This is the second in a series of stories on Denver mayoral candidates in their last days on the campaign trail ahead of the May 7 city election.
Inside Denver mayoral candidate Penfield Tate III’s campaign office, the small white board sign on field operation manager Emily Curtis' desk sends a daily jolt of urgency to all the volunteers who come and go from here.
On April 27, it simply reads “10,” signaling to all that the race that Tate, a former state lawmaker, entered in September was down to that many remaining days.
On this Saturday, everyone is feeling the rush. Curtis had dispatched all her volunteers to canvas their assigned neighborhoods by 11 a.m.
The candidate himself pulls up after making a campaign stop in Montbello and driving south to the Washington Park neighborhood where he was to knock on doors.
Tate is joined there by two of his former statehouse colleagues: Former Rep. Anne McGihon and former state Senate President Joan Fitzgerald, both of whom live nearby.
“I would not want to walk one more precinct in my entire life,” Fitzgerald explains to a couple passing by as Tate handed them his campaign literature.
“Except that it’s Pen,” Fitzgerald added. “It’s important and he’s got the character and the judgment to do something wonderful for the city. I want to stay here as I get older and I need a mayor who’s going to make that possible.”
All neighborhoods are important in a citywide race, but Washington Park is a prime target because of a history of higher-than-average turnout.
On these blocks just south of Exposition Avenue, other volunteers had made some initial contacts. Tate’s job is to close the deal with some of these voters who have been identified as people who likely will casts ballots.
Several of these doorbell rings and knocks go unanswered, which is not surprising, given it's a weekend with nice weather. Tate writes a short note on his campaign flyer and leaves them in the door.
But he hits pay dirt on several other stops.
Emil Marx, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 25 years, tells Tate he will be voting. He and his wife are talking about the candidates and Initiative 300 – which would assert the right of homeless people to live on the street. Marx asks Tate where he stands on the issue.
“It’s a heartfelt response to a problem,” Tate replies. “But I probably won’t vote for it because I don’t think it’s the right solution.” He then outlines his position on dealing with homelessness in the city.
Later, Marx says he and his wife have narrowed their choices for mayor to Tate and Lisa Calderón, a Regis University criminal justice professor.
He adds, “I think talking to him really impressed me and I liked his answers a lot.” Marx agrees to consider putting up a lawn sign after he can consult with his wife.
Nearby, Bob Vance is working on his lawn when Tate approaches him.
“I won’t [put up your] yard sign, but I’ll give you my vote,” Vance said, explaining he wants to keep his lawn uncluttered.
“I think our city definitely needs some change from the current leadership,” Vance says later when asked why he supports Tate. “And I want someone in there who’s more experienced and has some experience in business and government.”
Door-to-door campaigning is a labor-intensive and time-consuming task. In about 90 minutes, Tate only has conversations with about 15 voters. But it’s worth every minute, Tate said.
“I know this is the highest quality contact,” he says. “And I know that if I do this and I convince a person that I’m their candidate in the doorway, nothing they read or hear about me no matter how vile or awful is going to change their mind. Because they’re going to tell their neighbors, ‘No. Because he was standing right here on my porch and I talked to him.”
And those people talk to other people, so there’s a ripple effect, Tate says.
“Plus, at the end of the day, it’s fun, he adds. “If there’s anything that’s fun campaigning, it’s doing this.”
Then, as if on cue, Judy Anderson, a Platt Park resident, pulls up on her bicycle and tells Tate, “I voted for you!”
“He’s a real community person and he gets consensus really well,” Anderson says later. “He might not be as flashy as some of the others but he’s authentic and we trust him.”