2023 Denver mayoral race: Candidate Leslie Herod shares her platform

Posted at 3:24 PM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-22 17:31:24-04

State Rep. Leslie Herod was re-elected in November for her fourth term, and now she’s vying to be Denver’s next mayor. Rep. Herod was first elected to the Colorado General Assembly in 2016, becoming the first LGBTQ African American to hold a seat. She graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder.

According to city data, Herod qualified for the Denver Fair Elections Fund. At the start of February, she received $624,437.68 in campaign funding. Nearly half of that is from the Fair Elections Fund.

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

“We are failing our kids. We are failing our educators. And we are failing Denver families. What happened today at East High School is absolutely unacceptable and serves as a reminder that intentional action must accompany our thoughts and prayers.

“The East High community is making every effort to keep its students safe and supported. Like most of our schools, they are under-resourced to meet the diverse and growing needs and they lack the necessary coordinated supports from a city that is battling against the proliferation of guns. We must do better and we can. When we are asking educators to search students for weapons, we have clearly gotten school safety policies and practices wrong.

“Curbing youth violence is fundamental to the safety and wellness of our city. Our city’s leaders should be bringing our state’s top experts together to address the root causes of this crisis and to make sure that we never again put our educators on the front line to keep our schools safe.

“My heart is with the families of those affected by this tragedy and to the entire East High School community. I will not sit on my hands and wait for another tragedy to occur. Together, we will take action. I am with you.”

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

2023 Denver mayor race: Candidate Leslie Herod shares her platform

Tony Kovaleski: Introduce yourself. Tell us your story.

Leslie Herod: Hi, everyone. I'm State Rep. Leslie Herod. I'm proud to represent House District 8 in central and northeast Denver. I'm on the east side. I actually was born in Germany; I grew up all around the world. My mom served in the armed forces. And I'm so lucky that she retired right here in Colorado. I went to school in Boulder and quickly came down to Denver and found my home. I'm running for mayor of Denver because we are at a crossroads. The city that I know and love is shifting and changing, and I know Denver is ready to tackle its toughest challenges.

Tony Kovaleski: Insiders tell us the four most important issues in this race are crime, homelessness, housing and transportation. Rank them from most important to least important and please explain why.

Leslie Herod: Yeah, that's a tough question because those kinds of top issues are ones that everyone in Denver is talking about. I have talked to countless Denverites, thousands of Denverites, and asked them specifically, what issues are important to you. What issues should the mayor be prioritizing? And it has been affordability, affordable housing, particularly. Homelessness.

Tony Kovaleski: Let me just stop you. I want to know what your priorities are.

Leslie Herod: We'll go in that order.

Tony Kovaleski: Okay, good.

Leslie Herod: Affordability. You know, if you can't afford to live here, can't stay here. So, people are being pushed out and priced out of our city. But it does feed into the homelessness crisis, which is one and two, you know. We've got to make sure that our unhoused neighbors are housed. Also leads into that feeling of safety, and making sure that Denver continues to be a safe city and quite frankly, goes back to being one of the safest cities in the nation. Those are the top three issues. I think when you think about the other issues, public transportation, environmental concerns — those all feel secondary because the top three issues are so pressing today.

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Tony Kovaleski: So, follow up on what you've said. If the affordability of housing is your No. 1 issue, what's your pledge to voters on how you will address it? And how might that be different than the other candidates on this ballot?

Leslie Herod: Yeah, well, one, I think it's important to level-set a little bit. People don't realize that Denver, RTD and DPS own the majority of the vacant lots in Denver. We can actually build on land that we own. And we could do it in a way that is fitting for each and every neighborhood where those lots exist. That is our priority. It's where we should start. Denver is quite an innovative city. We've done this before, with National Western. We bought land at Red Rocks because we wanted the amphitheater. We even bought Winter Park because we wanted a place to ski. Why not use our own land to tackle our toughest challenge today, which is that affordability crisis. That's the first thing we'll do.

Tony Kovaleski: Like many cities, Denver has financial needs. If elected, what would you prioritize financially? And where might you trim?

Leslie Herod: Yeah, I think it's important that we focus on that affordability crisis. We also have to make sure that we're funding a response to homelessness, you know, to our unhoused crisis. We got to get people into homes, we've got to fund mental health and substance misuse programs for them. I think that's a priority. But additionally, we've gotta prioritize making sure that our city employees are well-resourced, well-funded and that we actually fill those vacancies that are existing within each department. You know, we can't really tackle some of our toughest issues if we don't have the good men, women and people who are making up the city employees of the city. They are feeling stretched, they're feeling stretched, and we've got to make sure that we reprioritize those funds to make sure that those departments are full. We did it at the state level — we've gone back to pre-pandemic levels when it comes to employment. We can do the same for the city.

Tony Kovaleski: Kind of on that same issue. Denver, as you know, is a wonderfully diverse city. If you're elected by the voters of the city, will you make a commitment to make sure that your administration reflects this diversity? And if yes, how?

Leslie Herod: Well, I believe that we can, you can, actually reflect more than the actual numbers of the city. We can reflect the diversity that I think the city aspires to be. You know, I believe we can have a more diverse administration than we've seen in the past. That is in race, sexual orientation, gender, yes. But it's also in diversity of thought, background, experience, you know. I think all of that is important. We are facing a crossroads again in this city. And if we don't have folks who are willing to put results over politics in these positions, we won't pass our toughest hurdles. And I know we can do that.

Tony Kovaleski: City council has the potential for a significant change in this election. Again, if you're elected by the people of Denver, how are you planning to work with this new council? And what would that relationship look like?

Leslie Herod: Well, I look forward to working with council directly, all the new members and the returning members. One thing that I want to make sure that we do is make sure they're a part of the process. Here we have a strong mayor, that's not questionable — it's not in question. We know that we have a strong mayor system right here in Denver. But that does not mean that we shouldn't work arm-in-arm with city council. City council is the closest to the people of their districts and the folks that they represent. There's no reason why they shouldn't be able to also deliver for their people, for their constituents. Right now, there seems to be a wall up, and I want to break that down and make sure that we're delivering for those people.

Tony Kovaleski: An opportunity for you now: If you could ask one other candidate — 16 names on this ballot other than yours. If you could ask one other candidate one question, which candidate? And what is that question?

Leslie Herod: You know, I have very much appreciated the alignment that I have seen with a lot of the folks on that stage, a lot of the candidates running for mayor. Clearly, they are also listening to the people of Denver. I think if I had one candidate — it'd be a lot of the candidates — but the candidates that are looking to really think about getting our —

Tony Kovaleski: I'll pressure a little bit because everybody has tried that. And I'm pushing back with everyone to choose one candidate and one question, because I think it's really telling to the voter. So, there's got to be somebody else on this ballot that you'd like to ask a question to. Which candidate? And what is the question?

Leslie Herod: You know, I'm gonna, OK. Then I'll step back and I will say Ean Tafoya. My question for Ean is what more can we do in Denver to ensure that we are the greenest city in this nation? Ean has done amazing work on greening Colorado and Denver. I know he's got some amazing ideas, and I look forward to working with him on it.

Tony Kovaleski: Fair. This is a chance to get to know you, outside of the political arena. What's the last book you read? And why? And what do you do for fun?

Leslie Herod: Well, I'll start by saying, what I do for fun is in the arts, arts and entertainment. I love to be out in the community. Give me a live concert, you know, take me to a DJ or an art opening. I actually serve on the board for the Museum of Contemporary Arts. The creatives are actually powering our city and I sometimes think they don't get enough credit. So get me into any type of cultural event and I will be there, and I'll have a lot of fun with it. Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, I can name them all. It is part of who we are as Denver. And it's a part of what brings us together and closer as Denver is our arts and culture scene. And so that's, that's my favorite. My last book I read, actually, I'm going to cheat a little bit because it's a screenplay. It's called "Elevation." And I've been working a lot to bring the film industry to Colorado and to Denver. And there's a screenplay I just read called "Elevation" that has actually wrapped here in Colorado, and I look forward to that movie hitting the silver screen in just a few months.

Tony Kovaleski: OK. In conclusion, you've got about a minute, look at the voters here and tell them what they need to know about you as they're making this decision for Denver's next mayor.

Leslie Herod: Well, first, I appreciate the opportunity and the engagement. I know that you all have a lot of options in front of you when it comes to the next mayor. I do believe that I will lead the city and will be a great mayor for the city, particularly because of the work that I've done. You know, I've passed over 150 pieces of legislation into law right here in Colorado, but that doesn't matter as much as the results. You know, in Colorado, we've been able to do a lot and deliver for Denverites. Passing Caring for Denver, making sure that STAR, support team assisted response, an alternative to police, an alternative 911 response is implemented here and it's saving lives. You all deserve a mayor who is going to be as passionate about the city as you are, but one who also will take those creative solutions and bring them to the table. And quite frankly, that's what I'm about. Don't let anyone, anyone, tell you that a solution can't be met here in Denver because we know that it can. If any mayoral candidates say that your dreams or your hopes for the city are pipe dreams, I don't believe they deserve to be in consideration. I know that we can tackle our toughest issues, and I know Denver is ready to do it together.