'Non-candidate' Mayor Vidal urged to run

The Colorado Statesman

With fourteen candidates (so far) in Denver’s burgeoning race for mayor, you’d think there were enough contenders to please (and appease) just about everyone in town.

Such is not the case.

Ask a sampling of Denver residents who they’re supporting as the successor to John Hickenlooper, and I’d venture that the majority couldn’t specify which candidate they favor for the special May election.

Of course I’m not including the myriad campaign workers, family members and early donors to the top four or five candidates — I’m sure they’ve settled on their favorites by now.

But the rest of Denver’s denizens? I bet a lot of them would tell you they like three or four of the candidates and could live with any of them — Romer, Hancock, Mejia, Linkhart, Boigon — they all are fine. But are they passionate about one? Do they feel so steadfast in their choice that they would go to the wall for their candidate? Are they excited about the race? Do they feel compelled to go out and not only work for their candidate, but persuade others to vote for him or her? Will they raise money to help them get elected? Do they have the same outward fanaticism, let’s say, as an early Andrew Romanoff supporter who was almost blinded to any other alternative in last year’s U.S. Senate race?

Maybe I’m a little jaded, but I remember when Federico Peña first ran back in 1983. Now there was a race, and there was a candidate who excited the masses.

Maybe my own lack of excitement about the race lies in the fact that there are several good candidates in this year’s race and I’m not particularly worried about the outcome.

But I am sensing there’s a void out there. Either one singular candidate has not risen above the others in the race, or possibly, the best candidate has yet to emerge.

Last week, at an event that was more social than political, the topic of the mayor’s race popped up anyway. These days it’s sometimes hard to separate what’s business, what’s political, what’s in between. But at this get together, at which Mayor Bill Vidal was present, conversation soon turned to exactly what I’ve been talking about: the apparent lack of a consensus candidate to make us excited about Denver’s mayoral race.

When Vidal addressed the group, again on a subject that was clearly apolitical, he seemed to enthuse the room. His personal story is compelling. The child of immigrants from Cuba, his upbringing showcases what can happen in America, the land of opportunity. It is awe inspiring.

Add to that a strong resumé in overseeing important city projects, leadership traits that have borne results, and a charm that is natural and understated, and what you get is, perhaps, the making of the kind of candidate Denver has been yearning for.

At least that was the chatter among some of the community’s business leaders and others who are hoping that Vidal reconsiders his earlier position to not run for mayor and merely serve out the few months between Hickenlooper and an elected successor.

Businessman Larry Mizel did more than just allude to it Wednesday night. When introducing Vidal to a crowd at an exhibit opening at the museum which bears his name, he purposely let guests know that perhaps Vidal’s days as mayor aren’t necessarily numbered.

“We welcome you to our community,” Mizel said to Vidal, “and we’re very pleased that under your leadership — for some duration yet to be defined — we will prosper.” Does he know something we don’t?

There are other members of the business community who are hoping to convince Vidal to change his mind and run for the seat he currently occupies on an interim basis. They have lobbied Governor Hickenlooper to exert pressure on Vidal.

“I had not planned on running, and I’ve been pretty consistent saying I haven’t planned to run, and I still have no change in plans, but this is certainly new information, but with as much support as I’m getting it’s something I’ll have to consider,” Vidal told KUSA on Friday aftrenoon.

“I may consider it, but as of right now, I want to be clear, I have not changed my plans,” he said.

Later, in a statement to the Denver Post, Vidal backtracked slightly and reaffirmed his earlier intentions not to run.

But in the next few days, that could change, we hear.

In any case, the fact that this scenario is even being discussed shows that the real race for mayor may not yet have truly begun.

Jody@coloradostatesman.com