By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
Denver City Councilman Michael Hancock launched his mayoral campaign Monday at a small business near downtown, joining a growing number of candidates who want to take over from Gov.-elect John Hickenlooper next year.
Pointing to his work with the city’s three previous mayors — including summer stints as a young intern in the Peña administration — and the “humble life lessons” he learned from his mother, who stood beaming alongside the candidate, Hancock, 41, said he is ready to lead his hometown.
“My top priority, and our most immediate challenge, is to build a vibrant economy with good-paying jobs in the city,” Hancock said. He said he wants Denver to “become a city that invests in and nurtures home-grown startups” and plans to help “small-and medium-size businesses expand and feel welcomed in our city.”
Hancock vowed to “build an even better climate for creating jobs by shifting the focus to entrepreneurs” like RavenBrick, the energy-efficient window manufacturing business where he gathered more than a hundred supporters to make his announcement. The high tech start-up on the edge of Lodo manufactures “smart” windows the company says can cut energy costs in half for most buildings.
Stressing the key role education plays in his vision, Hancock — who was Head Boy at Manual High School his senior year — said teachers must help build young entrepreneurs. “Schools must become better partners to this new job-creation strategy as well,” he said.
Hancock also said he would work to “restore trust in the police” in the wake of high-profile police brutality incidents. “When citizens walk outside their homes, they should find a safe community, where police are held accountable and take their charge to serve and protect seriously,” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd of supporters.
The crowd also called out agreement when Hancock pledged to make sure “parks and rec centers are clean, safe and well-maintained and open when people can use them.”
Hickenlooper has said he plans to stay on as mayor until his inauguration Jan. 11, avoiding the expense of a special election if he stepped down sooner. Manager of Public Works and Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal takes over until voters chose the next mayor — either in the May 3 municipal election or in a run-off the next month if none of the candidates clears 50 percent of the vote.
Including Hancock, eight candidates have filed paperwork with the city to run for mayor, although the ballot won’t be set until February when petitions can be circulated. Several other candidates are eyeing bids or preparing to launch campaigns.
James Mejia, who runs the Denver Preschool Program and headed departments for Hickenlooper and Wellington Webb, Denver’s previous mayor, was the first major candidate in the race, kicking off his campaign in June.
Two-term at-large councilman and statehouse veteran Doug Linkhart announced his candidacy the day after Hickenlooper was elected governor and officially made the mayor’s office an open seat.
State Sen. Chris Romer, who easily won re-election to his southeast Denver district earlier this month, is on the books to explore a candidacy but hasn’t made an official announcement.
Also running are Michael Forrester, Dwight Hensen, Kenneth Simpson and Danny Lopez, a city employee who lost to Hickenlooper in 2007.
City Councilwoman Carol Boigon, first elected to one of Denver’s two at-large seats along with Linkhart in 2003, has said she plans to announce her intentions soon. Former Denver Fire Chief Rich Gonzales, who is currently running the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration, is considering a bid. Hotel developer Walter Isenberg and real estate developer Buzz Geller are also weighing runs.
Last week, former City Attorney Cole Finegan, who also served as Hickenlooper’s chief of staff, said he won’t be running for mayor. Former state Sen. Penfield Tate, an attorney who heads the Denver Water Board — and placed fourth in the initial round of balloting won by Hickenlooper in 2003 — also pulled his name from consideration last week.
Hancock is serving his second term representing District 11, which covers northeast Denver from parts of Park Hill, Stapleton and Montbello stretching to Green Valley Ranch and Denver International Airport. He was picked to serve as council president for two terms, chairs the Bond Implementation Committee and sits on the Economic Development and Finance committees. Before his election to city council, he served as CEO of the Denver chapter of the Urban League. His campaign biography notes he was the Broncos team mascot during the team’s 1987 Super Bowl-bound season.
Hancock was introduced by his campaign co-chairs: Nita Mosby Henry, president and CEO of the Kaleidoscope Project; Bruce James, chairman of Downtown Denver Inc. and managing partner of the powerhouse law firm Brownstein Farber Hyatt Schreck; and Anna Jo Haynes, past president of Mile High Montessori Early Learning Centers.
His campaign released a list of 100 community endorsements, including state House Speaker Terrance Carroll, state Sen. Michael Johnston, former state Senate President Peter Groff, former Denver Safety Manager Al LaCabe, former Councilwoman Elbra Wedgeworth, DPS Board members Theresa Peña and Mary Seawell, Denver Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups and his younger brother Rodney, recently named head of basketball operations at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
After Hancock’s announcement, Haynes said she’s had her eye on Hancock’s potential since he was a teenager. “You could just begin to see that leadership developing,” she said, adding that the youth seemed destined to be mayor from an early age.
“We have a bunch of tremendous people running for this job, and I know them all, they’re wonderful,” she said. “We’re so lucky in Denver to have that kind of caliber of people. But I think his experience and his knowledge about how the city operates and his leadership, is superior.”