Candi CdeBaca served one fiery but tumultuous term on the Denver City Council before being ousted by voters in the 2023 election. Her time in office was marked by progressive policy initiatives, controversial statements, and an unsuccessful fight to win re-election in a changing district. For supporters she was a bold voice for change, while critics saw her as an overly partisan rabble-rouser. Regardless, CdeBaca left an indelible, if polarizing, mark during her brief tenure in city government.
Early Life and Education
CdeBaca was born and raised in a working-class section of northeast Denver. After graduating from Manual High School, she went on to earn bachelor’s and graduate degrees from the University of Denver.
Prior to running for office, CdeBaca worked for many years as a social worker focused on child welfare and family crisis issues. This experience informed her progressive policy outlook about inequality and social justice.
In the 2010s, CdeBaca was active in several left-leaning community organizations in Denver, advocating for affordable housing, police reform, and environmental justice. This activism laid the groundwork for her political career.
Running for Denver City Council
In 2019, CdeBaca launched a grassroots campaign for the Denver City Council in northwest District 9.
CdeBaca ran on a bold progressive platform supporting priorities like rent control, homeless rights, criminal justice reform, and climate action. Her campaign organized effectively and created enthusiasm in the district. In June she placed first in the first round, then won the runoff election in July with over 60% of the vote.
During the campaign, CdeBaca spoke out forcefully for progressive policies like transitioning to 100% renewable energy by 2030, creating a public bank, and repealing Denver’s camping ban that impacted the homeless. Her stances energized leftist voters but concerned the business community.
The campaign was also marked by controversies when old social media posts surfaced where CdeBaca appeared to praise socialism and make incendiary remarks about political opponents. She was criticized for partisan rhetoric, but also gained support from Bernie Sanders-inspired activists.
Time on City Council
CdeBaca moved quickly to advance her policy agenda once on city council, but also continued to spark divisions.
She led efforts to pass new regulations on landlords, ramp up environmental goals, and expand services for marginalized communities. But many of her boldest proposals stalled due to pushback from moderate council members.
CdeBaca continued to make inflammatory political statements, at one point calling the police “an oppressive system” and suggesting protesters “take to the streets” over excessive force complaints. She stood by her views, arguing she was giving voice to those impacted by inequality.
Failed Re-election Bid in 2023
By early 2023, CdeBaca faced a tough fight to win re-election in her changing district.
Changes in District 9
Due to redistricting, the borders of District 9 had shifted to include more affluent neighborhoods uneasy with CdeBaca’s firebrand rhetoric. Meanwhile, concerns grew about visible homelessness and crime that alienated some previous supporters.
Loss in Runoff Election
In the first round of voting, CdeBaca finished neck-and-neck with fellow progressive candidate Ben DeJong. But in the June runoff, moderate candidate Scott Durrah defeated CdeBaca by 54% to 46% on a message of political unity and public safety.
Reflections on Defeat
CdeBaca expressed pride in moving the dialogue left, but blamed “dark money” and the police union for her defeat. Critics contended that her polarizing stances had cost her public support. Nonetheless, she said she would continue advocating for progressive causes.
Legacy and Impact
Despite her short tenure, CdeBaca left a contentious mark on Denver politics.
She succeeded in moving the policy debate to the left on issues like housing affordability, climate change, and social services. Some of her proposals gained traction even after her departure.
But critics accused CdeBaca of being more focused on ideology than governing, contributing to increased acrimony on city council. Her supporters saw her as rightly challenging old power structures.
Supporters and Critics
To supporters on the left, CdeBaca gave voice to marginalized communities and the urgencies of inequality and social justice in a rapidly changing Denver. Her opponents saw an overly partisan figure disinterested in compromise or measured discourse.
In just four short years, Candi CdeBaca left an indelible and polarizing imprint on Denver city politics, for better or worse depending on one’s perspective. Regardless, her impact belied her brief time in office. CdeBaca’s career speaks to the passions but also divisions within Denver’s electorate about the direction of the city’s future.
Candi CdeBaca represented the ascendant progressive wing of Denver politics during her single term on city council. While achieving some policy reforms, her brash rhetorical style also stirred deeper ideological divisions in city government. CdeBaca’s rapid political rise and fall speaks to the shifting fault lines in Denver’s political landscape.
Q: What district did Candi CdeBaca represent on city council?
A: CdeBaca represented District 9 in northwest Denver during her single term from 2019 to 2023.
Q: What was CdeBaca’s main policy focus as councilwoman?
A: CdeBaca championed a range of progressive policies around affordable housing, climate change, criminal justice reform, and social services.
Q: How long was CdeBaca on city council before losing re-election?
A: CdeBaca served one 4-year term on city council from July 2019 before losing her re-election bid in June 2023.
Q: Who defeated CdeBaca in the 2023 city council election?
A: CdeBaca lost to moderate candidate Scott Durrah in the District 9 runoff election in June 2023.
Q: What criticism did CdeBaca face during her time on council?
A: Critics accused CdeBaca of divisive partisan rhetoric and prioritizing ideology over governing and compromise.