Opinion

CIRULI | Is Denver ready for a change?

Author: Floyd Ciruli - April 4, 2018 - Updated: April 4, 2018

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Floyd Ciruli

Michael Hancock may weather this latest storm, but managing the sex-related controversy, given the present climate surrounding the issue, is proving to be difficult. Key questions are: Will the controversy cost him votes in a third-term run? Could he lose because of it? Will he run? Will the controversy grow sufficiently to cause him to resign? Today, only the first question appears a yes.

Even discounting the scandal, his re-election faces challenges as Denver stands at one of those inflection points where a number of trends – some local, some national – portend danger to incumbent politicians. These include:

  • Rapid growth since 2000 has put tremendous pressure on infrastructure and the public’s tolerance for more density and traffic. It has created protests to gentrification and a backlash toward new development and against developers
  • The anti-growth attitudes align with an anti-establishment sense that has affected voters of both parties and no party. Several recent Denver elections have seen the establishment candidates lose. People appear angry with City Hall.
  • A massive wave of new voters has flooded the metro area. They have little knowledge of the municipal struggles of the 1980s and 1990s that propelled many of the current leaders. Efforts over sports stadiums, airports, and developing Lowry, Stapleton and the Lower Platte are ancient history.
  • Media competition and harder-edged, D.C.-style reporting is coming to Colorado. The battle for ratings among 10 o’clock news desks and the myriad of digital feeds drive stories that otherwise would have become old news.
  • National issues related to police-community relations and the #MeToo movement are affecting federal and local races. Denver Police-City Hall relations show considerable stress and #MeToo incidents have significantly disrupted this year’s state legislative session. The approaching Denver municipal election is dealing with both issues.
Mayor Michael Hancock apologizes for his inappropriate text messages in a video statement, March 5, 2018 (Colorado Politics/YouTube screen grab)

Third terms have a mixed track record for Denver mayors. Federico Peña and John Hickenlooper chose not to run and moved on to other jobs. Wellington Webb had an easy third re-election, but the May 5, 1999 vote was just two weeks after the Columbine shooting, a tragic moment in Colorado history. Bill McNichols ran for his fourth term in 1983 and lost to top vote-getters Federico Peña and Dale Tooley (Peña won).

Michael Hancock is a very able politician, but, as in 1983, is Denver moving toward change in 2019?

Floyd Ciruli

Floyd Ciruli

Floyd Ciruli is a veteran pollster and noted political analyst based in Denver. He is the director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies and is an adjunct professor teaching public opinion and foreign policy. Read Ciruli's blog at www.fciruli.blogspot.com