Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Denver Mayor Unopposed?

It seems surprising that Mayor Michael Hancock may get through his first re-election effort with no serious opposition. Often politicians’ biggest challenges come at their first re-elections. Among recent Denver mayors, two were challenged and one had a walk. Denver mayors Federico Peña and Wellington Webb faced major challenges. Peña barely won re-election in 1987 and Webb lost the first round, but then scored a solid win in the 1993 run-off. Most recently, John Hickenlooper easily won re-election in 2007.

There are good reasons why serious politicians would shy away from a challenge to Hancock:
  • It is rare a seated mayor is defeated. The last time, Bill McNichols in his third re-election effort was defeated by Peña in 1983.
  • Hancock has support among major Democratic factions in a city dominated by Democrats. The African American, Hispanic and liberal communities do not appear dissatisfied or talking up potential opponents.
  • The Denver economy is booming. In fact, if there are complaints, it’s from overdevelopment. Various neighborhood groups are objecting to the number of cranes, scrape-offs and infill projects in the city. Sales tax revenue is up 9 percent this year. Housing values are increasing (and, of course, costs) and downtown office buildings are full, especially from the energy boom.
  • Hancock is congenial and mostly low-key. He attends charitable fundraising events more often than TV studios or press conferences. It appears to serve him well.
In spite of the longshot nature of a successful challenge, there are issues that have damaged his administration’s reputation. The jail is a constant source of bad news, some of which plays into the current dialogue on police and minority relations. Cost overruns and various controversies surround the airport, the City’s most important asset and economic generator. And, the aforementioned residential-developer conflicts have several neighborhoods stirred up. Whether or not these issues lower the Mayor’s voter favorability, which registered at 70 percent in a 2013 poll, remains to be seen. Typically, the neighborhood pain threshold must get very high for Denverites to turn against a reasonable amount of residential and commercial growth and the tax base and jobs it brings.

Is an opponent possible in this environment; i.e., someone beyond an eccentric or easy to ignore gadfly?

1 comment:

Dave Barnes said...

1. Hickenlooper could beat Hancock.
2. A major scandal (hookers?) could derail Mike's campaign.