DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Denver’s mayoral election drew to a close Tuesday with Councilman Michael Hancock winning the election and becoming Denver’s next mayor.
Unofficial, early totals showed Hancock leading Romer 58 percent to 42 percent, or 63,558 votes to 46,883. Hancock will be sworn in July 18, replacing interim Mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal.
Hancock and Romer, both Democrats, spent more than $4 million in the race to succeed now-Gov. John Hickenlooper.
About a third of Denver’s 300,000 registered voters cast ballots by late Tuesday. The winner will be sworn in July 18, replacing interim Mayor Guillermo “Bill” Vidal.
Hancock and Romer agreed on most important issues: raising taxes to complete a mass transit project; dismissing police Chief Gerald Whitman, whose department has been marred by excessive force allegations; and favoring civil unions for same-sex couples.
Both candidates said that they would consolidate some city departments to cut away at a $100 million budget deficit. Hancock said the city would have to continue a freeze on some government positions.
The candidates took jabs at each other since both made the runoff last month, with Romer working the more aggressive — Hancock called it negative — campaign.
“I’m really sorry that we had to default to the negative tone,” Hancock said. “I shouldn’t say `we,’ because I’ve worked really hard to keep it at a different level.”
“They’re really not that far apart,” said Seth Masket, an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver. “They’re both very mainstream Denver Democrats, which is why the campaign has focused on personal issues. Otherwise, it’s hard to distinguish.”
Hancock’s remarks during debates gave Romer something to pounce on. At one, Hancock was asked if he believed in evolution. “I believe in God,” he responded. In another, he was asked if creationism should be taught at public schools. He said yes — then said afterward he had misunderstood the question. He insisted that creationism is a religious belief that has no place in public schools.
“At some point, you have to have good judgment to hear a question and then answer it,” Romer said. “And that’s happened a number of times in this race.”
To combat the attacks, Hancock launched a “Clear the Air” section on his campaign website.
“I don’t think we’ve seen anything like this in Denver’s history,” Hancock told The Associated Press. “It’s gotten nasty. It’s gotten personal. A lot of the information that’s put out there is false. It’s meant to scare people.”
Romer’s campaign accused Hancock staffers of heckling officials at events where they’ve endorsed Romer, including James Mejia, who finished third in the first round of voting and was heavily courted by both candidates in the belief he could bring Latino votes.
Romer, whose father is former Colorado Gov. Roy Romer, raised nearly $2.6 million to Hancock’s $1.5 million. Romer’s total included a $500,000 loan to himself.
Their fundraising exceeded the $2.9 million raised by Hickenlooper and Don Maes in 2003, when Hickenlooper became mayor.
- By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (CBS4 staff contributed to this report)
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