Denver Brewpub Owner Leads in Race for Mayor

Brew pub owner John Hickenlooper is leading six other candidates in the race for mayor, according to new polls. Five of the other candidates hoping to succeed term-limited Mayor Wellington Webb are political veterans who started the race with a lot more name recognition. But with a week before the May 6 election, Hickenlooper’s campaign has apparently been helped by an aggressive advertising campaign promoting his outsider status. “Denver voters have been prone to go with the surprise candidate, the dark horse,” pollster Floyd Ciruli said Monday.

In a poll two months ago, Hickenlooper had just 2 percent. He has since jumped ahead of the others — 33 percent in a poll of 300 registered voters last week by Public Opinion Strategies with a margin of error of 5.7 percent. A more recent poll of 500 residents by Ciruli gave him 27 percent, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent. City Auditor Donald Mares was second in both polls. Unless a candidate gets a majority in the nonpartisan election, a runoff will be held June 3.

Ciruli said voters are hoping Hickenlooper can revive the city’s lagging economy. His Wynkoop Brewery Co. opened in 1988, seven years before Coors Field and other downtown attractions began luring thousands of people into the inner city. Hickenlooper, who now owns eight bars and restaurants, has been touting his business success. “Quality of life starts with a good job,” he said. One of his television ads shows Hickenlooper talking about being laid off as a geologist during an oil bust and learning to do more with less. Then he walks behind a luxury car only to ride off on a scooter. In another spot, he feeds a parking meter just before a ticket can be issued, poking fun at a downtown parking fee hike. Mares, who is completing three terms as city auditor, will focus on his experience in government if Hickenlooper is his opponent in the runoff, spokesman Cody Wertz said.

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