Home / World News / Michael Hancock is gearing up to run for a third term as Denver’s mayor in 2019, but he likely will face a fight

Michael Hancock is gearing up to run for a third term as Denver’s mayor in 2019, but he likely will face a fight

Michael Hancock looks at the city he has led for more than six years and sees a thriving Denver that has rebounded from the Great Recession, gained national cachet as a millennial magnet and tackled, as best as it can, the challenges that come with a booming population.

He’s eyeing a likely bid for a third term as mayor — an election that is 18 months away, in May 2019. But as time ticks on, Hancock, 48, is finding himself more and more on the defensive.

Last month, outrage greeted a near-downtown coffee shop’s joking sign about gentrification — and it quickly pivoted toward Hancock, as demonstrators sent darts in the direction of city leaders they see as too friendly to developers.

Then there’s the newly created $15 million-a-year affordable housing fund that Hancock has had to defend against criticism that it’s too small for Denver’s needs.

He has also found himself the target of “Ditch the Ditch” activists who are trying to derail the state’s $1.2 billion Interstate 70 expansion project, which Hancock supports, as well as parks lovers who are fighting city stormwater drainage projects on golf courses.

And despite efforts to reform the city’s jails and policing policies, Denver continues to draw criticism as it has paid out more than $19 million in sheriff and police settlements since 2014, largely for jail abuse and use-of-force cases involving minorities.

Two years ago, Hancock waltzed to a second term without an organized opponent. Increasingly, political observers and experts say, it’s looking like he won’t have that luxury in 2019.

For that, the blame largely falls on a prevailing feeling among some residents that Hancock has not responded adequately to the downsides of Denver’s bull-in-a-china-shop economic boom.

“He’s riding high. Denver’s hot. People want to be here,” said Susan Barnes-Gelt, a former City Council member who has been strongly critical of Hancock. “I would say it’s the other side of that same coin that are his greatest vulnerabilities: Real people can’t afford to live here. Rents are high. Among people I talk to who really are not politically attuned, the single biggest thing they’re angry and frustrated about is traffic.”

Denver, which has absorbed a net increase of 83,000 residents since Hancock took office in 2011, was projected to surpass 700,000 this year.

As unrelenting development has disrupted several neighborhoods, a counter-narrative to the Denver success story is uniting Hancock’s critics and has spurred them to organize — though without, so far, recruiting a galvanizing opponent to take him on.

Social-justice activists who are forming a still-unnamed coalition say they want a mayor who pushes back against developers and is willing to take stronger stands in favor of those who are shouldering the burdens of the city’s boom.

As Candi CdeBaca, a community organizer and anti-highway expansion activist in Elyria-Swansea, put it: “We need somebody willing to push the envelope. No more staying safe.”

From left to right Jackie Victor, Louis Plachowski, Keith Loftin and Lisa Claderon hold up signs during a rally near City Park on Dec. 3, 2017, in Denver. A group from City Park Friends and Neighbors organized a rally to "reclaim our city" and to protest the city's decision to cut down over 260 trees in City Park. The removal of the trees is part of the city's plan to use the golf course as a drainage project that is part of the city's larger Platte to Park Hill stormwater plan. The golf course was closed in November and will be closed entirely for up to two years. Some see the reconfiguration of City Park Golf Course as a thinly veiled subterfuge to pave the way for new construction plans on I-70 and along the I-70 corridor.(Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)
Jackie Victor (from left), Louis Plachowski, Keith Loftin and Lisa Calderón hold up signs during a rally near City Park on Dec. 3, 2017, in Denver. A group from City Park Friends and Neighbors organized a rally to “reclaim our city” and to protest the city’s decision to cut down over 260 trees in City Park Golf Course for a stormwater drainage project.

Hancock, too, expects a stronger challenge

In a recent interview in his office, Hancock expressed confidence that voters would share his optimism about Denver’s direction and trust in the plans he has set in motion. Those include a $937 million bond package that won overwhelming voter support just a month ago. The largest piece, $431 million, is for transportation and mobility projects.

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