Denver Republicans and conservative-leaning independents may be surprised to find canvassers knocking on their doors this week as the city’s mayoral race comes down to its final days.
“We need your help to stop Denver Socialists!”
“It’s hard to believe that Socialists have a chance to control Denver’s City Council … but that is the reality facing our city. Unfortunately, Denver voters have previously elected Socialists to at-large and district seats.”
Political campaigns are about perception as much as reality, but this statement is clearly a stretch. The supposed threat of a Socialist majority on the Denver City Council vanished as soon as the results of the April 4 election were in. Only one of the seven DSA-favored council candidates, at-large Councilwoman Sarah Parady, won outright, while another three made the runoff. Even if all three (Shontel Lewis in District 8, Candi CdeBaca in District 9 and Shannon Hoffman in District 10) win next week, they would only comprise four of the council’s thirteen seats. DSA’s preferred mayoral candidate also lost, and nobody can call finalists Kelly Brough or Mike Johnston socialists, at least not with a straight face.
Nevertheless, nothing riles up Republican voters like invoking the s-word, so adding to the relentless stream of mailers and digital ads, a dark money group is sending canvassers door-to-door in hopes of convincing conservative Denverites not to sit out a race between two liberal options.
Joining in the effort is religious right activist Aaron Wood, who ran unsuccessfully for state GOP Chair earlier this year. Through his Christian conservative men’s group Freedom Fathers, Wood is hosting a sign-up page for paid canvassers.
“Canvassers are needed to help with support in the Denver City Council Race,” reads Wood’s webpage. “A slate of candidates endorsed by the Democrat Socialists of America is running for Denver City Council and must be stopped. You can help by educating Republicans and right-leaning unaffiliated voters and encouraging them to turn out to vote. Must be 17+, and pay is $25/hr for this role. Starts on May 18, and runs until June 6.”
During his campaign for state party chair, Wood stated unequivocally that Trump won the 2020 election and advocated ending the use of electronic voting machines, both for party and public elections. Asked if he believed Denver’s runoff election will be conducted fairly, Wood again raised doubt, albeit lightly, that the outcome won’t be rigged.
“Any election that relies on electronic voting brings with it some degree of speculation as to whether it was conducted fairly,” said Wood. “Denver municipal elections could offer an opportunity to build voter confidence with transparency and post election audits and reviews. Ultimately hand counting paper ballots would be ideal and not difficult to pull off.
More moderate and more principled candidates are good for everyone. This will be up to Denver voters, but I hope they reflect on what extremely left leadership has done for them, and elect the more moderate candidates.”
Wood’s preference for moderation appears to be an evolution of his own position from last year when he joined other far-right activists in declaring “war” on the leaders of the Colorado Republican Party.
Wood wouldn’t say who asked him to share the recruiting ad, but only that he was doing so on behalf of another group. The “stop the socialists” messaging matches that of an independent expenditure committee called Denver Voters for Sanity, which launched its website a few days after the Denver Clerk certified the April election results.
Its top donors are several well-known Republicans, including Pete Coors ($10,000), Marcy Benson ($5,000), wife of former CU President Bruce Benson, and Laurie Leprino ($5,000), a former Bob Beauprez staffer and fundraiser for the GOP-affiliated Starboard Group who now sits on the board of the conservative Common Sense Institute.