Editor’s Note: Two of the three Democratic candidates, Beth McCann and Michael Carrigan, live in the Front Porch distribution area. The first section of the article, written by the Front Porch, examines their similarities and differences. The third candidate, Kenneth Boyd, provided his responses to the issues/questions we addressed with Ms. McCann and Mr. Carrigan. His comments follow the first section of the article.
Michael Carrigan and Beth McCann
The campaign positions of Michael Carrigan and Beth McCann are very similar and their career paths reflect equal levels of preparation for serving as Denver’s chief elected law enforcement officer. It is perhaps in personality and style that voters will discern differences between the two.
An issue that illustrates those differences is the death penalty. Carrigan’s campaign literature touts that he is “the only candidate pledging to never use the death penalty,” a statement he reiterated in the Front Porch interview.
McCann says she opposes the death penalty and voted that way several years ago as a state representative in the General Assembly. She notes, however, language in the Colorado Constitution and state law calls for consultation with victims’ families at all critical stages in the proceeding, including filing of charges, and she wants to honor that process. She says she would never ask for the death penalty but wants to avoid a “sound bite” approach to the issue by making a declaration of such a position ahead of time. Speaking with the Front Porch, she acknowledged that this “more nuanced” approach might not be as effective with voters in a campaign.
A difference in their campaign strategies is visible in how they approach endorsements. Carrigan has lined up a who’s who of city and state leaders and prominently displays the lengthy list on his website and campaign literature. His endorsement list begins with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. McCann expresses reservations about seeking an endorsement from an elected official whose administration she might have to investigate as elected DA. She says it is “freeing” to not have the big name endorsements and feels that she could be more independent. McCann revels in having a broad base of support in the community.
Both candidates have impressive credentials:
Carrigan is a partner with Holland & Hart specializing in complex litigation. Before entering private practice, he served with three different district attorney offices and prosecuted more than 100 cases up to judge and jury, eventually serving as senior deputy to the Denver DA (Bill Ritter at the time). In 2004 he was elected to the University of Colorado Board of Regents and, as a Democrat, served as chair of the Republican majority board. His term concludes in January. As a Hancock appointee, he is co-chair of the Denver Crime Prevention and Control Commission, a “broad-based group aimed at reducing recidivism and the growth of our incarcerated population through a focus on diversionary programs and alternatives to sentencing.”
McCann is completing her fourth and final term as state representative from House District 8 (east central Denver). She earned a partnership in the Denver law firm of Cooper & Kelley in the 1980s. She was Denver’s first female manager of safety in the early 1990s under Mayor Wellington Webb, later transitioning to a different cabinet position as head of the Safe City office following Denver’s Summer of Violence (1993). She is a founder and former president of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association and served on the board of governors of the Colorado Bar Association.
Both candidates are transitioning out of elected office, are married, have children and have served on numerous community and nonprofit organizations’ boards.
The candidates share the following priorities:
Re-building trust between the community and law enforcement through more transparency. Both said they would explain their decisions on excessive force cases. Carrigan: “The best thing we can do for good police officers is to prosecute the bad ones.” McCann: “I’m the only candidate that has prosecuted and sent a police officer to prison.”
Reducing crime through prevention and rehabilitation, both candidates use the term “mass incarceration” and assert that minorities are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. They both want to institute reforms that disrupt what Carrigan calls the “school to prison pipeline.” McCann wants to use the “bully pulpit” of the DA’s office to provide youth better choices and change the current practice of using jails to warehouse people with mental health challenges.
Giving priority to cases involving elder abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, illegal gun possession and youth in general, Carrigan says he would create more “specialization” in the DA’s office since individual lawyers can’t be expert in every field. McCann does not anticipate a major re-organization of the DA’s office. She would form an advisory council to help with community relations.
Bringing a high level of management expertise to running the DA’s office currently staffed with 75 attorneys and multiple divisions, Carrigan notes his experience as a regent with responsibility for CU’s $3.5 million budget and his 16 years with Holland & Hart, a “modern law office.” McCann cites her years of management and supervisory experience with Denver’s Safety Department, as Chief Deputy DA and as Chief Deputy Attorney General in the Colorado Attorney General’s office.
Both candidates note the tremendous power of the DA’s office given the amount of prosecutorial discretion inherent in that position. Each appears eager to shape a new trajectory that reduces crime at the front end of the “stop to sentence” continuum within the criminal justice system. They both believe the time is ripe locally and nationally for criminal justice and sentencing reform.
McCann says her “qualifications and accomplishment set me apart” including the fact that she has “made the law” as well as prosecuted it. Carrigan notes his private sector experience, big name endorsements and experience on both sides (defense and prosecution) as pluses. McCann describes the current DA’s office as defensive and insular, tendencies that would change because “women have different ways of solving problems. We negotiate more and are not as locked into positions.” They both say the number one job for the DA is safety, a goal more effectively reached through diversion at the front end of the criminal justice system.
Almost a decade working as a Senior Deputy District Attorney in Denver after clerking on the Colorado Court of Appeals. Only candidate to have tried cases in every unit of the DA’s Office and only candidate to have tried cases involving cutting edge technology and forensic science.
Former Denver District Attorney and Former Governor Bill Ritter
Current Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey
Senator Michael Johnston
“Personally, if I were standing in a voting booth, I would vote to abolish the death penalty. However, as prosecutors, we swear an oath to enforce the laws that have been given to us by the legislature and the people, and I take that obligation very seriously. Further, the Victim’s Rights Amendment to the Colorado Constitution requires that prosecutors consult with victims or their families before decisions are made with respect to their cases.”
Rebuilding trust between the community and law enforcement will be a priority of mine. It is why transparency is the first thing I talk about with voters and I am the only candidate in favor of establishing a public fact finding review in Denver in all officer involving fatalities.
Certainly reducing crime through prevention efforts and rehabilitation is a priority for all in law enforcement. It is why I am committed to our existing treatment based courts and juvenile diversion program and want to extend both to include a treatment based court for those suffering from mental illness and an adult diversion program. The mental health court will be a big priority of mine.
Cases involving the physical or financial abuse of seniors, sexual assaults, domestic violence, and the illegal possession of guns are all priorities in the Denver DA’s office and will continue to be priorities in my administration. It is important to remember that I am the only candidate who has not only tried cases involving all of these areas, but I have also specialized in prosecuting cases involving the financial exploitation of seniors and cases involving domestic violence and the physical and sexual abuse of children. No other candidate has those credentials.
Having tried cases in every unit of the DA’s office, I am the only candidate who knows how all of the multiple units fit together. In addition, to having extensive case management experience, I am also the only candidate who brings management experience from the private, non-legal private sector. Finally, I am the only candidate who also possesses any grand jury investigation management experience.