Denver's Democratic History

December 17 2004, 7:32 AM
A recent article in The Nation helps cement the emerging conventional wisdom that the Rocky Mountain states are the new swing territory between the Democrats and Republicans, where Southern-style cultural politics don't move voters to the GOP and a new generation of down-to-earth Democrats like Senator-elect Ken Salazar of Colorado and Governor-elect Brian Schweitzer of Montana are putting the region "into play." Well worth reading. But this statement calls out for a little old school blog-style fact checking:
[T]he Salt Lake Tribune declared on the day after the election, "While the nation and most of Utah tilt further to the right, Salt Lake County is solidifying as a bastion for the left." The new county mayor and the three at-large county council members are all Democrats. The local government wins are part of a trend throughout the region, where Democrats in recent years have taken charge of mayoral posts in Billings, Boise, Denver, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Santa Fe.
I don't think Democrats took control of the mayor's office in Denver in "recent years." In fact, looking at the list of the city's mayors over history, I'm hard pressed to name the last one who was a Republican. John Hickenlooper and his two predecessors, Wellington Webb and Federico Peña, are of course all Democrats. So was Peña's predecessor, William McNichols, and I believe the string of Democratic mayors in Denver goes back even farther than that. (It is hard to find information about the partisan affiliation of Denver mayors because the position is technically non-partisan.) So if you are looking for the trend away from Republican domination in the Rockies, Denver really isn't the place to look. This city, which went 70-29 for Kerry in last month's election, has been a fairly traditional Democratic urban area for a long time.