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Hancock vs. Giellis in wildest Denver mayoral race

How Jamie Giellis blew voters away

Denverites were lukewarm to both Mayoral candidates.
Photo: Taelar Pollmann · The Sentry

The 2019 Denver mayoral race was a wild one. Between the run-off, the debates and the scandals, mayoral candidates Michael Hancock and Jamie Giellis reminded the public that local elections are just as exciting as national elections. While Denver voters seemed lukewarm on both candidates, as evident by the initial run-off results, the mayoral campaigns were a whirlwind, particularly with regard to Jamie Giellis’ odd mélange of vaguely racist remarks. 

Michael Hancock, the incumbent mayor at the time seeking a third term, was not a perfect candidate. From his close relationships with property developers, sexual harassment charges, and his treatment of people experiencing homelessness, Hancock inspired criticism from local organizations like Colorado Common Cause and Occupy Denver. But Giellis brought a new flavor of controversy to the 2019 mayoral elections.  

 A fellow developer and former director of the RiNo Arts District, Giellis offered essentially the same economic ideology as Hancock—just without any political experience at all. The duo shared a passion for development (read: gentrification), pushing ideas that would make the Denver economy skyrocket. Then things went downhill for Giellis.  

 In May of 2019, Giellis struggled to remember what the acronym NAACP stood for during an interview. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is the “oldest, largest, and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization,” having been founded in 1909.  

 But wait, there’s more. An unearthed tweet composed by Giellis in 2009 asked, “Why do so many cities feel it necessary to have a ‘Chinatown’?” As pointed out by Asian American activist groups, Denver’s Chinatown was destroyed in the city’s first race riot in 1880. Soon after, Giellis invited her supporters to a “Tacos and Lowriders” event at a local Mexican restaurant. Suddenly, “racial insensitivity” seemed to be Giellis’ middle name. Giellis quickly deleted all of her social media accounts, both personal and campaign-related.  

 In the end, Hancock won the run-off elections by a landslide. Giellis faded into the shadows, but her social media is up and running. Denver’s white voters learned from Giellis’ example, and most now know what the NAACP stands for.  

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