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.