DENVER — One of Denver's most prominent Democrats, former mayor Wellington Webb, endorsed Leslie Herod today in the 2023 mayoral race.
Webb was the first African American mayor of Denver, serving for 12 years beginning in 1991. He's continued to hold sway in Democratic circles since then and supported current Mayor Michael Hancock back in 2011.
Hancock's declining popularity means it's unlikely he'll be a sought-after endorsement, making Webb's one of the few that might move the needle for some voters.
Coming from a man who led the city for 12 years, and whose successor ran the city for another 12 years, Webb's endorsement could carry notes of continuing the status quo. That's not what he says he's looking to do.
"I think the city needs a new generation of leadership, a new generation of that brings fresh ideas, that brings fresh energy, that has the ability to connect with all segments of the population," Webb said.
"My decision is only that I support people, and it's up to them [the candidates] to run and take their case to the people and then let the people decide."
Despite his previous support for Hancock, Webb believes the city needs a change in direction.
Watch the full interview here.
This early endorsement could set Herod apart in a crowded race, where she's already one of the more recognizable names. Right now, there are 17 candidates running for Denver mayor, but the official ballot won't be certified until February 3.
"Having this endorsement means that I have a partner in this work, because the city is facing some of the toughest challenges that we've seen. They were facing some pretty tough challenges when Webb was in office, as well. And we're going to have to do that together," Herod said.
NEXT asked Webb a bit more about the race, the state of the city, and where he sees Denver heading in the future.
Webb left office 20 years ago, and Denver's changed a fair amount since then. For one, the population's grown by about 25%. In giving his endorsement, Webb is still confident he knows the city and its people.
"I know the city. I know every neighborhood in the city. I eat on the north side. I eat on the west side. I live in the northeast side," he said. "I've been in every neighborhood in the city. See, I love cities. That's what I do. And I also talk to a lot of younger people."
Webb said he's stayed active in the city and with its people, and that he knows the issues voters are thinking about.
When asked if Denver is a city in decline, he said no.
"No, I think Denver's a city that's on the...let's see, what do we say in astrology? On the cusp," Webb said. "I mean, I think the city could go either way. I think the city could go either way. And I think it's important that we push it. That we want the best of us to lead the rest of us."
"I think that the city is really at a crossroads of where it goes from here. And it needs strong, bold leadership," he said. "I think it needs a new generation of leadership."
That leader, Webb said, needs to be someone who stands up to Big Business, but is also able to work with them.
They have to be able to say, "I represent, as mayor, the taxpayers of Denver. I don't represent you as a developer. I work with you to develop, if it's a fair deal," he said.
"We need someone that can manage the ship, manage the city, but also has visions of doing things differently."
When talking about the race, and the candidates, Webb didn't seem concerned that the race is crowded, or that one candidate's message will get lost amidst 17 other voices.
"Cream always rises to the top. They do it by their debate performance. They do it by the campaign's aggressive nature," he said. "Whether it's getting their message out, whether it's talking to more people than anyone else, no one will ever outwork me. And I don't think anyone's going to work Leslie either. And I don't think they're going to outwork a campaign staff."
Webb's not worried about a field of 17.
"I wouldn't worry if it was 30," he said. "I'd be more worried if was two."
He's more concerned about who has a plan for the city.
"They have to have a plan. But it can't be a plan that they just put something on paper and submit because it sounds good...What have they done to show you that they can get things done? By reaching across the aisle, Republican or Democrat or Independent? Willing to stand up for the little guy when everyone else leaves you out there by yourself?" He asked. "I'm looking for a leader."
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