Denver Mayor's Race Reaches Beyond Metro Area

Historian: Denver's Mayor Has Far More Power Than Governor

Ballots for the Denver's mayor race get mailed out to voters on Friday. Even if you don't live in Denver, 7NEWS has found many reasons why the Denver mayor may be more important than the Colorado governor.

"The mayor of Denver, for better or worse, is oftentimes the face of the entire community," said former Denver mayor Federico Peña. "Sometimes even a bigger face than the governor."

Peña served as Denver mayor from 1983 to 1991. He suggested the Denver mayor has more influence than the governor because the mayor has more decision-making power than the head of the state. State lawmakers must pass legislation before the governor can consider signing bills into law, including the state budget.

"The opposite is true in Denver. We have a strong mayor form of government, so the mayor controls the budget; the mayor makes appointments," said Peña

Former Mayor Peña Remembers His Biggest Moments

After he was mayor, Peña went on to work as Secretary of Transportation and then Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton. He became known nationally before then, pushing for the first new airport in the United States in two decades and being part of the ground-breaking for a new convention center.

"If you look at the major economic development assets in the state, they're really controlled by the mayor and not the governor," said Peña. "Whether it's airports, convention centers, high tech companies; we're the center of finance, insurance, energy companies; the sports capitol with all the sports venues."

The Colorado Rockies were created in 1991, but didn't play their first game in Denver until 1993, two years after Peña left office.

"I spent eight years trying to bring a major league baseball team to Denver," said Peña. "It's what you're doing in the city that causes the mayor to develop a national and international reputation. Hopefully it's all good stuff."

'Dr. Colorado:' Denver Mayor More Powerful Than Governor

"Denver's mayor has far more power than the governor of Colorado, as former mayor (John) Hickenlooper is now discovering," said historian Thomas Noel. "The mayor of Denver in a way affects the lives of all Coloradans, not just Denverites."

Noel is also known as "Dr. Colorado," for his historical knowledge of the state. He remembered that Mayor Robert Speer helped shape the importance of the office by giving the mayor more control than the city council.

"(The mayor) can ram almost anything through city council," said Noel.

He suggested international events like the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1993 and the G8 summit in 1997 are big draws that make the mayor popular and successful.

"It pumps up tourism. You know the Democratic National Convention filled all the hotels. I think (it) put Denver in a very favorable light internationally," said Noel.

He also stressed the importance of having a level head when dealing with other metro area leaders, especially with transit and water issues.

"Mayor Hickenlooper was particularly good about establishing rapport with the other mayors so they didn't see him as out front," said Noel.

So who would you vote for the next Denver mayor? We'll help you make that decision. 7NEWS will air a 30-minute special on Friday introducing all 10 candidates for mayor. The special, 'On the Record: Denver Mayor's Race' debuts the same day ballots get mailed out. Election Day is May 3. This is a mail-in election.

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