This is the first in a series of stories on Denver mayoral candidates in their last days on the campaign trail ahead of the May 7 city election.
The days, as the song goes, dwindle down to a precious few.
But it’s April, not September.
And for the candidates running for Denver mayor, days don’t so much dwindle as they blur, one into another, in the final mad sprint toward the May 7 municipal election.
Colorado Politics recently spent a few of these final days and nights tagging along with four of those candidates as they sought to locate every last eligible voter in the bars, patios, parks and neighborhoods of Denver.
We watched and listened as they went door-by-targeted-door, lingered at the edge of spirited volleyball games, petted dogs, held babies and made the rounds in local coffee shops, trying to convince people to mail in their ballots.
They may be facing an uphill battle on that count. Traditionally, spring municipal elections in Denver average about a 30% turnout. Candidates say this year’s turnout has, thus far, been even lighter than usual.
Yet they persist. And in doing so, each candidate’s campaign style says a lot about who they might be if elected Denver’s next mayor.
Here then are some scenes from the waning days of the Denver mayoral race.
It’s five o’clock in the afternoon and the sunlight from the patio slants into the #VYBE bar and nightclub on Broadway on a lovely spring evening.
Denver mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis chats with a patron at the bar. Her campaign’s antique yellow school bus -- a donated 1970s model -- sits parked outside.
The bus has taken Giellis and her campaign staff to all 78 Denver neighborhoods, a tour that began in February and ended last weekend with a stop in the University neighborhood.
On this particular night, the bus has taken her to the first of several bar stops.
The bar patron to whom Giellis had been talking is not registered to vote. But he’s favorably impressed with her after a few minutes of one-to-one conversation.
Giellis, an urban planner making her first bid for public office, fared better with three Denver Public School teachers sitting at a table on the patio after a day’s work at the Contemporary Learning Academy a few blocks away.
She doesn’t talk a lot about her positions in her encounters. But she asks questions of the trio and mostly just listens to them.
After she was done, her campaign message of using her planning skills to better manage Denver’s unprecedented growth seemed to resonate.
For example, Shelby Gonzales-Parker, a 26-year-old first-year teacher, talked about how some of her students take two buses to get to school each morning because their families live so far from the central neighborhoods of the city.
Gonzales-Parker said many of her students come from lower-income families who have moved to neighborhoods like Montbello and Green Valley Ranch in northeast Denver as their parents cope with gentrification and a scarcity of affordable housing.
Denver’s growth was on Lucas Goodrich’s mind. He is also a first-year teacher. Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, he moved to Denver when his partner got a job here.
“I think it’s a double-edged sword," Goodrich said. “More people are good for a city, but also it’s not very good to displace individuals who have been here their entire lives. It’s the only thing they know, and it’s no good to displace those people for luxury condos that are being put up everywhere.”
A third teacher, Jorge Resendez, said he was impressed with Giellis for her willingness to listen to them.
“I appreciate that especially after the teacher strike this year,” he said. “It’s been frustrating that leaders don’t listen to the needs of teachers and students.”
But while they were impressed by Giellis, she did not pick up any firm votes at the table.
Resendez said he can’t vote as an immigrant under the protection of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Goodrich said he had already mailed in his ballot – with a vote for mayor candidate Lisa Calderón – although he said he would reconsider his vote if Giellis makes it into a runoff election.
And Gonzales-Parker said she plans to vote but needs more time to research the candidates. But she said the brief conversation with Giellis helped.
“I haven’t officially made up my mind yet,” she said. “But that definitely affects what I am seeing from all the candidates as far as the effort they’re putting forth.”
Giellis had better luck a few minutes later at another table on the patio where Tony Perry was having beer with a friend after finishing work for the day at a nearby taco restaurant.
Perry had been carrying his mail-in ballot around with him for several days, trying to decide how he wants to vote. He said he is “on the fence” on the city's two ballot issues – on giving the homeless the right to live on the streets and decriminalizing magic mushrooms.
But after a brief conversation with Giellis, he made up his mind on the mayor’s race and filled in the spot next to her name.
“I wanted to ask her directly about the things that bug me as a Denver native,” Perry said. “And she was educated and straight to it in what she can do and cannot do.”
Perry said foremost among those issues is the rising cost of living in Denver. He cited a small apartment where he used to live nearby that went for $450 a few years ago and now rents for $1,450.
“She’s just very personable. … I feel like she has heart in it,” Perry added.
“I’m empathetic, so I can feel that,” he said. “Something just tells me she actually, genuinely cares.”
And with that, Gillies and her team posed for a picture with some of the bar patrons, got back on the yellow bus and moved on to repeat the process at the next stop.