It’s been some time since Denver voters have been treated to a true slugfest for mayor. Wellington Webb and Norm Early were the last duo to really go toe to toe and that was back in 1991.
When John Hickenlooper faced Don Mares in 2003, Hickenlooper went into the race after winning the initial election by 21 points, so that wasn’t exactly a knock down, drag out fight.
It’s been 20 years since we’ve seen a race get down and dirty, and I think Denver voters will be treated to just that, a race that quickly gets dirty.
Policy-wise, there are some differences in the details between Romer and Hancock on some issues, but there are no serious policy points where their opinions are starkly different. Without those stark differences in policy opinions, the campaigns are going to need to come up with new reasons for voters to not vote for the other guy.
Needing to create a difference between fairly similar candidates will lead to fairly negative ads. But it won’t be like the ads we were treated to in 2010 because 527 groups won’t be involved in this race. And although the campaigns will need to go negative, they can’t go too negative because in the Denver mayoral race, voters need to like you to vote for you. You won’t get someone’s vote based on the other guy’s politics, like you do in Senate or Governor races.
I can’t see any reasons why this mayoral race won’t come down to the very same issues that the last major races have boiled down to, personality and vision. Those qualities make these final five weeks challenging for campaigns, because projecting personality and vision, and still informing voters about what issues are important, is incredibly difficult.
Accomplishing this in campaign ads takes a particular balance that is hard to reach, but not impossible.
I wouldn’t be shocked if we see more ads like the “18 miles” commercial from Michael Hancock. That ad highlighted an issue, but was more about Michael Hancock’s family and life.
Romer’s cupcake truck ad hit a strong note in March and April, but it’s not one that he can go back to this month. He’ll need ads with more finesse that show more of the man he is when he’s not defending cupcake trucks.
Beyond the ads I also think it is a safe bet that the debates between these two candidates will be a real treat for those among us that enjoy competitive political sparring. A City Council President versus a former State Senator should make for at least a few entertaining brawls.
I won’t be foolish enough to predict an outcome for June. However, I will be foolish enough to predict that Romer and Hancock will be working very hard to tell Denver voters who they are and show them their vision of Denver’s future.
The winner will be the one who can convince Denver that he can lead, that he has vision, but most importantly, that he has the right personality for Denver.
About The Blogger
– Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.