Three Denver City Council members were defeated in the city runoff election -- an outcome that could pose a challenge for Mayor Michael Hancock as he begins his third term, particularly on development issues.
In all, five seats representing scattered areas of Denver were decided in the runoff election that ended Tuesday, with two of the races for open seats. And all five of the council newcomers raised concerns about current city development practices during their campaigns.
The other eight of the council's 13 seats were filled in Denver's May 7 general election, including two at-large positions representing the entire city.
Incumbents rarely lose Denver City Council elections; prior to now, just two had been unseated by a challenger in more than three decades, Denverite reported.
And the apparent rejection of the three council incumbents came in the same election that saw Hancock win a third term by a 12.6-point margin.
One of the ousted incumbents is District 9 Councilman Albus Brooks, a former council president and ally of Hancock's.
He lost by 4.9 percentage points to challenger Candi CdeBaca, who has raised questions about the rapid pace of city growth under the mayor.
During the campaign, CdeBaca advocated a community bill of rights for development and shifting the burden of growth to corporations.
In unofficial results Wednesday, CdeBaca had 52.4% of the vote and Brooks had 47.6%
District 9 encompasses the city’s North Central neighborhoods.
CdeBaca -- co-founder and former executive director of Project VOYCE -- has said she will focus on housing, wages, traffic, pollution, transparency and accountability on the council.
In council District 5, newcomer Amanda Sawyer bested two-term Denver Councilwoman Mary Beth Susman. Sawyer led in unofficial returns with 58.2% of the vote to Susman’s 41.9%
Susman conceded to Sawyer shortly after the polls closed.
During the campaign, Sawyer said she wants to rein in luxury developments that don’t serve middle-income residents, and has been vocal at City Council meetings about development.
“Our campaign has had a simple goal – to lift up the voices of our neighborhoods without accepting contributions from Big Developers,” Sawyer said in a statement posted to social media after the polls closed. “Tonight, even though we were outspent over 7-1 in the runoff, we proved that the ‘soul’ of our city is not found in the pockets of Big Developers, but in the hard-working people who live here.”
“As we move forward, I will bring a thoughtful, long-term approach to local government. Our work is just beginning.”
Sawyer, a licensed lawyer, will represent East Central Denver’s Hale, Montclair, East, Hilltop, Lowry Field, Washington Virginia Vale and Windsor neighborhoods.
Susman joined the council in 2011 and served as council president from 2012 to 2014. That's when she helped direct the city’s recreational marijuana legislation and taxation.
Susman has been a advocate for transportation improvements during her council tenure and helped in creating the city’s new Mobility Department to focus on sustainable transportation in the city.
In a statement Tuesday night, Susman, in part, congratulated Sawyer on her win.
“The last eight years have been the highlight of my professional career,” Susman said in a statement on social media. “I've met so many people and met so many new friends -- none of which would have been possible without the privilege the voters gave me back in 2011. I congratulated Amanda Sawyer earlier tonight and wished her well.”
While historic, Sawyer’s victory wasn’t a shocker, as she also bested Susman in the first round of Denver municipal elections on May 7. Sawyer, however, wasn’t able to garner a majority of the vote, triggering a runoff election.
Meanwhile, in Central Denver's District 10, challenger Chris Hinds topped incumbent Wayne New, who was seeking a second term. Hinds had 53.4% of the vote to New’s 46.6% in unofficial tallies.
Hinds’ campaign platform focused on affordable housing, a transportation system that prioritizes people over cars, safer streets and his support of legalized cannabis.
The needs of Denverites should be put before the desires of developers, Hinds said during the campaign. He advocated a master plan that drives development in the city, in lieu of “willy nilly” growth.
Two other races in the runoff filled open council seats.
In a duel of Denver Fire Department employees to represent Northwest Denver’s District 1, Amanda Sandoval, an outreach program manager and legislative liaison for the department, held a 2-1 advantage over Fire Department Lt. Michael Somma Wednesday, with 66.6% of the vote to Somma's 33.4%.
Sandoval during the campaign said she would focus her attention on unstable development plaguing the district and the “desperate” need for affordable housing.
The race was for an open seat after Councilman Rafael Espinoza ended his bid for re-election last December.
And in West Denver's District 3, unofficial returns had Jamie Torres -- deputy director of Denver’s Human Rights & Community Partnerships Agency and director of the Denver Office of Immigrant & Refugee Affairs -- leading community organizer/civil rights advocate Veronica Barela, 57.4% to 42.7%.
Torres has advocated more of a community voice on development.
District 3 also was an open race, with current Councilman Paul López exiting to run for clerk and recorder.
Denver City Council members earn annual salaries of $91,915 and the body president makes $102,928. Council terms run four years; members can serve up to three terms.
The Denver Election Division still was counting "a few additional ballots that will require processing later today as part of the normal post-Election Day administrative process," spokesman Alton Dillard said.
And, over the next eight days, military and overseas ballots will be counted and officials will review any ballots left unsigned or with signature issues, Dillard said.