Editor’s note: A previous version of this article from Wed. morning reported that Initiative 3o1 narrowly failed. But in a remarkable last minute rally, the effort to decriminalize psilocybin (aka ‘magic’) mushrooms appears to have squeaked by with just slightly over 50 percent of the vote. The article has been updated accordingly.
DENVER–In Tuesday’s municipal election, Denver voters overwhelmingly rejected legitimizing squatting in public spaces, narrowly decriminalized ‘magic’ mushrooms, and sent current Mayor Michel Hancock and challenger Jamie Giellis to a runoff election to helm the city.
Voters sent a loud and clear message that they want Denver’s urban camping ban to remain firmly in place, crushing Initiative 300 by a margin of 81 percent. As former Denver Post editorial page editor Vincent Carroll noted in an opinion piece for Complete Colorado, the I-300 effort, know as “Right to Survive,” would have enshrined squatters’ rights in public places throughout Denver. “It would usher in the sort of squalid, quasi-permanent encampments on public property that have become a problem for cities such as Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle,” wrote Carroll.
“The overwhelming vote against I-300 shows that Denverites think there are better ways of helping the homeless than by placing them at the mercy of the elements, both natural and criminal,” said Joshua Sharf, 1st Vice Chairman of the Denver County Republican Party. “Middle class and working class Denverites want to welcome people to our city without destroying the very things that make it a desirable destination. Now we can get to work doing things that actually help people and give them a chance to help themselves.”
Voters did pass Initiative 301, which essentially decriminalizes psilocybin mushrooms by making the use and possession by adults of the mind-altering fungi the lowest enforcement priority for police, as well as barring the city from expending city resources on criminal penalties. The mushrooms contain a naturally occurring psychedelic compound and are used by some as a recreational drug. The measure squeaked by with 50.56 percent of the vote.
Since no mayoral candidate received the requisite 50 percent plus one vote, the top two vote-getters, current Mayor Michael Hancock with just over 39 percent, and urban planner Jamie Giellis with just under 26 percent, will head in to a runoff election on June 4.
In the city council races, where 12 of Denver’s 13 seats were up for grabs, there were a few interesting surprises. In District 5, which encompasses east central Denver, incumbent Mary Beth Susman has been forced in to a runoff by challenger Amanda Sawyer, who beat Susman by nearly 5 points. Susman has gained some notoriety by candidly admitting that part of the city’s plan to get more people to use pubic transit includes purposefully making driving as inconvenient as possible, writing in The Denver Post: “We have reduced parking requirements and stopped widening roads (in most areas), hoping that if we make driving more inconvenient people will switch to transit.”
And in District 9, which includes the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, Five Points, Cole, Clayton, Whittier, Curtis Park and City Park neighborhoods, a self-proclaimed communist, Candi CdeBaca, pulled off just over 43 percent running far to the political left of the already progressive incumbent Albus Brooks, who took down just under 45 percent of the vote, thus forcing a runoff there as well. “I believe in community ownership of land, labor, resources, and distribution of those resources,” CdeBaca said at a recent candidates forum.
The Clerk and Recorder race is also headed for a runoff between former City Councilmember Paul Lopez and former Colorado Common Cause staffer Peg Perl.
Complete election results are available at the Denver Clerk and Recorder website.