The Week John Hickenlooper, State Lawmakers—and Even Tom Tancredo—Got Snared in Denver's Race for Mayor

May 20 2011, 10:05 AM

The last time we checked in on Denver's mayoral race, former Mayor Federico Peña was set to announce his support for Chris Romer. He did, and the endorsement kicked off perhaps the most contentious week so far of the 2011 municipal election.

During a press conference for the endorsement Monday, Peña became visibly irked when a staffer from Michael Hancock's campaign (the daughter of another politically prominent area Latino, Paul Sandoval) asked Peña if he was aligning himself with "the slanderous lies going on" (CBS4). After a few more ostensibly combative questions from Hancock supporters, Peña shut the conference down, but the incident was merely the first salvo fired in what became a weeklong war over a campaign commercial.

The spot in question began airing last week (Fox31). In it, the Romer camp blasts Hancock for voting to increase Denver's elected officials' salaries while the budget languishes. The Spot's Political Polygraph evaluated the ad as "leans deceptive," and the candidates tangled over the specifics during a Monday night debate.

Romer has been pumping considerably more cash into television commercials, but this particular ad (scroll down to watch it) created enough heat to draw alleged criticism from Governor John Hickenlooper, who had expressed scant opinions publicly about the race until last week (Fox31). Although Hick's true influence remains unsubstantiated, Romer pulled the ad Tuesday, saying it had "run its course" (Denver Post).

Other elected officials are weighing in more heavily on mayoral politics: Denver-area Democratic state legislators Daniel Kagan and Joyce Foster launched email campaigns over which candidate is more "progressive," particularly when it comes to women's rights and religion, while former state House Speaker Terrance Carroll took to Twitter and former mayoral candidate James Mejia issued an "open letter to Michael Hancock" to question the endorsement episode involving Hancock's staffers (The Spot).

Before voters selected Romer and Hancock to proceed to the June 7 runoff, Mejia was Peña's candidate of choice. So it was reportedly even more surprising to Hancock when Peña, "his most cherished political coach," backed Romer this week instead (Post). Some observers believe Peña's "snub" and former Mayor Wellington Webb's endorsement of fellow African-American Hancock—despite having a closer relationship with Romer—are signs of how "community pressure" along racial and ethnic lines are influencing the election.

The influence of an unexpected—and likely unsolicited—endorsement is a lot more questionable: former Republican U.S. Congressman Tom Tancredo says if he lived in Denver, he'd vote for Hancock over Romer (The Spot).