Challengers attack Hancock as Denver mayor race heats up

DENVER - Voters in the Mile High City are just seven weeks away from an election to determine the next mayor of Colorado's largest city. Mayor Michael Hancock, who has led Denver for eight years, is hoping for a third term. Challengers have been lining up in hopes of ensuring that won't happen.

The candidates faced off during a forum on the Auraria campus Monday. Four people vying to unseat Hancock went on the attack-- putting the incumbent in defensive mode.

The forum was hosted by groups from Community College of Denver and MSU Denver. The overall focus for the five candidates in attendance was quality of life for all Denver residents. Each challenger— in one way or another— vowed to strike a better balance between economic growth and the soaring cost of living.

"The quality of life of the city is really what the focus is here," candidate Jamie Giellis said.

Giellis, known for her work on helping turn RiNo into what it is today, says Denver needs to do a better job at simultaneously investing in the economy and the people. Lisa Calderón and former state lawmaker Penfield Tate agrree. Both Calderón and Tate say Hancock has not done enough to prevent families being pushed out of Denver.

"They're literally being evicted from their own communities because of the development," Tate said.

"If we're just hearing the current administration ... saying how wonderful it is, then [Hancock is] not really hearing the needs of the people," Calderón said.

But Hancock pushed back. He pointed to lower unemployment and what he's described as a prosperous economy under his leadership.

"They're going to spend a lot of time criticizing us, but at the end of the day, the people of Denver want to know what your strategy is," he said after the forum.

Of all the candidates at the forum, community advocate Kalyn Rose Heffernan says her campaign is a true grassroots effort of limited resources. She's focused on the homeless, those with disabilities and other marginalized community members.

"We've been really trying to mobilize people left out of events and conversations," she said.

For some of the students watching the back-and-forth on Monday, the May election will be their first. The forum helped open their eyes to the world of politics.

"I'm still torn," one student told FOX31. "I'm going to really dig in."

If no candidates gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the mayoral race will go into a runoff. The election is set for beginning of May.

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