DENVER (CBS4)– If a strong economy is the best predictor of whether an incumbent is re-elected, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock should have coasted to victory. The city’s economy is one of the best in the country.
Hancock says he’s received a lot of questions about what happened.
“I got friends all over the country, I’m talking about mayors, ‘What are you doing in runoff? We’re all looking to Denver as an example of what we want to be,’” said Hancock.
Hancock admits some voters may have decided against him because of sexually-charged text messages he sent to a woman on his security detail. He publicly apologized.
“Hopefully, people understand that that was a mistake, a failure in my character that is not permanent.”
The character of the city the larger issue in the race. Denver has undergone dramatic change.
“That change is going to make people uncomfortable and unsettled because their neighborhoods begin to transform.”
A native of the city, Hancock has seen that transformation over the last few decades. Denver was in the depths of the recession when he became mayor. Today, its housing and job markets are among the nation’s fastest growing. But that growth has led to the displacement of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents.
“I take the brunt of things that started quite frankly in the 1990s. The transformation, gentrification and displacement of Curtis Park, Five Points, Cole, these neighborhoods were changing as early as 1990s. I watched it. I grew up here. I watched them physically change. So, it didn’t happen when I became a member of city council or mayor of this city. While I take the brunt, I don’t pass the buck. What we did as an administration is go to work. How do we protect vulnerable residents in Denver, put in place those mechanisms to protect them the best we can, particularly when we know development is occurring on the public side and private side?”
He points to the redevelopment underway in Sun Valley – one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods – as an example of how the city is preventing displacement.
“We know what those investments are that are occurring. We do an assessment of where and who the most vulnerable residents are, including the small mom and pop businesses, and we move in with the multi agencies efforts to protect them.”
The city is also investing in affordable housing, committing $300 million to building affordable homes since 2012. It’s committed $2 billion to transportation.
“I see mobility through an equity lens. I see the more we can deploy bike lanes, the more we can complete sidewalk networks, the more we can bring transit particularly to housing, so that people are closer and we can close those first and last mile gaps that are a barrier to people using public transportation, the more we can level the playing field.”
And leveling the playing field, he says, is the goal of his third term.
“The third term is really about how we create balance. I wanted to very much take the prosperity and progress that we’ve been able to create over the last eight years and make sure it reached those who feel left behind.”
This election has also had an anti-incumbency thread running through it that Hancock cautions against.
“We’ve got to be careful to talk about change for the sake of change. I know my opponent says that. We saw that same conversation in 2016. I’d rather manage the challenges of a growing city than a dying city.”
Whoever wins the election, it has broad implications. As head of the state’s capital city, Denver’s mayor has wide influence.
Ballots were mailed to active voters on Monday. Voting centers open on May 28 and ballots must be received by June 4 at 7 p.m. at voting centers or in drop-off ballot boxes.