With just over two weeks to go until Denver’s mayoral election — and a day after a poll showed the race has turned into a statistical dead heat between three candidates — Carol Boigon dropped out of the running and threw her support to one of the front-runners, fellow City Council member Michael Hancock.
“My commitment to Denver’s future is unwavering, and I am proud to support Michael Hancock for mayor because we share the same convictions of getting Denver residents back to work and creating new opportunities for all children,” Boigon said Monday morning on the grass at Civic Center Park, across the street from Denver’s City and County Building. “I have worked closely with Michael for eight years and I know he is tested and ready to lead Denver forward as our next mayor.”
Calling Boigon a “fierce champion of issues ranging from economic development to education,” Hancock said he was proud to accept her endorsement. He decorated her with a campaign button a moment before his wife did the same to Boigon’s husband, Howard.
It was an emotional end to an expensive run — Boigon and her husband loaned the campaign $200,000 through the most recent reporting period — launched in December on a platform of economic development for the city Boigon has served as an at-large member of City Council for eight years.
“I did not want to have a Pat Schroeder moment,” she said with a chuckle after the press conference. “I almost did — that’s why I stopped talking.” Boigon was referring to tears shed by Denver’s longtime congressional representative when Schroeder announced she was ending her campaign for president in 1987.
Boigon said she received her ballot for the May 3 all-mail election on Friday. But she held off voting so she could decide her course after getting a look at dispiriting results from a pair of public opinion surveys.
If no candidate gets over 50 percent of the vote, the top two finishers will compete in a run-off decided on June 7. After Boigon’s withdrawal, a total of nine candidates are in the running for mayor, though if fundraising and this weekend’s Denver Post-9News poll are any guide, it’s down to a race between Hancock, Chris Romer and James Mejia.
A SurveyUSA poll conducted early last week and released on Sunday showed Hancock with the support of 18 percent of likely voters, 4 points behind Romer and Mejia, who each had 22 percent support. That’s within the survey’s 4.1-percent margin of error, making the race effectively a three-way tie with 15 days to go until votes are counted.
Boigon trailed with 8 percent support, placing fifth behind Councilman Doug Linkhart, who had 10 percent. (A total of 10 percent of likely voters backed candidate Theresa Spahn and “Others,” a category including four hopefuls who haven’t raised much money and are doing little campaigning beyond appearing at some candidate forums.)
Those results were close to a poll Boigon’s campaign conducted during roughly the same period, she said, and the numbers were sobering. She said she spent roughly two days weighing her options before deciding on Sunday afternoon to back Hancock.
“We had our poll results Thursday and then (the Denver Post) poll came out, and we had information what it was going to say,” Boigon told The Colorado Statesman after endorsing Hancock. “On Friday I started thinking, these are my choices: I could limp along to the end, and it’s probably not going to be too much different; I could just withdraw, and not have any impact on the outcome; or I could withdraw and endorse, and have impact.”
She said her next consideration was which candidate to endorse “because I really had not thought about where I would go,” she said, despite being asked by reporters to name a second choice multiple times. “I really had been focused on my own campaign.”
“I sat down to think about it,” she continued, “and Michael and I have worked so well together. I can remember when I did the budget amendment, when (the city) had money in the bank — and I felt it was important for us to do — and Michael came to see me in the hospital and we did spreadsheets on my hospital bed so I could show him why this made sense. He’s a good person to work with, he listens, he is smart, he cares, and 90 percent of the time we agree.”
She set a meeting with Hancock for Sunday afternoon at Udi’s Bakery Café, a restaurant in the Stapleton neighborhood. It was during that meeting — “over a cup of tea,” she said with a smile — that she made her final decision.
“I asked him about these issues that were important to me. I asked him about my staff and my supporters — those were the things that were important to me — and all of his answers were wonderful, so we did the deal at 2:15 at Udi’s.”
Boigon brushed off suggestions that former Mayor Wellington Webb, a prominent Hancock backer, had leaned on her to endorse Hancock.
“He wouldn’t do that,” she said, shaking her head. “We’re dear friends — he’s the best boss I ever had, and I had a lot of great bosses, including Roy Romer. I loved working for Wellington. He did not come to me and say get out. It wouldn’t happen. This was me looking at, do I want to have an impact, would it matter? This was the only moment — it’s now or not.”
As for the remaining candidates who didn’t win Boigon’s endorsement, she said no one should take it personally. “We’re all friends,” she said. “I love you guys, but, like the voters, we all have to make a choice.”
Tyler Chafee, a senior associate at Denver-based political consulting firm RBI Strategies and Research, issued a statement Monday morning praising Boigon for stepping out on a classy note. (RBI isn’t working for any of the mayoral candidates, though Chafee said he had supported Boigon.)
“It’s not easy to stop a campaign,” he said. “The inclination is always to go harder, slash more, and win by any means necessary. Carol decided to put Denver first and I think she deserves a great deal of respect for that.”
Hancock’s chief competitors had kind words for Boigon but wouldn’t concede that her endorsement changed things much.
“Carol has a long and distinguished record of service on City Council and on behalf of Denver’s children and families,” said Zach Knaus, Romer’s deputy campaign manager. “We respect her decision, and Chris shares her commitment to Denver’s kids and improving education. We wish her well.”
“We’re disappointed to see Carol exit the race,” said Berrick Abramson, Mejia’s campaign manager. “We know how important the City of Denver is to Carol and that she put her heart into this race. Her contributions to the dialog and the issues she raised as a candidate will be missed.”
Noting that he had hired several key members of Boigon’s campaign staff on Monday morning, Abramson added, “We’re very pleased that some of her earliest staff and supporters have joined the Mejia campaign.”
During her endorsement, Boigon said she planned to continue paying staff through the end of the month if they went to work for Hancock, but said it was up to individual staffers what to do.
“We don’t get to order folks around, and if they have other allegiances, I respect that,” she said.
An ebullient Hancock recounted his meeting with Boigon while he was on his way to a “Blessing of the Ballot” ceremony conducted by the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance at New Hope Baptist Church later Sunday afternoon.
“We talked about our relationship over the years, which has always been a good one,” Hancock told The Statesman. “And although we didn’t always agree, we always remained good friends and good colleagues working on city issues. She said, ‘I’m here because I believe you’re the guy to be the next mayor.’ It was humbling.”
Asked whether Boigon — who played prominent roles in the Webb administration —might have a job at city hall after the election, Hancock demurred.
“There’s a place in my administration for very talented people, and Carol’s a very talented individual,” he said. “I’m sure at the appropriate time we’ll have that conversation, but we have not talked about that. We just hope that those who have not mailed in their ballot will vote for me now.”
Those who have already submitted ballots marked for Boigon can’t change their votes — and the votes will be tabulated — said a spokeswoman for the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s Office.
“She’s still on the ballot, and her votes will still be counted,” according to Nancy Reubert, who said Boigon would have had to withdraw 48 days before the election in order for the Elections Division to keep from counting her votes.
Voters who haven’t mailed their ballots but already checked the box for Boigon can get a fresh ballot, Reubert said. “They can request a new ballot by mail or come down to the Elections Division and turn the old one in and get a new one.” Even if voters don’t have their old ballot with them, they can still get a replacement, she said, noting that the division’s software precludes voters from turning in more than one ballot.