Denver held its municipal election on May 5th and some clear messages were delivered to city government by voters.

First, Denver voters made clear that not all incumbent council people were popular. The two big upsets of the night included District One, where incumbent Susan Shepherd lost handily to Rafael Espinoza and the Auditor’s race where current city councilman Chris Nevitt was defeated by opponent Timothy O’Brien.

Both of these upsets were not only won by relative unknown candidates, but also candidates without major funding advantages. And while both incumbent council people lost for different reasons, in a city that enjoys a booming economy and record growth, these losses were a big surprise.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Second, many Denver voters said they want a second look as four of the open city council seats will go to the June runoff election. While these races are not likely to get much attention, they should. They are bound to be competitive and with most of these races initially having five or in one case, nine, different candidates, there are a lot of votes to go around for the runoff.

It will be interesting to see how the candidates that are going to be in runoff elections use the results in other races, especially in District One, in their own races.

Finally, as it is in many mid-term federal elections, a small percentage of Denver voters said they were happy to speak for the rest of the city. Without a major mayoral race this year, many predicted that voter interest was going to be light, and they were right.

While breakdowns by council district were not available at the time of this writing, it looks like of the over 350,000 active voters in Denver, only about 70,000 voted for a city council district candidate. That’s roughly 20% of the voters in the city deciding its council representation.

None of what happened on May 5th in Denver’s municipal election will inspire political scientists to study the election for years to come. However, it’s easy to forget that Denver is in a very precarious position as a city.

We are growing at a record pace, but our police and sheriff’s departments have made some unfortunate headlines. We have attracted new businesses to Colorado’s capital, but infrastructure questions may begin to put a serious damper on our progress.

The decisions made by our city leaders at this important juncture will dictate if this era is just the beginning of a major upswing, or a sign that Denver has bigger problems than we can handle.

To voters in Districts 2, 7, 10 and 11, please tune in and vote in your district’s runoff election. With four seats still technically up for grabs, nearly 30% of the city council has yet to be determined.

I know that it’s easy to forget the important role civic leaders play in our community.

But Denver is currently cashing in on some very good economic luck, and if we want it to keep going, the decisions made by our incoming city leaders will make the difference, for better or for worse.

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. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning “Colorado Inside Out” on Colorado Public Television.

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