Thursday, December 2, 2010

Denver Election Cycles Between Insider and Outsider

The modern era of Denver mayoral politics began in 1983 with the election of State House Minority Leader Federico Peña as mayor. There are many interests that influence Denver city elections. City government interests, such as city workers, especially police and fire unions; neighborhood groups, such as Park and Capitol Hill neighborhoods or the northwest side; ethnic group identities, such as Hispanic and African-American voter blocs; business associations and locations, such as downtown or LoDo. Since 1983, these groups tend to align in a fashion that produces a struggle between candidates and interests from inside city government and those outside.

Peña was outside city politics; Wellington Webb, the City Auditor, was inside; and, of course, John Hickenlooper, the LoDo businessman, outside.

In the 2011 election, the early candidates rumored and announced reflect the inside vs. outside dichotomy, with a few blending both.

Additional themes can become blended into the discussion. Do voters want change or continuity? New vision or steady management? A politician or a non-politician?

In the last election, Don Mares, the insider as City Auditor, won the right to challenge frontrunner Hickenlooper in the runoff. He was crushed. Whereas in the 1991 open seat election, Denver DA Norm Early, representing the outsider interests, won the first round, but lost decisively to insider Webb. Which shall it be in 2011 – insider or outsider?

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