Wellington Webb Wins Second Term as Denver Mayor
DENVER (AP) _ Mayor Wellington Webb was re-elected to a second term Tuesday, defeating a city councilwoman after a bruising campaign marked by racial divisiveness and allegations of political cronyism.
With all 430 precincts reporting, Webb had 66,884 votes, or 54 percent, to 56,725 votes or 46 percent for Mary DeGroot, according to the Denver Election Commission.
``I want to say to all of you that I feel like the frog that ended up on the fence post,″ Webb told hundreds of supporters at a raucous victory celebration that overflowed into the street outside a popular downtown restaurant. ``I know I didn’t get there myself.″
He said he learned one lesson from the campaign: ``We need to always run positive campaigns, not negative campaigns. Positive, not negative, because we want to bring out the best in us.″
Tuesday night’s vote-tallying culminated a non-stop 36-hour campaign binge by Webb. DeGroot also campaigned hard during the final hours, stumping on street corners and in restaurants throughout the city Tuesday, hoping to become Denver’s first woman mayor.
Appearing before about 300 downcast supporters at a downtown hotel ballroom, DeGroot congratulated Webb on his victory, but urged him to heed the criticism she leveled at him during their five-week runoff campaign.
``I take it at his word that he has learned from his mistakes and we will see change over the next four years,″ she said. ``We are united by our love for Denver, so do well and make us proud.″
Webb agreed Denver must come first.
``I think the first thing we have to do and the first order of business is to make sure that there is no north and no south, no east and no west. There is one city, and that is Denver, Colorado,″ he said.
Webb, the city’s first black mayor, had hoped for a big voter turnout in heavily black and Hispanic areas where he has a strong support base and where DeGroot was criticized for calling for a crackdown on gang members and curbs on the city’s affirmative action program.
He wound up winning a majority in every section of Denver except DeGroot’s southeastern stronghold where he polled 40 percent of the vote.
DeGroot, a City Council member since 1987, outpolled Webb by 97 votes in the four-candidate May 2 mayoral election and at one time was ahead in the polls for the runoff. Because no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote May 2, the top two finishers squared off in Tuesday’s runoff.
The candidates clashed frequently during their bruising campaign and both claimed underdog status.
DeGroot, 43, kept a running count of alleged incidents of cronyism and political favoritism by the Webb administration, which she called a ``Chicago-style of city government.″
``I am running against a machine,″ she said Monday.
Both major Denver daily newspapers endorsed DeGroot, citing the cronyism allegations and Webb’s management of construction of Denver International Airport, which opened 16 months late.
Webb, 54, portrayed DeGroot’s criticism as ``outrageous attempts″ to distract voters from serious issues, such as education, crime and employment.
``I feel secure,″ he said last week. ``The people who have known me for the past 25 years, know me as a person of high ethical standards.″
During two debates, the candidates clashed bitterly over issues of cronyism and how to address crime.
DeGroot vowed ``maximum harassment″ against suspected gang leaders and pledged to abolish the city’s affirmative action program. She called for basing Denver’s minority contracting program on economic need and not race, ethnicity or gender.
Webb said he favored reforming the contracting program but didn’t say how he would address criticism it amounts to reverse discrimination.
On crime, Webb said he had a zero tolerance policy toward gang members, but DeGroot criticized his administration for meeting with gang leaders instead of cracking down on them.