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Mayoral candidates choose friendly audiences for conversations about race

Giellis dropped out of a candidate forum after learning moderator was paid for consulting Hancock campaign.

DENVER — In two different parts of Denver, the candidates for mayor made their final pitch to the black community on Saturday.

Mayor Michael Hancock spoke to a small crowd gathered at the Hiawatha Davis, Jr. Recreation Center in Park Hill.

His challenger, Jamie Giellis, made her case in front of an iPhone in a small conference room inside a law office in the River North Arts District.

Both Giellis and Hancock were supposed to speak together at the rec center at a candidate forum hosted by the Colorado Black Round Table, but Giellis pulled out of the event late Friday after learning the moderator had been paid by the Hancock campaign.

John Bailey, the moderator of the forum confirmed to 9NEWS Saturday morning that he is a paid consultant for Hancock. He told 9NEWS anchor Kyle Clark he planned to turn over questioning to community members rather than moderate it himself because of that conflict of interest.

“It was likely to be speaking to a group of people who had already made up their mind,” Giellis said of the roundtable after her hour-long Facebook Live event.  “We decided to bring everyone together today and open up that conversation.”

Giellis was joined by several community activists and her former challengers who have pledged their support, Lisa Calderón and Penfield Tate.

During the conversation on social media, Giellis spent most of her time listening to the others in the group. She told the small group her administration would surround itself with diverse points of view, and address issues like gentrification by working on better zoning practices.

Advocates in that conversation expressed their displeasure with the way the city has handled issues with criminal justice, education and affordable housing. All attendees at Giellis’ event were critical of Hancock’s handling of those issues.

Giellis’ decision to pull out of the mayoral forum comes after a tumultuous week for her campaign. On Tuesday, she fumbled when asked what the initials NAACP stand for.

RELATED: Denver mayor candidate Jamie Giellis wrongly explains what NAACP means

A day later, apologizing for her insensitivity on the NAACP issue by saying the campaign has expanded her knowledge of other cultures, her campaign posted a tweet advertising a tacos and lowriders fundraiser at a Mexican restaurant in Denver.

That tweet was later deleted. Twitter users then noted a tweet on Giellis’ personal account under her maiden name, Jamie Licko, which questioned why so many cities have Chinatown neighborhoods.

RELATED: Jamie Giellis comments on racial gaffes, deleting social media accounts

RELATED: Denver mayoral candidate Jamie Giellis scrubs social media after racial gaffes

After that tweet was discovered, it was deleted. And by the end of the night, Giellis’ personal twitter and her Instagram went dark.

“To have comments out there that are insensitive was a mistake on my part,” she told 9NEWS Saturday. “It shows that there is a blind spot that I’m not totally tuned in to everything that’s going on. That I have learning to do and I need to continue to evolve.”

On the other side of town at the mayoral forum, Hancock spoke to a friendly crowd.

“As we look at the third term we remember that we are victims of our own prosperity,” he said  “We grew fast. Almost too fast and too robustly, if I can use that word.”

The mayor, amid criticism for not doing enough to slow that growth, said he wants to focus his third term on equity.

“If they look at our record, if they look at what we’ve done, they will actually find one of the more progressive and innovative cities in addressing the issues of gentrification,” he said.

Hancock also took a shot a Giellis’ absence in front of the crowd.

“We’re OK walking into hostile situations… that’s what leaders do,” he said.

Giellis said it wasn’t useful to spend her time in front of an audience that had already made up their mind.

“I’m happy to handle critical questions that really wasn’t the point,” she said.

“The point was the community at large that’s really struggling. The people that you heard today. The people that were tuned in today aren’t having a voice.”

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