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Sloan Lake. Photo by Jay Bouchard

Denver’s 2019 City Council Race: District 1

A primer on the issues and candidates in District 1, ahead of the 2019 municipal election. (You can vote by mail or in-person on May 7.)

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Update: After the May 7 election, no candidate in District 1 received more than 50 percent of the vote, and therefore the two top vote-getters, Amanda Sandoval (31 percent) and Mike Somma (18 percent), are on the June 4 runoff ballot. 


The Neighborhoods in District 1: Most of northwest Denver, including Highland, Sunnyside, Sloan’s Lake, West Highland, Berkeley, Chaffee Park, Jefferson Park, and part of West Colfax

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Who Lives There: With an average age of 39 and an average income of $51,117, District 1 features primarily white residents (77 percent), while only one and three residents identify as Hispanic.

About the District: Over the past decade, the neighborhoods in northwest Denver have seen real estate prices soar as it’s become one of the more popular parts of the city for both renters and buyers. As such, development has sped up across the district—including the emergence of more apartment buildings and controversial slot homes, which led Councilman Rafael Espinoza to push for new requirements to keep neighbors informed about zoning changes. As the district has grown in population, it has also faced infrastructure pressures, particular in terms of pedestrians and drivers. In 2017, the Denver Police Department partnered with the district to reduce the number of drivers speeding in the neighborhood.

You Might Remember When… In May 2018, Denver City Council voted unanimously to ban the construction of slot homes—very narrow, side-by-side residences often built perpendicular to city streets (and commonly facing each other) which maximize the number units but do not harmonize well with surrounding neighborhoods. The practice in Denver was widely condemned as an abuse of zoning laws that robbed historic neighborhoods of their character. The new law will not impact slot home projects that were in motion before the moratorium, so several are still being built throughout northwest Denver. However, their emergence will dwindle in the years ahead.

Who’s Running (And Who’s Not) 

One of the bigger stories of the municipal election season was that incumbent Councilman Rafael Espinoza suspended his campaign for reelection in December, citing his ability to be more effective at reigning in development as a private citizen. The largest pool of candidates of any district is running to replace him.

Victoria Aguilar, who was born and raised in northwest Denver, has spent the past decade working with Denver Human Services to connect marginalized communities to city services. She’s also the co-chair of the Denver Immigrant and Refugee Commission.

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Sabrina D’Agosta is a Denver native who has spent the past two decades in public service, including policy and communications work for the Mayor’s Office and collaborating with other city departments. She also touts her volunteer experience working with at-risk students in the city’s schools.

Scott Alan Durrah, a resident of Highland but originally from Boston, has worn many hats, including that of a restauranteur, entrepreneur, U.S. Marine, and marijuana industry veteran. He has experience in real estate sales, property management, and is tapping into the cannabis scene to raise money for his campaign.

Praj Kulkarni moved to Sunnyside with his wife and purchased a home in 2013, but he’s been in Denver for about six years. He currently works as an architect, but previously was employed with the Environmental Protection Agency in D.C. He has served as a board member of the Sunnyside Regional Neighborhood Organization for one year, and he’s worked closely with the city’s Department of Human Services.

Amanda Sandoval, a lifelong resident of northwest Denver, has a wide range of public sector experience. She is currently a legislative liaison and outreach manager for the Denver Fire Department, but before that worked for several city councilmembers and on the campaign of former U.S. Senator Ken Salazar and as an intern for Senator Michael Bennet.

David Sabados is a Sunnyside resident who is the executive director of Coloradans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and a consultant at Compass Strategy Group. He’s also a renter in northwest Denver, something he has in common with many voters in the district.

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Mike Somma, a lieutenant in the Denver Fire Department, is the oldest candidate running in the district and has the most years of experience working as a public servant. He graduated from North High School in 1972 and touts his knowledge of northwest Denver in addition to his firefighting career.

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