Denver mayor candidates debate

Denver mayor candidates clash in the 9News/Colorado Politics debate on Wednesday, April 17, 2019. From left: Lisa Calderon, Jamie Giellis, Michael Hancock and Penfield Tate III. Calderon and Tate were eliminated in the May 7 general election; Hancock and Giellis face each other in Tuesday's runoff.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock maintains a big lead in raising campaign funds for the June 4 runoff election, but challenger Jamie Giellis also saw a significant bump in her fundraising after making it into the runoff.

The campaign reports also showed five contributions totaling $15,000 to former candidate Lisa Calderón from companies associated with developer Kyle Zeppelin and his family, who have been supporters of Giellis. Calderón has endorsed Giellis.

Another former candidate, Penfield Tate III, also received money after his defeat in the May 7 general election.

The donations came after Calderón and Tate, gave their support to Giellis as part of a “unity ticket.”

Tate confirmed that his campaign has received two $3,000 contributions each from two other companies associated with the Zeppelin family.

The donations to Calderón prompted a claim from the Hancock campaign, alleging that they show “pay-to-play politics.”

“Kyle Zeppelin put up a lot of money on behalf of Jamie Giellis to 'earn' Lisa Calderón's support,” Hancock campaign spokeswoman April Valdez Villa said in an email. “That's an expensive endorsement.”

Andra Zeppelin told Marshall Zelinger of 9News' "Next with the Kyle Clark" that the donations were “absolutely not” made in exchange for Calderón’s endorsement of Giellis.

Calderón and Tate offered their support to Giellis on May 13; the donations are dated May 16.

"We have a long history of supporting opposition candidates in general, and this mayoral race in particular," Andra Zeppelin told 9News. "We've always been 'Team Change.' Supporting a candidate who tried her hardest to bring about that change is consistent with what we've been trying to do that whole time."

Calderón issued a statement that did not directly address the specific donations, but noted that:

“Immediately following the campaign, we asked the community to help cover the final costs for voter outreach through emails and social media,” she wrote. “We were very grateful at the outpouring of support.”

The practice of former rivals  helping each other out after an election is not without precedent in Denver.

In 2011, some of Hancock’s supporters helped pay down the campaign debt of former City Councilwoman Carol Boignan before she dropped out of the general election race and endorsed Hancock.

But Valdez Villa said the timing was different. In that case, she said a fundraiser for Boignan’s campaign debt was help nearly a year after the race ended.

Meanwhile, the Giellis campaign also is paying a $500 fine to the Denver Elections Commission.

Giellis campaign spokeswoman Meghan Dougherty confirmed that the fine was for a letter sent to Denver Republicans but that failed to indicate that it was a message from the Giellis campaign.

The latest batch of campaign finance reports show that Hancock, who is seeking his third and final four-year term, has raised $2,747,038 in the election cycle thus far, including $648,818 raised since the May 7 general election.

Hancock finished first among six candidates in that race with nearly 39% of the vote, but not enough to avoid a runoff with Giellis, an urban planner and former president of the River North Arts District, who finished second with nearly 25% of the vote.

The latest campaign finance report by the Giellis campaign shows that she has raised $714,367 during the entire election cycle including $208,493 raised since the May 7 general election.

Hancock donors since then include former Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who contributed $3,000, and former Denver First Lady Wilma Webb who gave $1,000.

Other Hancock campaign donors include Southwest Airlines, $3,000; the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, $3,000 and City Councilwoman Kendra Black, $750. Giellis’ former husband James Licko contributed $2,000 to the Hancock campaign.

The Giellis campaign received a $1,000 contribution from Chris Romer and a $2,000 donation from former Colorado First Lady Bea Romer. Hancock defeated Chris Romer, a former state senator, in a hotly contested runoff election in June 2011.

Other Giellis contributors include her husband Tim Giellis, $1,000; the Apartment Association of Metro Denver, $3,000, the Amalgamated Transit Union, $1,000, former Colorado First Lady Dottie Lamm, $200 and City Councilman Rafael Espinoza, $20.

9News contributed.

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