By Ernest Luning
THE COLORADO STATESMAN
City Councilwoman Carol Boigon said her mother’s enterprising skill playing the horses and the tenacity her parents instilled in her to overcome childhood polio are among the strengths she brings to Denver’s crowded mayoral race.
“I want to tell you I’m a fighter,” Boigon told a crowd of supporters gathered Dec. 16 on the plaza next to the Tattered Cover bookstore on East Colfax Avenue, part of a cultural complex she helped create on a formerly derelict corner.
“We are here in our next fight — we’re going to fight together, all of us,” she said. “And when we come out of it, we are going to have a city with a restructured economy prepared to continue to be the Queen City of the Mountain West.”
Boigon’s announcement brings to a baker’s dozen the number of candidates — including a state senator and two of her fellow City Council members — who are seeking Denver’s top job next spring. It’s a wide-open race after current two-term Mayor John Hickenlooper won the governor’s office in the November election.
Like nearly all the mayoral candidates, Boigon said steering Denver’s economy out of the recession is the next mayor’s crucial task. She pointed to her work helping revive moribund city landmarks, including the site of the once-mothballed Lowenstein Theater where she made her announcement and a rebuilt University Hills shopping center, as proof she’s the candidate best suited to the job.
“The big challenge facing the city right now are the issues of jobs and the economy, and I see that as the true job of the next mayor of Denver,” Boigon said.
In addition to spearheading the U-Hills revival when she was an aide to then-Councilwoman Joyce Foster, Boigon touted her success helping bring the Tattered Cover, Twist and Shout, the Denver Film Society and a chic restaurant to the block across from East High School.
“It’s turned this corner into an activity center with jobs, with economic activity, a good addition next to the school. And it’s an emblem of what needs to happen on Colfax Avenue,” she said.
Boigon pledged to deliver an economic revival plan for the city within 90 days of taking office, including bringing new-economy businesses to the city without forgetting middle-income employers and Denver’s existing businesses.
Turning to aspects of her childhood she said she doesn’t often talk about, Boigon got the crowd laughing with a story about her mother’s resourcefulness. Her mother wanted to spend her days raising her daughters but had to help out the family financially, Boigon said.
“Her strategy as a mathematical person was the horses.” It wasn’t a hobby, Boigon said. “I remember opening closets with boxes, floor-to-ceiling, shoe boxes of old racing forms, and neatly written, hand-written notes about every horse — the distance it liked to run, the conditions it like to run in, the jockeys it went best with — and she put three girls through college.”
Boigon also recounted the family determination that helped her get past a bout of polio when she was 5 years old. She grew up in braces and still has a weakened right arm, she confided, but her parents pushed her to keep up the fight and not let it stop her.
Foster said she supports her former aide “because Carol gets things done.” She said Boigon is among the hardest-working public officials she’s ever known. “We built University Hills together,” Foster said. “Had it not been for her, I don’t know if it would have happened, because she just had the tenacity.”
Calling Boigon “relentless,” Denver lawyer, long-time Boigon political protégé — and son of the state senator — David Foster summed up supporters’ take on Boigon: “It’s not that she won’t take no for an answer; rather, she figures out a way to get to ‘yes.’”
Boigon has won election to her at-large City Council seat twice, first in 2003. Before working for Foster, she was executive director of the Mayor’s Office for Education and Children. A Detroit native, she has a journalism degree from the University of Colorado, is married and has two grown children.
Hickenlooper plans to keep his city job until his inauguration Jan. 11, avoiding a special election that would be required if he left office earlier. Manager of Public Works and Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal will serve as mayor until after the May 3 election or following a run-off in June if none of the candidates clears 50 percent of the vote. Denver’s 13 City Council seats are also up for election, including the two at-large seats Boigon and fellow mayoral candidate Doug Linkhart are relinquishing.
In addition to Boigon, an even dozen candidates have so far filed paperwork with the city to run for mayor. The ballot won’t be decided, however, until candidates turn in petitions this spring.
State Sen. Chris Romer, D-Denver, is vacating his legislative seat at the end of the year to run for mayor. Linkhart, a two-term at-large councilman and longtime state lawmaker, announced his candidacy the day after Hickenlooper was elected governor. Councilman Michael Hancock, who represents the northeast Denver 11th District, kicked off his campaign a month ago.
James Mejia, who runs the Denver Preschool Program and headed city departments for Hickenlooper and Wellington Webb, Denver’s previous mayor, announced his campaign in June. Last week he held a series of community meetings and a festive kick-off party at a Denver nightclub to officially launch his run.
Also running are Michael Forrester, Dwight Henson, Kenneth R. Simpson, Paul Noel Fiorino, Theresa Spahn, Thomas Andrew Wolf, Eric Jon Zinn, and Danny D. Lopez, a city employee who lost to Hickenlooper in 2007.
Former Denver Fire Chief Richard Gonzales, who was considering running for mayor, filed paperwork last week to run instead for one of Denver’s two at-large City Council seats. He is currently executive director of the Colorado Department of Personnel and Administration but State Bill Colorado reported earlier this month that Gonzales is among Ritter administration appointees who won’t be keeping their jobs when Hickenlooper takes over in January.