Michael Hancock will be the 45th mayor of Denver. The two term city councilman beat former State Senator Chris Romer easily last night to take the city’s top job. Colorado Public Radio’s Ben Markus reports.
A campaign that lasted more than a year was over quickly last night. Moments after the first batch of votes were counted, Hancock had a commanding lead, and just after 8pm Romer had conceded.
Hancock took to the stage to address a room full of jubilant supporters -- reinforcing his message of inclusiveness.
Hancock: I’m excited and honored to be the one to work with you to bring our city together.
On the stage behind Hancock were dozens of supporters -- outgoing mayor Bill Vidal, former Governor Bill Ritter, and former mayor Wellington Webb. Hancock proceeded to outline his priorities for the city.
Hancock: We will begin out work now to recruit new businesses and jobs to Denver, to create our Denver education compact, to deliver our balanced budget to our city council in September, and begin to restore the public trust in the public...in the police department.
And now he has the mandate to tackle some of these problems.
It was clear from public polls leading up to the election that Hancock had a good chance of winning. But Paul Teske a professor of Political Science at CU-Denver said he was surprised by the large margin of victory. He says there weren’t any big issues dividing the candidates.
Teske: Both candidates had pretty similar ideas on the issues, and in a lot of ways then I think it became more of a personality referendum on the issues.
That was true for Anne Murdock who voted for Hancock. Earlier in the day she was at the Washington Park Rec Center to drop off her ballot.
Murdock: I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. I respect what he has done in his career, I think he’s very smart, full of integrity, has great principals and policies and I also admired his positive campaigning.
Hancock introduced himself to Denver voters with an ad campaign designed by a political consultant who worked on President Barack Obama’s campaign. It emphasized his difficult upbringing and hopeful message. Romer meanwhile took heat for airing negative ads that questioned Hancock’s vote to raise city council pay. Romer eventually pulled the commercial.
For his part, Romer urged his supporters to unite behind the mayor-elect because the city faces many challenges -- like high unemployment, low graduation rates, and a looming budget deficit.
Romer: We have some work to do. That's why it's important that we all immediately join mayor-elect Michael Hancock to address these changes. Denverites are problem solvers – you all have proved it, we need to join together.
Romer ran the most expensive political race in Denver history. He loaned the campaign nearly $700,000. And Romer had a chance capture the Latino vote with an endorsement of former mayor Federico Pena and former candidate James Mejia. But in the end neither brought in enough votes to make a difference.
Hancock now turns his attention to being mayor. Most importantly, the city must grapple with a 100-million dollar budget shortfall.
Hancock: And we’ll work together to understand what the menu of options are going forward so we can present a balanced budget to city council in September.
Tough choices are looming -- serious cuts to city services or tax increases may be needed. But -- for now -- he gets to savor the victory.
[Photo Courtesy of Hancock Campaign]