2023 Denver mayoral race: Candidate Chris Hansen shares his platform

Posted at 3:15 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 15:49:00-04

Colorado State Sen. Chris Hansen has represented Denver for the last six years in the legislature, where he has focused on clean energy. Hansen co-founded the Colorado Energy and Water Institute and previously worked in finance and corporate strategy. Hansen grew up on the Colorado-Kansas border in the small town of Goodland. In his run for mayor, Hansen says the “safety of all Denverites” is his top priority.

Hansen qualified for the Denver Fair Elections Fund, according to city data. At the start of February, he had received $307,068.26 in campaign donations. Of that, $172,530 is from the Fair Elections Fund.

March 22 update |Response to the shooting of two deans at East High School in Denver:

"My heart is breaking again for East High School today, and for the students who begged the legislature for help, for safety from gun violence, just a few short weeks ago. Our children and families are hurting today, and this is another terrible reminder of the work we still have to do. We owe these students at least that much."

Denver7's Chief Investigative Reporter asked Hansen about his plans if elected as Denver's next mayor. Watch their conversation or read a transcript below.

2023 Denver mayor race: Candidate Chris Hansen shares his platform

Tony Kovaleski: Introduce yourself. Tell us your story.

Chris Hansen: Yeah. Thanks, Tony. I'm State Sen. Chris Hansen, and I'm running for Denver mayor to build a city that works. I have private sector leadership experience, public sector leadership experience. It's been my honor to represent Denver in the state legislature for the past seven years. And I'd be excited to be your next mayor to solve the pressing problems that we face in this city.

Tony Kovaleski: On that note, insiders tell us there are four key issues, crime, homelessness, housing and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important and explain why.

Chris Hansen: Yeah, Tony, I think No. 1 issue in town right now is public safety. I think people are frustrated. I think people feel unsafe. I think we can see it playing out, especially in downtown in the central neighborhoods. We have to rebuild our public safety department and rebuild a sense of safety in Denver. Otherwise, nothing else is going to work. Right behind that is to address the homelessness crisis. We need to immediately enforce the camping ban. We need to immediately reevaluate the way we're spending money. We will have $250 million in spending this year, and we're getting a negative result. We're actually moving backward when it comes to solving the problem. It's time for a reevaluation and make sure we're enforcing the camping ban. And the other piece, you know, transportation and housing, which I think are tightly linked — we're not going to solve any housing problem if we don't do a good job of bringing those two things together, which is why I think high density housing on our major corridors is a great step forward for the city.

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Tony Kovaleski: So based on your answer, you said No. 1 was crime. What is your pledge to voters on how you will address it? And how might that be different than some of the others on the belt?

Chris Hansen: Yeah, you know, I think it's absolutely right. No. 1 issue in town: public safety and addressing the rising crime, rebuilding our public safety departments. You know, right now, we have had a huge shortage and the number of officers both at the police department and at the sheriff's department, in particular. Our county jail is at a crisis point when it comes to having enough officers. So, we need a mayor who's gonna be able to come in and rebuild the department. Recruit, retain and train a world class police department. And that starts from the first day of recruitment, making sure that we have a highly accountable police department. And that, to me, is the No. 1 priority. And as the next mayor, that is my top job.

Tony Kovaleski: Like many cities, Denver has a lot of financial needs right now. If elected, what would you prioritize? And where might you trim?

Chris Hansen: Yeah, you know, that's a $4 billion budget if you look at all the money that runs through the city services and the city programs, so huge amount of important delivery that we need to do for the citizens. You know, during the snowstorms, I talked about the lack of delivery on some of those services. We got to do a better job of trash pickup, of removing the snow from the streets so that people can really function in the city. So those are to me, table stakes. We've got — the city has to get those right. We talked about public safety. I guess the other piece that we've talked about before was on the homelessness side: huge amount of spending. We're not seeing great results. One of the things I worked on at the Joint Budget Committee at the legislature was evidence-based budgeting, really following the data, doubling down on the programs that are working well and making cuts where we're not. And that to me is the first thing that the mayor needs to do with next year's budget.

Tony Kovaleski: Denver is a wonderfully diverse city, as you know. If elected by the citizens, will you make a commitment to ensure your administration reflects this diversity? And if yes, how?

Chris Hansen: Yeah, Tony. Absolutely. And in fact, I mean, this is part of my personal story as well. I married into a South Asian family. I have biracial kids. This is part of my story, and it's part of Denver's story. And I take this part of the job very seriously to make sure I'm representing every single corner of Denver, doing that outreach. I think that's how I have operated at the state capitol. And as your next mayor, I will continue that and make sure that every part of Denver is well-represented, both in and how I'm doing outreach as mayor, but also in my cabinet, and the top officers in the city.

Tony Kovaleski: City council has the potential for significant changes in this election. Are you planning to work with that new council? And what might that relationship look like if you're successful?

Chris Hansen: Yeah, Tony, this is where I think my legislative experience will really pay off as your next mayor. Because working closely in a legislative body, our city council is effectively the legislature for the City and County of Denver. I think that experience will really be very helpful as building that relationship with individual council members. I think you're right, we're going to have a very new council after this next election, with both the open seats and the contested elections. And I think that's great new ideas, fresh ideas. And as your next mayor, I plan to work very closely with council to achieve the big things that we need to do in Denver. And I think my legislative experience is great preparation for that.

Tony Kovaleski: Sixteen other names along with you on the ballot. If you could ask one other candidate one question, who's the candidate? What's the question?

Chris Hansen: You know, I think this is one of the things I'm really looking forward to over the next six or seven weeks is a chance for lots of public fora, and having questions really coming at all of us, to show what we're made out of. You know, I think the question I have right now is on public safety and addressing the homelessness crisis. I would ask Kelly Brough what she means by saying I am not going to do any more sweeps. Does that mean it's OK to have camping on the streets? I see a big contradiction in how she's been talking about that. I've tried to be very crystal clear with the voters — that there will be no open camping in Denver, and that we can't have success until we're clear about that in the city.

Tony Kovaleski: This is a chance to get to know a little bit about you. What's the last book you read? And why and what do you do for fun?

Chris Hansen: Yeah. So, I — one of the books I recently finished was "The Power Broker" by Robert Caro. It's an incredible story about urban development and the exercise of power at the city level in New York. A really wonderful piece of American history that I think most of us miss in our history classes in high school and college. And I think it's a wonderful book. And I love Robert Caro, and all the work that he's put out. So that's a book that I recently finished.

Tony Kovaleski: And what do you do for fun?

Chris Hansen: Oh, you know, I love to hike and ski and do lots of outdoor activities with my family. I've got two teenage boys, 14 and just about to turn 16. And we spent a lot of time outside having fun together.

Tony Kovaleski: Finally, take a minute, look into the camera and tell voters what they need to know, why you should be the next mayor. A chance for you to address them direct.

Chris Hansen: Yeah, thanks, Tony. I'm asking for your support on April 4 because I believe we need to build a city that works. I believe I've had preparation in the private sector leading (a) large company, leading lots of employees. I've had a lot of experience in the public sector, managing the state budget and working through very difficult issues at the state level to deliver for Denver and to deliver for Colorado. And I know I can deliver results for Denver. And that's why I want to be your next mayor — to solve problems as an engineer, as a leader in this community. And I'm asking for your support on April 4.