A mayoral debate before the Lincoln Club and the Denver Republican Party on Monday night had a little bit of everything:
- There was a shouting candidate led out of the South High School auditorium by police.
- There were conservative voters, some carrying signs calling for the repeal of a state bill that would replace the electoral college with the popular vote.
- And there was advice from the candidates on what to see -- and not see -- in Denver and who they would take along on a tour.
Here are some of the highlights of the 90-minute debate between incumbent Michael Hancock and challengers Penfield Tate III, Jamie Giellis and Lisa Calderon.
“Why am I not up here?”
As a prelude to a question on traffic, moderator Steffan Tubbs asked how many of the more that 160 people in the room thought there are no traffic problem in Denver.
One man raised his hand, but he didn’t have traffic on his mind.
“Why am I not up here?” shouted Stephan Evans, also known as Chairman Seku, who also is running for mayor but was not part of the debate panel. As he continued with a profanity laced tirade, two Denver police officers ushered him out of the auditorium.
“That will be the final question to the audience tonight,” Tubbs quipped.
Evans and another mayoral candidate, Kalyn Rose Heffernan, are on the May 7 city ballot. But organizers said neither were not invited because they trail in fund raising and viability.
Places not to go in Denver
The debate covered familiar topics such as growth and development, homelessness and traffic. But Tubbs threw a curve ball at the candidates when he asked them where they would tell tourists not to go in Denver.
Hancock said he would tell them to steer clear of the Metro Wastewater treatment plant, which he toured last year.
The technology was interesting. But the odor was rank, Hancock said.
“It will jack your stomach up,” he said. “It will ruin your day.”
Giellis, a former president of the River North Art District, said there are parts of the South Platte River where she would not send visitors.
“I think it’s very sad to see the river which is at the heart of our community which should truly be an amenity and see how brown it is and how often times our homeless end up there sleeping on the river,” she said.
Tate, a former state legislator, said he would tell visitors – in sorrow and disappointment – not to spend time on the 16th Street Mall.
“Community police and law enforcement and safety and security has not done well on the 16th Street Mall,” Tate said.
“We have too many vacant store fronts because we have not focused on redeveloping those areas like we have some other neighborhoods,” he added.
Calderon, a criminal justice professor at Regis University, said she would tell people not to travel the section of the I-70 corridor where construction is underway to make it a 10-lane highway.
“I live near there and sometimes it can take me as long just to get out of my neighborhood out onto the highway at it is once I get on the highway to my destination,” Calderon said.
She said the construction also is kicking up so many contaminants that residents sued to obtain stricter oversight of the project.
Places to go to in Denver
Tubbs also asked the candidates who would they want to take along on a four-hour tour of Denver and where would they go?
Tate said he’d go to Dazzle for jazz, Las Delicias or Venice for dinner and to City Park to watch the sunset over Ferril Lake.
After mulling who he would take, Tate got a rise from the audience when he suggested Donald Trump.
“Sometimes I think you invite people to come spend time with you because you want to understand them, understand their point of view and figure out where they are coming from,” Tate said.
Hancock said he wouldn’t invite Donald Trump. And he would go to see the South Platte at Confluence Park.
“That’s the birthplace of this great city,” he said. “I think there’s a great story to tell down there in terms of its reclamation of that waterway.”
As for who he would take, Hancock briefly drew a blank on the name of the new Denver Broncos starting quarterback.
“Joe Flacco?” Tubbs asked.
“Thank you," Hancock replied. “I have some things to talk to him about.”
Calderon said she would take her hero Diane Nash, who helped integrate lunch counters during the Civil Rights movement, to the historic Five Points and Cole neighborhoods and North Denver.
“The reason I’d want to have a talk with her is to help inspire our young people to keep going,” Calderon said.
Giellis said she would invite her 7 and 8-year-old nieces to Denver. Both have hearing impairments and have grown up on Air Force bases around the county with their parents.
She would take them to museums, the River North Arts district and go for rides on Light Rail and even a campaign event.
“They are my heart and soul,” Giellis said. “And I want them to see this amazing city through my eyes.”
Denver in one word
Tubbs closed by asking the candidates to describe the city in one word.
Here’s what they said:
Calderon: “Can do better.”