This spring, mayoral candidate Kalyn Rose Heffernan could have been busy printing fliers or billboards, but she and her supporters were focused on a different mission: to build more wheelchair ramps. And that’s just what they did. Thanks to Heffernan’s campaign, there are a handful of newly accessible places in Denver, including Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center in Five Points and the Harm Reduction Action Center.
That’s one of the reasons why Heffernan—an activist, artist, educator, and musician—felt like her campaign was a success even before ballots were counted in the general election on May 7. Heffernan used the spotlight to talk about issues she cares about, to raise awareness, and to redefine how political campaigning works.
Ultimately, Heffernan finished fifth on the ballot with 4,481 votes. And, unlike some of her other opponents, Heffernan hasn’t endorsed either Mayor Michael Hancock or Jamie Giellis in the runoff election. Nor does she plan to tell her supporters how to vote.
“I definitely don’t feel good about asking people to go either direction, because it’s not an easy choice,” she says. “I’m really struggling with what I’m going to do personally. I know a lot of people who are going to leave it blank and I can’t shame anyone for doing that.”
Instead, Heffernan is taking a break and then building on what her campaign started by creating more ramps and hosting events that raise conversation, encourage civic discourse, and connect people. Her website and social media accounts will remain active with details on upcoming events. “We jumped into politics and we’re trying to be very creative and intentional about how we hold events,” she says. “I still have a responsibility to the city.”