. Do you plan to endorse another candidate in District 3?
I am supporting Sharon Bailey and telling my supporters to do the same.

4. Any plans to run again?
I am definitely going to run again. I realized that I started too late. It takes at least a year of planning to run for public office. I raised $1400 for my campaign verses an average of $45,000 for the other candidates. But even getting the 486 votes I received, considering the lack of funds and late start, was amazing. People realized I was serious about my candidacy.

I want to thank those who supported me. I also want to thank bloggers like you, who are trying to keep the public informed. Unfortunately the major papers are more interested in the personal backgrounds of NFL draft choices, rather than community issues.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Neighborhood analysis, Council District 8

The race for City Council District 8 is remarkable for its geographic and racial fault lines.

GEOGRAPHY: Whereas candidate Carla Madison did better than the frontrunner in virtually all of the western neighborhoods, Sharon Bailey dominated in the eastern neighborhoods.
Since Madison lives about a mile further west than Bailey, this result seems counterintuitive. Other factors may well be in play, including the professional and social networks of the candidates. But the demographic composition of the district is also important.

RACE: The neighborhoods won by African-American candidate Sharon Bailey are overwhelmingly comprised of blacks and Latinos. Overall, those neighborhoods are 85% minority population. Bailey prevailed in only one non-minority neighborhood: Cole, which is just 50.2% white.

Meanwhile, the neighborhoods won by white Carla Madison are just 33% minority. The only minority neighborhood in which she prevailed was Five Points.

It may seem surprising that Madison beat a field of three African-American candidates in Denver's historic black community, but this result underlines racial factors. Even 7 years ago (as gentrification was getting started), just 25% of Five Points residents were black. 27% were white and 43% were Latino.

That mirrors a larger trend in the area. Though Council District 8 has been "the black seat" on City Council for the last 50 years, it's now racially mixed. As of 2000, the district as a whole housed 24,130 African Americans, 21,656 whites, and 18,504 Latinos.

THE FUTURE: What does all this imply about the runoff? One possibility is that it won't be about black and white. Instead, this seat may hinge on Latinos.

Madison did well enough to win in North Capitol Hill and Five Points (23% and 43% Latino), but Bailey crushed in Clayton and Skyland (50% and 22% Latino). The only question is, ¿quién ganará en junio?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Lopez lie. Campaign die?

Paul Lopez is running for City Council in District 3. But at the moment, the question is not whether he's likely to win, but whether he's even eligible to run. Dear Denver raises these questions in today's "Rumor mill grinds Paul Lopez." The article notes that to be eligible for election, all City Council candidates must be:
a citizen of the United States; a resident of the City and County of Denver for the two (2) years immediately preceding his election; a qualified elector of the City and County of Denver; over twenty-five (25) years of age and if elected from a council district, the second year of residency shall have been within the district.
The problem is, Paul Lopez has by his own admission NOT been in District 3 since the required date (May 1, 2006). As Dear Denver explains:
on August 9, 2006, Lopez received a traffic ticket for expired plates. The home address for Lopez noted on the court record is 3400 S. Lowell Blvd., which is in Denver District 2, not District 3.
It seems pretty clear: Paul Lopez either was lying to the court then or he's lying to the public now.

I wonder what happens if Mr Lopez is found ineligible. Would JoAnne Phillips win the seat by default? Would a new general election be held?

Stay tuned, folks. This one's getting weird.

POLL: Council District 8 runoff

Official Disclaimer: Internet polls are NOT scientific and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Does Lopez belong in Council District 3?

Upending the "conventional wisdom," Lisa Jones of Dear Denver predicts that Paul Lopez will NOT be the next City Council representative for Council District 3.

Why? Because he does not fulfill the residency requirements.

Now THAT would be a shocker.

Read all about it in "Addressing Paul Lopez."

Johnson praises Council District 5's animated voters

Councilwoman Marcia Johnson thanked her supporters today in her "News from District 5" newsletter, and congratulate so many of them for voting.
I also want to applaud District 5 voters for turning out in droves! Our district boasted the second highest voter turn-out in the city - 9,336 out of the 80,536 total votes cast.
What are the facts here?

In 2003, District 5 had nearly 12,700 voters. Thus, turnout for 2007 wasn't even 75% of the 2003 mark. More than 3,300 prior voters were missing from the polls.

So we can't call this a stirring victory for democracy, or laud District 5 for the highest vote percentages in the city (Council Districts 7 and 8 held that distinction). But it's a pretty good indicator of animated voters.

Perhaps they didn't know that a Council incumbent hasn't lost in Denver for 20 years, or thought that this might be a close race... especially given the 2003 runoff election, in which Johnson squeaked by with just 46 more votes than her opponent.

During that runoff, Johnson received 6,371 votes. In 2007, she won the support of 7,149 voters. So the safest thing that can be said is that she has picked up the support of 778 voters over the course of her term... and, of course, continued the streak of unbeaten Denver incumbents for another election cycle.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Who's endorsing whom?

There's only one way for this year's crop of runoff candidates to have any chance of winning, and that is by gaining the endorsements of third-tier candidates.

Yet I haven't heard of any such endorsements being made. Have you?

Of course, even if an endorsement is made, there's no guarantee that voters will feel obliged to follow their former favorite's selection. Still, I can't imagine that the Council 8 candidates aren't grasping for the aide of Darrell Watson, that Council 7 candidates would love to have Julie Connor's imprimatur, and that Council 3 candidates aren't seeking a working coalition among all the now-vanquished opponents.

Feel free to leave comments with your thoughts or news.

Runoff candidate forum, May 15th

Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation and the League of Women Voters are sponsoring a runoff candidate forum at the Channel 8 Studio on Tuesday, May 15th from 7:00pm to 7:45 pm. The forum will be taped ‘as if’ live with a full audience for playback on days and at times following the 15th.

Channel 8 Studios are located at 2390 Ulster St, #100.

For more information, visit Channel 8's Denver Decides.

Come-from-behind victories are rare in Denver's runoff elections

Jason Bane of Colorado Confidential has come to the same historical, statistically-derived conclusion about the runoff elections as outlined in Denver Politics last week: "History Says Denver Runoff Could be Without Surprise."

Below are the 2003 percentages received in the municipal elections and the runoff. Note again that only Garcia and Rodriguez overcame deficits (of 1% and 5% respectively) to win. Bane also indicates that "no candidate who was down by more than five points ended up getting within even 10 points in the runoff election, so things don’t look promising for Phillips [who is down 30%], Watters [down 20%] or Madison [down 8%]."
John Hickenlooper: 43% --> 65%
Don Mares: 22% --> 35%

Dennis Gallagher: 31% --> 52%
Ed Thomas: 26% --> 48%

City Council District 1
Timber Dick: 36% --> 43%
Rick Garcia: 35% --> 57%

City Council District 3
Don Sandoval: 37% --> 47%
Rosemary Rodriguez: 32% --> 53%

City Council District 5
Marcia Johnson: 31% --> 50.2%
Marcus Pachner: 27% --> 49.8%

City Council District 9
Judy Montero: 31% --> 57%
Veronica Barela: 24% --> 43%

City Council District 10
Jeanne Robb: 48% --> 57%
Caroline Schomp: 36% --> 43%

City Council District 11
Michael Hancock: 44% --> 64%
Jon Bowman: 20% --> 37%
Immediately after the election, George Merrit of the Denver Post indicated that "History has shown that runoff elections can favor candidates with lower vote totals in the first contest," but that misrepresented the facts. Shelly Watters took the opportunity to proclaim the runoff election as "a whole new ball game," but that was just spin.

The truth is, runoff elections are just more compressed ends to a game previously set in motion. And for challengers with significant deficits, the chances just aren't good.

For more details, see our May 2nd reflection on results, especially the final section entitled "All Over But The Shouting."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

POLL: Council District 7 runoff

Official Disclaimer: Internet polls are NOT scientific and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

At Large candidates get no respect (statistically speaking)

Are the official election results misleading citizens about the race for City Council At Large seats?

Doug Linkhart’s 41,555 votes are displayed as representing 41% of the total. But the truth is, he received far more support than that.

That's because the Denver Election Commission displays the At Large percentages as a basis of all votes given in that race. Normally, that's fine. Total votes are usually equal to the total number of voters in any given race. But when voters can select up to two (2) candidates, as happens with At Large seats, the numbers are thrown out of whack.

For instance, the total number of At Large votes in May 2007 was 101,288, so half of that (assuming everyone voted for two candidates) would be 50,644. That seems low, insofar as 65,270 voted in the more obscure Clerk & Recorder race, yet it also seems unlikely that tens of thousands of folks chose just one of the three candidates. Still, if we raise the estimated votecount to 57,000 (halfway between the two numbers), the percentages change quite dramatically.
Doug Linkhart – 41,555 / 57,000? - 72.9% (not 41.0%)
Carol Boigon – 31,952 / 57,000? - 56.1% (not 31.6%)
Carol Campbell – 27,144 / 57,000? - 47.6% (not 26.8%)
Write-In Candidate - 637 / 57,000? - 1.1% (not 0.6%)
Thus, for a more intuitive accounting, the vote tallies for At Large councilors should be judged not by the total number of votes, but the total number of voters who submitted a choice in that category.

Opinions may vary on the need for this revision, but it is at least important for voters to realize that the actual percentage of support for candidates in the At Large race was far more substantial than the generic results indicate.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Watson's dirty campaign

I was initially impressed with the Darrell Watson campaign for Council District 8. Their campaign found this website before anyone else, and used the medium to get out their press releases and news stories trumpeting their candidate. I was happy to be part of it, distributing useful information to the people.

When Watson was attacked in the media for a 2003 child spanking incident that led to a misdemeanor conviction, I defended him, finding the story both offensive and irrelevant.

But a series of allegations began to build. An innocent Web poll led to spurious accusations by Watson's campaign manager, attacking the Madison campaign behind the cloak of anonymity. He then "spoofed" the poll by assuming different Internet identities, helpfully indicating how easy it would be to alter the results.

I was surprised when some anti-Watson attack ads on YouTube mysteriously disappeared. Who had been behind them, and why were the ads retracted? It never occurred to me that the ads may have been engineered by the Watson campaign itself, attempting to curry sympathy or raise suspicions over the origins of Watson's bad news.

But now, I wonder.

Watson's endorsements lauded him for his "openly gay" status, yet the candidate himself said nothing about it, not even in passing. I don't care what his status is, but the ongoing silence led Dear Denver to wonder. Was he trying to be all things to all voters ("the non-gay gay")?

It just didn't jibe. Proud statements to one audience were somehow invisible to the masses.

Concerns about the campaign's mechanics for contacting voters also came under question. wrote an article expressing dismay over Watson's unsolicited emails:
I still find it disturbing that Mr. Watson (or perhaps his "camp") harvested my email address without my permission (illegal, by the way) for bulk-email purposes. If I had received an email explaining how I got on the list, and providing me the opportunity to opt in should I wish, that would have been another story.
Then came duplicity regarding Watson's financial statements. Whether the campaign's claims totally mangled or simply massaged the facts, they clearly intended to deceive. They lied about raising over $19,000, downplayed the opponent's coffers by more than $9,000, and claimed a "huge lead in fundraising" that belied a truly tight race.

Misstatements of such obvious and verifiable facts were certainly troubling. Yet that concern grew when the candidate himself participated in the deception. In early April, Watson went on national television and magically extended the financial differential from roughly $5000 into an even more impressive $8000.

It seemed hard to believe. Time after time, the discrepancies arose... and only with one candidate.

Then came two weeks of unrelenting attacks against Watson's primary rival, Carla Madison, just as the ballots were reaching Denver voters, as found on Denver Direct :
04/10: Concerns about canceled meetings in Madison's neighborhood organization.
04/11: Allegations of a conflict of interest by Madison's partner, Paul Weiss.
04/12: More questions directed against Madison's partner.
04/14: Comments on a Madison sign placed under a street sign.
04/17: Questions regarding Madison's campaign materials.
04/18: Allegations of financial improprieties during Madison's CPWNA presidency.
04/19: Accusations against Madison's zoning overlay.
04/24: An undocumented conversation with Madison.
04/24: Follow-up on Madison's campaign materials.
What does this have to do with the Watson campaign?

Denver Direct presented itself as an independent entity, unrelated to the Watson campaign. Its posting never came out in favor of a particular candidate, and aside from the apparent vendetta against Madison, readers would naturally conclude that the site was merely an informative guide to the 2007 elections.

But as always, we follow the money. A quick look at Darrell Watson's financial disclosures shows that a Mr Gerald H Trumbule gave the campaign $100 on January 26, 2007. Who is Mr Trumbule? He's the author of Denver Direct. He was giving money a full two months before the blog even began its campaign coverage.

The next line of thinking goes like this: "Even if Trumbule did like Watson, he may have been totally unrelated to the campaign. Perhaps he was just an independent supporter whose actions were wholly unrelated to the campaign staff."

That too would be compelling, if the Watson campaign itself hadn't alerted me to Trumbule's presence.

In late March, the manager of the Watson campaign emailed a personal alert to the videos being placed online at Denver Direct. Never before or since was I notified of a news source from this campaign. Watson's campaign manager told me that the author of the blog
is a supporter of Darrell's but for now is trying to only post the public candidate forums at his site, and has shied away from any editorial comment or specific mentions of any single candidate.
I see. So this wasn't totally unrelated, but in fact continued the work of the campaign. After building up a neutral readership, Denver Direct unleashed a series of attacks against Watson's primary rival exactly when the ballots began arriving at voter's homes.

It doesn't look good. We have a pattern of deception, a series of attacks, and an ongoing manipulations with polls, communications, and finances.

Does that sound like "dirty tricks" to anyone? How about "mean-spirited campaigning"?

In any event, it did lead me to wonder... If this is the kind of campaign Darrell Watson runs, what kind of leader would he be on City Council?

Thankfully, we won't have to find out.

Latino activist Paul Lopez

In an article entitled "Shut Down Denver - Vote for Paul Lopez," Westword's Jared Jacang Maher highlights canddiate Paul Lopez's more controversial past:
Exactly one year ago May 1, Lopez, a Latino activist and organizer with the Service Employees International Union, was exhorting protesters to "shut down Denver" during the massive, pro-immigrant rally that seized downtown. A year before that, he was telling Denver Police Commander Gerry Wittman how minorities in poor communities don’t trust cops and how "my family and I have been getting harassed by police officers since I can remember."

How it was that the 28-year-old firebrand managed to earn the endorsement of the conservative editorial board at the Rocky Mountain News is anyone’s guess. A clean-cut website helps. But let’s hope he doesn’t change his tune too much. We’re looking forward to hearing some serious anti-establishment talk from the City Council chamber: out of seven candidates, Lopez earned 45 percent of the vote and missed avoiding a run-off by just 5 percent. His competitor in the June election, JoAnn Phillips garnered only 15 percent.

POLL: Council District 3 runoff

Official Disclaimer: Internet polls are NOT scientific and anyone who suggests otherwise is a fool.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Ready, set, spend!

In the upcoming runoff election, the amount of money raised isn't as important as how much they have left.

The figures reflect each candidate's April 24th statement, so we should expect that the candidates spent some of this money before the general election ended. Still, the graph gives a good indicator both of the depth of their fundraising and the potential reserves for their upcoming runoff election.

For instance, although Nevitt raised significantly more funds than Watters, his financial reserves were just $2,400 more. Meanwhile, in District 3, Lopez retained an overwhelming advantage both in total fundraising and reserves.

Prophet's comments and predictions

On election night, the Wash Park Prophet provided a running commentary on the results. While his estimated turnout numbers soon proved inaccurate, the comments were generally both interesting and informative.

Below are three of his best:
Antoinette Alire's mere 60 vote showing in the 3rd Council District is notable, not only because it is the smallest number of votes cast for a non-write in candidate (the 3rd district has the lowest voter turnout and the largest number of candidates so someone in that race was bound to have that distinction) but also because, if I recall correctly, you need 100 signatures to get on the ballot -- Alire lost at least 40 of the people who signed her petition on the way to the mailbox to mail ballots...

The Rocky Mountain News endorsements, while printed less often than those of the Denver Post, better match the results. The Rocky endorsed Lopez in District 3, Nevitt in District 7 and split its endorsement between Bailey and Madison in District 8...

Trust the Denver Post to run with the most uninformative headline imaginable for anyone who has been paying any attention to prior coverage of this race: "Hickenlooper Re-elected." When did they come up with that one? Last month? The mediocre Denver Post coverage of city issues continues. The Rocky in fairness, does little better, proclaiming "Hick Wins Second Term", although it does have subheadlines about other races that are mildly more informative.

After a review of the Prophet's "predictions" (which simply followed the money line and thus mirrored results in every race except Council District 8), he offered a look forward to the runoff elections:
[In Council District 3,] the Lopez v. Phillips runoff is big enough that it is unlikely to be upset by today's returns. Kathy Sandoval, next in the vote count, is 103 votes behind Phillips (almost 4 percentage points). Assuming that Lopez holds onto voters who voted for him in the first round, he needs only about one in seven of voters who didn't vote for Phillips or himself to win. Phillips was endorsed by the Denver Post after my last set of predictions and this clearly gave her campaign a boost...

[In Council District 7, Chris] Nevitt needs about one in six of the votes for Conner and Smith to win. He is unlikely to get many Smith votes (Smith was the only registered Republican in that non-partisan race, while Nevitt is a strongly labor union backed candidate), but he has a good shot at getting at least a quarter of Connor's votes. Watters Denver Post endorsement did little to upset the status quo in that race...

[Council District 8] In a Bailey v. Madison race, I think Bailey probably has an edge with Watson and Rasheed supporters over Madison, whose appeal is greater in the central business district area. Madison, of course, needs to win a supermajority of Watson and Rasheed supporters to win, in any case.

Friday, May 4, 2007

It's Over. Did You Notice?

Doug Linkhart's eLink newsletter article for May 2007 provided just a bit of insight into our media-challenged election. His article was entitled "It’s Over. Did You Notice?"
The 2007 election will surely go down in history as one of the quietest ever. While there was competition for the At-Large seats and six of eleven districts, there was little media coverage or public fanfare. We almost had an article about our race in the Rocky Mountain News, but the reporter retired mid-article and no one finished it.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Aide to winning seats on Denver City Council

Back in 2002, Peter Blake of the Rocky Mountain News offered a primary on "How To Win Seat On City Council." His answer? Become a council aide.

After all, it's worked in the past. Look at Jeanne Robb, Peggy Lehmann, Judy Montero, and Carol Boigon. They were all council aides before winning a seat in their own right. Yet so many more have tried and failed.

This year, aideship seems like a far less promising path to the Council. Just three aides were in the race, and none seem likely to join their former bosses at the dias.
  • Julie Connor (aide to current Councilwoman Kathleen MacKenzie) went down to defeat in Council District 7.
  • Shelly Watters (aide to current Councilwoman Carol Boigon) is in the runoff, but facing a daunting 20% deficit against frontrunner Chris Nevitt.
  • JoAnn Phillips (aide to former Councilwoman Ramona Martinez) trails frontrunner Paul Lopez by 30%.
Nevertheless, I offer an excerpt from the April 24, 2002 article as found in the Rocky Mountain News for your historical reading pleasure:
There is no royal right of succession to seats on Denver City Council, but if you can't be born to the job, the next best way to land it is to work for the incumbent.

Just as many current council members served as aides to former ones, so do their aides hope to succeed them - or maybe another member - in the 2003 elections. To serve on council you have to live in the district you represent.

District 3 Councilwoman Ramona Martinez worked 10 years for the late Councilman Sam Sandos and now holds his job. When term limits force her out next year, among those hoping to succeed her is aide John Soto Jr. Her other aide, Bernadette Salazar, might also run...

Debbie Ortega succeeded to the council seat once held by Sal Carpio, and rumor has it that one of those who might run to succeed her is current aide Kim Kucera. A former Ortega aide, parks spokeswoman Judy Montero, might also run.

District 5 Councilwoman Polly Flobeck, who once worked for Paul Swalm, has two former aides who might run next year. Marcus Pachner, who just left her office, could run in the district; another former assistant, Jeanne Robb, might run in District 10 for Councilman Ed Thomas' seat.

District 11 Councilwoman Happy Haynes succeeded the man she had worked for, Bill Roberts. Her former aide, ex-school board member Bennie Milliner, might seek her job next year.

Sharon Elfenbein, assistant to Council President Joyce Foster in District 4, made an abortive run for the vacant District 6 seat that Charlie Brown won last year. But she said she's not likely to try again next year. A former Foster aide, Carol Boigon, is likely to run for an at-large seat next year.

A funny thing happened to Peggy Lehmann, who served in years gone by as an aide to former council members Mary DeGroot and Bill Himmelman. She came within just a few votes of beating Brown last year but the new redistricting map puts her in District 4 instead of 6. Brown is one of only three council members who can run again next year. Lehmann hasn't decided whether to run in 4.

Among those who never served as an aide is Councilwoman-at-large Cathy Reynolds. That's because there were no aides when she was first elected in 1975, and she takes credit for creating the system shortly thereafter. Each council member is entitled to 1.75 aides, a peculiar bureaucratic compromise...

It's obvious why aides have an edge when running for the top job. They've worked with local issues for years ``and can hit the ground running,'' said Reynolds. ``They know a heckuva lot more about how to do the job.''

And, if the council member likes the aide, he or she might get access to the contributor lists.

Notes on the final returns

Now that the final numbers are in, we can follow up our initial reflection on results with a final bit of analysis.

Yawn... wrong again: Virtually everyone predicted low voter turnout due to a uninteresting election. Boy, were they wrong. 80,566 interested Denverites submitted their ballots, representing 42.5% of active voters. That blows away the last Denver campaign without a competitive mayoral election (1999, when just 26% of active voters went to the polls), and begins to approach some of those exciting campaigns that the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News actually covered.

Depends where you are: Even without a serious mayoral contest, some districts showed turnout comparable to 2003. Open seats in Council Districts 7 and 8, for instance, brought 93% and 87% of their 2003 totals. However, a competitive race in Council District 3 (with far less money) earned just over two-thirds of last cycle's voting totals. And interest in Council District 1 declined precipitously, reaching exactly half of the 2003 voters. Guess that proves the old notion: "All politics is local."

None of the above: While there were 80,566 votes in all, not everyone voted in each race on their ballot. Only 79,231 voted in the mayoral race, 71,612 voted for auditor, and 65,270 voted for clerk & recorder. Such disparities are called "undervotes," and generally reflect disaffection with all of the given choices. The results for citywide offices were thus less impressive than generally presented. Stephanie O'Malley was only supported on 63% of the ballots submitted (not 78%); Dennis Gallagher was the darling of 69% (not 78%) ballots; and John Hickenlooper earned the respect of 84.9% voters. Funny, this last figure is virtually identical to the approval rating announced by the mayor's consultants last month.

Let's count that again: The Election Commission's final vote counts generally reflected the same percentages found in earlier returns... with one exception. Somehow, Councilwoman Judy Montero actually lost 78 votes from yesterday to today, going from 2,704 votes to 2,626, while challenger Waldo Benevidez received 7 additional votes. At this rate of decline, Montero could lose the election in less than a month.

Anyone but him: Among the uncontested incumbents, Councilmen Rick Garcia and Charlie Brown were the most disliked, receiving 4.7% and 4.2% write-in votes against them. While that is unsurprising for Garcia, who had an active write-in candidate in Gerald Styron, Councilman Brown's result seems to reflect a more sustained opposition to his politics, as found in both the election results and an earlier Internet poll. Thankfully, Brown's business friends have given him $174,796 reasons to think his seat is safe.

Can't think of anyone but you: In contrast, Councilman Michael Hancock received only 94 votes against him (2%). While write in votes dipped even lower in other races, his was the most impressive performance for an unopposed candidate, and was also reflected in the earlier Internet poll.

Where are you? JoAnn Phillips is going to a runoff in Council District 3, you say? I wonder whether this will finally spur her to get up a campaign website. Out of 29 candidates, she was among only 7 who didn't care to provide such a device for potential supporters. The unopposed Charlie Brown was the only winner among them.

Quick as a cat: The only candidates who have updated their website since Tuesday's election are Chris Nevitt (who asks for your support) and Ike Kelly (who immediately withdrew his campaign site from cyberspace).

MoneyVotes: Now with the final figures for all district candidates for City Council.

Also read our initial reflection on Denver's election results.

Updated voting results

The updated voting results for Denver's 2007 municipal election are now online at the Election Commission website and provided below for your convenience.
Results are listed as:
Candidate - Votes Received / Total Votes - % of Votes Received

John Hickenlooper – 68,374 / 79,231 - 86.3%
Danny Lopez – 10,024 / 79,231 - 12.7%
Write-In Candidate - 833 / 79,231 - 1.0%

Dennis Gallagher – 55,948 / 71,612 - 78.1%
Bill Wells - 15422 / 71,612 - 21.5%
Write-In Candidate - 242 / 71,612 - 0.3%

Stephanie O'Malley – 50,741 / 65,270 - 77.7%
Jacob Werther – 14,127 / 65,270 - 21.6%
Write-In Candidate - 402 / 65,270 - 0.6%

Doug Linkhart – 41,555 / 101,288 - 41.0%
Carol Boigon – 31,952 / 101,288 - 31.6%
Carol Campbell – 27,144 / 101,288 - 26.8%
Write-In Candidate - 637 / 101,288 - 0.6%

Rick Garcia – 5,203 / 5,459 - 95.3%
Write-In Candidate - 256 / 5,459 - 4.7%

Jeanne Faatz – 6,712 / 6,872 - 97.7%
Write-In Candidate - 160 / 6,872 - 2.3%

Paul Lopez – 1,611 / 3,544 - 45.5%
JoAnn Phillips - 541 / 3,544 - 15.3%
Mark Roggeman - 389 / 3,544 - 11.0%
Kathy Sandoval - 386 / 3,544 - 10.9%
Ben Romero - 363 / 3,544 - 10.2%
Niccolo Casewit - 162 / 3,544 - 4.6%
Antoinette Alire - 75 / 3,544 - 2.1%
Write-In Candidate - 17 / 3,544 - 0.5%

Peggy Lehmann – 6,166 / 9,676 - 63.7%
Ike Kelley – 2,063 / 9,676 - 21.3%
Bill Rutherford – 1,415 / 9,676 - 14.6%
Write-In Candidate - 32 / 9,676 - 0.3%

Marcia Johnson – 7,149 / 9,336 - 76.6%
Mitch Poindexter – 1,344 / 9,336 - 14.4%
R.J. Ours - 818 / 9,336 - 8.8%
Write-In Candidate - 25 / 9,336 - 0.3%

Charlie Brown – 7,265 / 7,583 - 95.8%
Write-In Candidate - 318 / 7,583 - 4.2%

Chris Nevitt – 2,983 / 6,420 - 46.5%
Shelly Watters – 1,749 / 6,420 - 27.2%
Julie Connor – 1,214 / 6,420 - 18.9%
Dennis Smith - 424 / 6,420 - 6.6%
Write-In Candidate - 50 / 6,420 - 0.8%

Sharon Bailey – 2,295 / 6,431 - 35.7%
Carla Madison – 1,803 / 6,431 - 28.0%
Darrell Watson – 1,728 / 6,431 - 26.9%
Greg Rasheed - 486 / 6,431 - 7.6%
Write-In Candidate - 119 / 6,431 - 1.9%

Judy Montero – 2,726 / 3,724 - 73.2%
Waldo Benavidez - 961 / 3,724 - 25.8%
Write-In Candidate - 37 / 3,724 - 1.0%

Jeanne Robb – 6,676 / 6,862 - 97.3%
Write-In Candidate - 186 / 6,862 - 2.7%

Michael Hancock – 4,549 / 4,643 - 98.0%
Write-In Candidate - 94 / 4,643 - 2.0%

DA Term Limits
YES – 55,934 / 73,445 - 76.2%
NO – 17,511 / 73,445 - 23.8%

Total Active Registration - 189,527
Total Turnout - 80,566 - 42.51%
Mail - 80,536
Absentee - 29
Emergency - 1
Provisional- 0

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

RMN runs down the election and previews the runoffs

And the big story of the day from the Rocky Mountain News? Well, of course "It's the Hickenlooper waltz" by Daniel Chacon.

After a brief rundown of the results, Chacon records "some memorable moments."
* A postal worker drove up to the Denver Election Commission office in his postal truck and dropped off his ballot in the all-mail contest.

"We thought it was kind of weird," worker Judy Hodges said.

• Voters complained that a pro-immigrant march prevented them from dropping off their ballots at commission headquarters.

"What incompetent idiot approved a parade down our street on Election Day?" asked Election Commissioner Susan Rogers. "Do you realize they're blaming us for it? Like we approve parades now, apparently. There's a posting on (a political blog) accusing us of disenfranchising voters by having a parade through here."

• People did double takes when they saw Gov. Bill Ritter standing in line at the Election Commission waiting to apply for an emergency ballot.

His ballot was mailed to his home in Platt Park. Ritter and his family moved into the Governor's Mansion this year, but he hadn't updated his address.

Ritter posed for pictures with election workers who were sporting festive boas and cowboy hats. Tuesday was "hat day" for commission workers, who wore exotic headgear while counting ballots.
Astoundingly, the News then did something uncharacteristic: provided more hard data about the issues now in front of the voters, profiling the 6 candidates still in the race for election in the June 5 runoff. Each candidate was briefly profiled and asked the following questions:
  • Biggest challenge for Denver?
  • Do you support a property tax increase to repair city assets?
  • What would you do about gang crime in Denver?
Read the full article for details of Paul Lopez, JoAnn Phillips, Chris Nevitt, Shelly Watters, Sharon Bailey, and Carla Madison.

Post spins into the runoff elections

Gabriela Resto-Montero of the Denver Post offered a more in-depth look at the next stage of the elections in an article entitled "3 council races headed to June runoff."

It's interesting to see how each of the candidates tried to "spin" their circumstances.

In Council District 7, Chris Nevitt tried to come off as the quintessential "happy warrior."
"We were hoping we'd make it over 50 (percent) but that's hard to do in a four-way race,"said Chris Nevitt, the top vote-getter from District 7 in south-central Denver. "Some people may be exhausted from campaigning, but I've been invigorated."
Shelly Watters tried to pretend she still had a chance, and was aided and abetted by the reporter's own (mis)leading comment:
History has shown that runoff elections can favor candidates with lower vote totals in the first contest.

"It's a whole new ball game now," Watters said. "It's the playoffs."
Nevermind that the idea of overcoming a 20% deficit in one month is virtually unprecedented in Denver history. So long as you say runoff elections can favor candidates with lower vote totals (like, say, Rick Garcia's 5% in 2003), you're covered!

Finally, came one sentence and one quote on District 3:
In west Denver's District 3, Lopez received 45 percent of the vote in a crowded field of seven candidates.

"We're celebrating," Lopez said. "We intend to move forward."
That about sums it up, doesn't it?

Denver Post reports on the May election

The Denver dailies did, in fact, commit at least an article apiece to trumpet the results in Denver's municipal elections.

George Merritt of the Denver Post submitted an article which found the big story to be the virtual cakewalk in the mayoral race. In "Hickenlooper coasts to second term", he wrote:
Four years after taking the mayor's office as a political novice, John Hickenlooper coasted to a second term Tuesday as one of the most popular political figures in the state.

The mayor held an overwhelming lead on election night with 88 percent of the more than 68,000 votes counted...

"I'm not sure we have seen this level of popularity in the modern history of Colorado," Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert said.
He then mentioned the far more pressing story, sandwiching these details between Hickenlooper tributes:
Three open City Council seats were headed for runoffs, though Paul Lopez in District 3 and Chris Nevitt in District 7 had more than 40 percent of the vote in their respective races. Candidates must have more than 50 percent to be elected; otherwise the top two vote-getters compete in a runoff.

As of press time, JoAnn Phillips, with 16 percent, would square off with Lopez in the 3rd and Shelly Watters, with 28 percent, would battle Nevitt in the 7th.

In District 8, Sharon Bailey had 37 percent and will be in a runoff with either Carla Madison or Darrell Watson. Madison and Watson were separated by just 73 votes.
The silliest quote award goes to Danny Lopez:
Mayoral challenger Danny Lopez, a public works employee, said he was disappointed he did not receive more attention in the media.

"They didn't take me as a serious candidate because I did not want to spend $100,000," he said.
No, silly. They didn't take you seriously because you didn't want to spend $1,000,000! Hickelooper raised nearly $800,000 without even breaking a sweat. $100,000 wouldn't even have gotten you in the door, my friend. That's why raising nothing was a much better strategy - and I think you know that.

Reflections on the results

The 2007 Denver municipal election has come and gone, with just a few runoff races to follow. What should we make of the results?

I win again!: The last time an incumbent lost in this city was in 1987, when both Mary DeGroot and Dave Doering upended City Council members John Silchia and Nieves McIntyre, respectively. So it comes as no surprise that every incumbent won in 2007 as well.

Tiny protest: In March, The Kenney Group reported that Mayor John Hickenlooper's approval rating was 84%. The latest polling figures showed him receiving 87% of the vote, minus any write-in votes. So it looks like Danny Lopez was successful in getting Denver's protest vote - it just wasn't nearly enough.

Chinny chin chin: Carol Boigon was uncomfortably close to losing, beating Carol Campbell by just 5%. That's an amazing result when you consider that Boigon is an incumbent running against a first-time candidate. Not only that, but Boigon raised $146,000 to Campbell's $9,000. And Boigon didn't even spend two-thirds of her money, retaining more than $90,000 cash on hand. I guess she didn't want to empty her "rainy day" fund quite so soon.

Hey, big spender: Judy Montero raised more than $145,000 to win just 2704 votes, or $53.84 per vote. That's far and away the most expensive price, beating out Shelly Watter's $34.93 and Michael Hancock's $32.54. In losing efforts, I'll bet Niccolo Casewit is wondering whether he should have spent $23.13 for each of his 160 votes, and Ben Romero may wonder whether $8000 was the right price for just 359 supporters.

The Acrimonious Eighth: Darrell Watson is no longer in the running for the Council District 8 seat. His frequent boasts of being "the clear frontrunner" were nothing more than hype, and one suspects the acrimonious attacks laid against candidate Carla Madison backfired, causing the loss of second place by just 74 votes. Meanwhile, Sharon Bailey remained above the fray and came out on top.

Neato for Nevitt: In the tight Council District 7 race, Chris Nevitt nearly pulled off the impossible, falling just 196 votes shy of avoiding a runoff. Shelly Watters beat Julie Connor for second place, but has virtually no chance of winning a runoff. The base of Connor's support was unions and small donors, while Watters gathered big ticket donations from developers. Even if he sits on his hands, the populist Nevitt will gather a disproportionate share of Connor's support and cruise to victory.

Loopy for Lopez: Paul Lopez was even closer to a walkoff victory, needing just 150 votes to avoid a runoff. But that's in part because Council District 3's turnout was so abysmal. Whereas 5,132 voters participated in the 2003 runoff election, just 3,488 showed up for this year's contest. It is unreasonable in the least to expect JoAnne Phillips to overcome her 3-to-1 disadvantage.

And the worst performance goes to...: This year's worst electoral performance was put in by Council District 3's Antoinette Alire. With just 75 votes, she became just the second candidate in a dozen years to receive less than 100 votes. Her only inferior was Jerry Retzlaff, who received 43 votes in his 1999 bid for Council District 10 against incumbent Ed Thomas.

Money votes: Money means votes in virtually every election. The graph below shows a rather clear correlation between money raised and votes received. The only race which upended this conventional wisdom was Council District 8, where Sharon Bailey won a clear majority without going hat-in-hand to every resident, developer, and politico in Denver. Good for her!
All over but the shouting: Don't expect competitive runoff races. In 2003, frontrunners won all but two of the eight runoff elections. That might give hope to challengers, but think again. Come-from-behind victories by Rick Garcia and Rosemary Rodriguez were against May voting margins of just 2% and 5%, respectively. Our three runoff races feature margins of 8% (Bailey over Madison), 20% (Nevitt over Watters), and 30% (Lopez over Phillips).

So to those remaining underdogs, it's either "good luck" or, more likely, "good night."

Update: See also the updated notes on the final results.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Historic comparisons

Wondering how this election compares to others in terms of turnout? Below are figures for each of Denver's municipal elections over the past 20 years.
2003 - 244,398 - 114,492 - 46.9%
1999 - 195,476 - .51,494 - 26.4%
1995 - 165,218 - 104,358 - 63.2%
1991 - 162,083 - 125,453 - 77.4%
1987 - 249,032 - 140,270 - 56.3%
Given the lack of mayoral competition, we should expect this election to be more like 1999 than any other year.

We may well exceed that year's turnout of just 26%, and yet still have a historic low. That's because the list of "active" voters has been drastically culled this year.

So the bigger comparison will be found in the total votes. Will we exceed 52,000 votes... and if so, by how much?


Looking for the up-to-the-minute vote tallies for the 2007 Denver municipal election?

Visit the official site for Denver Elections online.

And then come back tomorrow and following days for more ongoing analysis and news regarding the runoff elections in Council Districts 3, 7, and 8.

Who got the money in 2007?

A few observations on the campaign finances in the 2007 Denver municipal elections.

First, our expectation that people give money to ensure a victory by their candidate just doesn't add up. Look at the below fundraising numbers put up by Mayor John Hickenlooper. Why are people giving in droves to a man who is cruising to victory? Why do his finances skyrocket at the end, with no serious race in sight? Because they want power and access, and for that, nothing's better than a sure winner for the top post in city government.

Then there's the matter of incumbents. In addition to their war chests, they can raise money quickly. Look at the sharply increasing figures for Councilwoman Carol Boigon, who raised nearly $100,000 in just four months:

Then there are the open seats. Here the candidates in Council District 7 (Nevitt, Watters, and Connor) clearly outpaced the field.

Finally, we look at the challengers. How hard is to raise money against an incumbent? Only one breached the $10k barrier.

If donors were largely ideological, new challengers willing to instantiate ideas would gain the most money. But what donors really want is access. So you give money where it's sure to do some good, to those people who are sure to get re-elected. See the below averages for City Council fundraising by incumbents, open seat candidates, and challengers.

Oh yes, and then you bemoan what a terribly boring election we're having. Why haven't we heard any new ideas?

Be a dear and pass another hors d'ourve, won't you?