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With 17 candidates running in Denver’s April 4 election to be city’s next mayor, it’s difficult to really get to know each one. We’re here to help. 

The Colorado Sun figured we’d introduce Denverites to the candidates through the way most people know and interact with the Mile High City’s mayor: the sound of their voice on the Denver International Airport train as it approaches the baggage claim.

We asked each candidate to record their own 15-second airport train greeting. The Sun also asked each candidate to share their campaign platform. Finally, we provided a brief biography and, even though the mayoral race is nonpartisan, information on the party affiliation of each contender. 

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote on April 4, the top two vote-getters will advance to a June 6 runoff, so the race for the job that pays nearly $200,000 a year could run well into late spring.

Holllllld on please. This article is departing the station for all candidates (who responded to our request). 

The candidate order in this article is the same as it will appear on the ballot. The candidates’ platforms are shared verbatim with light editing for style and clarity.

Lisa Calderón

Bio: Lisa Calderón is executive director of Emerge Colorado, which trains women to run for public office. She is also on the faculty at Regis University. Calderón ran for mayor unsuccessfully in 2019.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: I’m running to decentralize city government, put services into our neighborhoods and co-govern with community stakeholders. As mayor, I will create publicly funded affordable housing, serve our unhoused neighbors with real solutions, reject the false binary between over-policing and community safety, and build a Denver in which everyone can afford to live, work and enjoy. 

It’s time to reimagine Denver. We need to move away from false choices: renters vs. owners, housed vs. unhoused, drivers vs. bike riders, etc. Multiple truths can co-exist. We need both affordable housing and green spaces; community safety and police reform; and multimodal transportation options. Together, we can reimagine a city that works for all of us.

We can have social housing and green space. We can have community safety and hold the police accountable. We can make Denver a more affordable city for everyone.

I’m running for mayor because I know we need change — desperately — and that I have the values, experience and political will necessary to disrupt politics as usual, decentralize our “strong mayor” system and truly create a Denver that works for everyone.

Denver7 interview >>


Trinidad Rodriguez

Bio: Trinidad Rodriguez is a Denver native whose career has been in finance. He served as a board member for the Denver Housing Authority and the Downtown Denver Partnership, and was part of Blueprint Denver, a task force charged with creating a master plan for the Mile High City. In the 1990s, he worked as a policy adviser in then-Gov. Roy Romer’s administration.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: Trinidad’s vision for Denver is to build a city where every Denverite, regardless of the neighborhood they’re in, can achieve their version of success. 

His top three issues are tackling homelessness, public safety and affordability. The first step to address homelessness is to declare an emergency to set up a temporary field treatment center, and provide unhoused folks who are treatment resistant and pose a threat to themselves or others with treatment on a voluntary and involuntary basis. 

The first step to address public safety is to restore Denver’s police ranks so that it is proportional to the population size. And to address affordability is to both accelerate and increase the supply and diversity of housing, and invest in education to raise incomes. 

Denver7 interview >>

(Martinez did not submit an airport train recording.)

Aurelio Martinez

Bio: Aurelio Martinez grew up in Denver. He is a small-business owner and former boxer.

Voter registration: Martinez switched his registration to unaffiliated from Democratic in 2020.


Candidate-submitted platform:

Candidate-submitted platform: Martinez did not respond to The Sun’s request for information, nor did he submit an airport train greeting.

Martinez’s website says he wants to focus on housing and gentrification, homelessness and beautifying Denver.

Denver7 interview >>

Thomas Wolf

Bio: Thomas Wolf is an investment and finance specialist. He is a managing director at CREWE, a Denver investment banking and wealth management firm, and has an MBA in finance from the University of Denver. He has also done nonprofit work in affordable housing, art and education.

Voter registration: Wolf switched to unaffiliated from Libertarian in 2019.


Candidate-submitted platform: Encampments are our root problem and require our tough love. Encampments are destroying Denver physically, mentally and financially. 

If you have seen, smelled, or heard an encampment, I am sure you can quickly join me in acknowledging this as a humanitarian crisis. Shelter is the answer, provided by your city on its land and within its surplus buildings. 

To not shelter Denver’s neediest is inhumane and inexcusable.

9News interview >>

(Gardner did not submit an airport train recording.)

Al Gardner

Bio: Al Gardner describes himself as an information technology executive.

Voter registration: Gardner switched his affiliation to Democratic from Republican in July 2019. He was also registered as a Democrat from 2012 to 2014.


Candidate-submitted platform: Gardner did not respond to The Sun’s request for information, nor did he submit an airport train greeting.

Gardner’s website says he is focused on economic growth, public safety and “affordable living.”

Denver7 interview >>

Terrance Roberts

Bio: Terrance Roberts is an anti-gang and social justice activist based in Denver’s Park Hill neighborhood. He’s the subject of the book and documentary “The Holly: Five Bullets, One Gun, and the Struggle to Save an American Neighborhood.” Roberts was a leader in the Bloods gang in Denver, but separated from the group after serving prison time. Roberts shot a man in 2013 who he said was threatening him. A jury acquitted Roberts of charges, including attempted murder, in the case.

Voter registration: Roberts changed his registration to Democratic from unaffiliated in 2021.


Candidate-submitted platform: I am running for mayor to save our city by housing every single person in Denver and getting poverty off our streets. 

We cannot expect to live in a safe community when our neighbors are attempting to survive in the streets. By creating a public bank that funds public social housing for everyone, regardless of income, we will end homelessness and make our community safer for everyone. This bank will create the opportunity for economic retention instead of lining the pockets of banks with the profits of our investments. We must strengthen our democracy by reducing the term of the mayor, instituting ranked-choice voting, and making many of the current mayoral appointments either elected or appointed by City Council. 

Lastly, we must help our local small businesses. We must also make Denver accessible to all residents by making Denver a 24-hour, all-inclusive city by pushing back closing hours for businesses to prevent cluttered and dangerous situations when bars let out. We can incentivize businesses to stay open later to serve residents who work late and miss out on the opportunity to participate in city culture

Denver7 interview >>

Kwame Spearman (exited race on March 16)

Bio: Kwame Spearman is a Denver native who attended East High School and holds degrees from Yale Law School, Harvard Business School and Columbia University. He is the co-owner of the Tattered Cover Book Store.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: Kwame is committed to building the city we deserve — and can afford.

His plan for revitalizing Denver focuses on building a thriving local economy that supports, hires and develops locally, on providing world-class education and workforce development opportunities, on building Denver-first infrastructure and public transportation, and on addressing the needs of our unhoused neighbors and tackling rising crime. 

9News interview >>

(Behrens did not submit an airport train recording.)

Renate Behrens

Bio: Renate Behrens is a native of Germany who moved to Colorado in 2008. She has experienced homelessness in Denver.

Voter registration: Unaffiliated

Website: None

Candidate-submitted platform (lightly edited for clarity): What I want to do is remove the brown cloud by offering free, improved public transportation for everyone so no one has to commute by car. We would finally be able to breathe better and make gardens/parks out of the no-use parking spots. I will encourage homeowners to swap their grass/lawn for a productive garden or original CO vegetation.

Homelessness: I will buy second-hand, prefabricated houses, like mobile homes. Six simple units each cost $25,000 to $30,000. I want to install them on public land inside the city, even downtown. But I will not share where right now.

Every government employee/official should be obliged to use public transportation only.

I will improve roads. We are the greatest pothole country on Earth.

If we cannot do the job properly, hire Europeans!

Sidewalks. If on city property, they should be maintained by the city or by prisoners. We have an abundance of them.

9News interview >>

Chris Hansen

Bio: Chris Hansen is a state senator who has served in the legislature for seven years. He is an engineer by training and has more than 20 years experience working in the renewable energy sector.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: Chris Hansen knows we need to build a city that works, which means a safer, more affordable and greener Denver. As mayor, Chris will prioritize public safety and will recruit, retain and highly train public safety officers so we have a department that is accountable and works for everyone. 

Chris will audit the homelessness programs and ensure we’re investing in programs that show results and cutting ones that don’t. Chris will enforce the camping ban because we need to get folks into housing with wraparound services, like substance use and mental health treatment, as well as job training, in order to help the unhoused get back on their feet. 

As mayor, Chris will also help Denver make the transition to clean energy by electrifying city buildings and fleets, adding EV charging infrastructure and reducing transportation emissions. He envisions Denver as a connected, dynamic, thriving city and he has the skill set to help Denver become a city that works.

9News interview >>


Mike Johnston

Bio: Mike Johnston is a former state senator. He ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018 and for U.S. Senate in 2020. He’s a former school teacher and principal. He most recently served president and CEO of Gary Community Ventures, a nonprofit active in promoting statewide ballot initiatives.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: I’m running for Mayor to fix Denver’s toughest challenges. 

My top priorities are:

  • Affordable housing: We need to take immediate action to make sure our nurses, police officers, firefighters and workers who serve our city can afford to live here. I have committed to the most ambitious housing plan of anyone in the race, with a fully funded plan to build 25,000 permanently affordable housing units, expanding home ownership through more down payment assistance to help Denverites buy homes and build wealth.
  • Ending homelessness: We have a moral obligation to ensure every resident has safe, stable, dignified housing. As mayor, I will build 10-20 micro-communities composed of 1,400 tiny homes throughout the city for unsheltered Denverites, which will include wraparound services like mental health and addiction care. I’ll make sure the city takes a compassionate approach to ending homelessness without sacrificing the safety of our public spaces.
  • Public safety: I will implement a smart, fair, and compassionate public safety plan that will restore civility and protect our neighborhoods by enforcing common-sense approaches to crime and investing in ensuring our first responders are community-focused. This includes putting 200 more first responders on the street and adding an auto theft unit to the Denver Police Department.

9News interview >>

(Walsh did not submit an airport train recording.)


James Walsh

Bio: James Walsh has taught history and political science courses at the University of Colorado Denver since 1998. He founded the Romero Theater Troupe, an all-volunteer social justice community theater group.

Voter registration: Unaffiliated


Candidate-submitted platform: Walsh did not respond to The Sun’s request for information, nor did he submit an airport train greeting.

Walsh’s website says as mayor he would “ensure that the principles of harm reduction are implemented in public health policy” and that he would “build spaces in city government where communities who are directly impacted by policies — such as those who are unhoused or undocumented — have a direct voice in crafting those policies.”

Denver7 interview >>

Ean Thomas Tafoya

Bio: A fourth-generation Denverite, Ean Thomas Tafoya is a civil rights and environmental justice activist. The former teacher serves as co-chair of the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Task Force and graduated from Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Voter registration: Democratic. He was unaffiliated from 2011 to 2015.


Candidate-submitted platform: I understand the daily struggle residents go through, and I have the political experience to enact the solutions. 

My priorities are using regional cooperation to address key issues like the environment, housing, public health and safety. I want to use public banking, as well as state and federal funding, to finance unprecedented investment in a renewable transition with a focus on those who’ve been most harmed by pollution and environmental racism. We can create local union jobs as we construct sustainable buildings working families can afford, retrofit existing homes to bring energy bills down, electrify and expand our public transit, invest in community-owned renewable energy and build out parks and urban farms. 

We’re going to stand up to corporations, whether they’re polluting our neighborhoods or exploiting tenants with impossibly high rent increases. And we’re going to invest in data-driven solutions that get at the root of our problems, from housing the unhoused to building out community-led mental health support and addiction treatment. Traditionally our communities have been excluded from the policymaking table. 

As mayor I won’t just bring people to the table — we’ll build a new one, together.

9News interview >>

Andy Rougeot

Bio: Andy Rougeot is a former U.S. Army officer and small-business owner who moved to Colorado in 2011 when he was assigned to Fort Carson in Colorado Springs. Rougeot, a graduate of Harvard Business School who owned a company that did commercial property maintenance, lives in Denver with his wife and their two daughters. He is the son of the CEO of Sephora.

Voter registration: Republican


Candidate-submitted platform: Andy Rougeot is running for mayor to fight for Denver’s future making our streets safe, enforcing the camping ban and making housing more affordable. 

Andy will make our city safer by adding 400 more police officers to the Denver Police Department and improve policing with more training and better funding for law enforcement.

Denver deserves leadership with the resolve to address our homelessness crisis head on. Andy will enforce the camping ban to get homeless people into drug addiction and mental health services, while increasing support for programs that address the root causes of most chronic homelessness — mental illness and addiction.

Andy will fight for Denver’s future and make housing more affordable by reducing out-of-control regulations that have contributed to Denver’s skyrocketing cost for housing. Every Denverite who wants to own a home in our beautiful city deserves the opportunity to build a future for their family.

Leslie Herod

Bio: Leslie Herod is a state representative. She was the first LGBTQ+ Black person elected to the Colorado legislature. Herod graduated from the University of Colorado and was one of the cofounders of New Era Colorado, a progressive nonprofit that works to get young people involved in politics.

Voter registration: Democratic


As a legislator and community leader she has championed legislation to directly improve the lives of all Coloradans. 

From working with both community members and law enforcement to champion the STAR Program — an alternative policing program to deploy trained mental health workers and paramedics to respond to 911 calls involving mental health crises and substance misuse — to developing the Caring for Denver ballot initiative, which has raised over $100 million for Denver mental health organizations, Leslie brings people together to get real results that improve the lives of people in the community. 

Now, Leslie is ready to bring that same approach of putting results over politics to the Denver  Mayor’s Office. As mayor, she’ll focus on addressing the day-to-day issues impacting our lives: affordable housing, safer communities for our families, and the homelessness crisis while also ensuring the work of the city gets done.

9News interview >>

(Treta did not submit an airport train recording.)

Robert Treta

Bio: Robert Treta, who moved to Denver from New Jersey in 1996, is a contractor.

Voter registration: Treta switched his registration to unaffiliated from Democratic in late 2022.


Candidate-submitted platform: Treta did not respond to The Sun’s request for information, nor did he submit an airport train greeting.

Treta’s website says he wants to address homelessness, improve air quality and boost renewable energy.

Denver7 interview >>

Debbie Ortega

Bio: Debbie Ortega is an at-large Denver city councilwoman. She helped lead the push for an ordinance prompting the cleanup of environmental waste in Denver’s Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: Our next mayor will shape what Denver looks like for decades to come, and Debbie is prepared to hit the ground running with specific plans for our shared challenges and opportunities:  

  • Attainable housing: Hardworking people should be able to live in Denver. Debbie will invest in alternative housing and identify vacant public lands for manufactured housing at 40% the cost of on-site new construction. She will fix the broken permitting process to bring affordable housing online more efficiently. 
  • Public safety: As mayor, Debbie will set up a Metro Crime Task Force to stop the flow of lethal drugs and guns, and crack down on car, bike and catalytic converter crimes. She will invest in recruitment, retention and training in public safety departments to build stronger community-police relationships and expand patrols in neighborhoods.
  • Homelessness: There is no one-size-fits-all solution to homelessness, but Denver needs more treatment beds for unhoused people in crisis. Debbie will declare homelessness a public emergency to mobilize resources. She will expand single-room occupancy housing and prioritize regional partnerships for wraparound services — including the missing piece of job connection and helping people to self-sufficiency.

Denver7 interview >>

Kelly Brough

Bio: Kelly Brough is a former policy analyst for Denver City Council, chief of staff to John Hickenlooper when he was mayor, president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and chief strategy officer at Metropolitan State University Denver.

Voter registration: Democratic


Candidate-submitted platform: I love Denver and I believe in the promise it holds. Unfortunately, we’re not realizing that promise today. The challenges facing Denver are real and urgent. I will focus on solving those challenges to restore the quality-of-life Denver residents expect and deserve. My experiences — professional and personal — have prepared me to lead this city, in this moment and address these issues. 

My top three priorities are:

  • Community safety: Work with our public safety officials to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability. Recruit and retain more officers to the force, particularly women and people of color, to fill our current levels of authorized strength and expand co-responder and STAR programs. Address the drivers of crime to improve safety throughout Denver. 
  • Homelessness: End unsanctioned encampments in my first year in office by building more shelters and housing. Work with cities and counties throughout our region to strengthen data systems and make smart decisions about where to invest resources.
  • Housing: Build for-sale housing on city-owned property, incentivize the transition of vacant office space to residential units and increase density along major transportation corridors and by empowering homeowners to develop accessory-dwelling units, or “granny flats.” Change the city’s approach to development review.

9News interview >>

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...

Elliott Wenzler wrote about politics, water, housing, and other topics for The Colorado Sun from October 2022 through September 2023. She has covered community issues in Colorado since 2019, including for Colorado Community Media. She has been...