In a State Capitol full of policy wonks, Chris Hansen, a senator now running for Denver mayor, stands out for having an engineer’s zeal for details.
He talks enthusiastically about bringing an “evidence-based budgeting” approach, championing high-stakes property-tax reform — including winning voter approval to repeal the Gallagher Amendment in 2020 — and shoring up the state’s pandemic-depleted unemployment insurance system. He’s also dug in on environmental policy, drawing on a career spent advising clients on energy system planning, including clean-energy transitions.
In an online video announcing his mayoral candidacy last fall, he stands with his bike and switches into a kind of nerdy Iron Man mode, taking stock of the city’s many problems through a literal analytical lens. His teenage sons lightly mock him for it.
Whether Denver voters take to his born-engineer approach, Hansen says they’re crying out for someone to dive into the details of the city’s longstanding challenges — and actually make real progress.
“I think this is a change, problem-solving election,” said Hansen, 47, pitching himself as the right person for the role. He said he’d tackle challenges including safety, housing affordability, the city’s environmental sustainability and downtown’s future as office buildings have emptied out.
“The top priority for the next mayor … is going to be really to rejuvenate that sense of public safety, particularly in downtown,” Hansen said.
First elected to the House as a Democrat in 2016, Hansen filled a vacancy in Denver-based Senate District 31 in 2020, winning a full term later that year. He lives in Montclair with his wife, Ulcca, and two sons. Most recently, he was director of the Colorado Energy & Water Institute, which he founded, but he stepped down to run.
Hansen’s six years as a lawmaker have included several sessions on the powerful Joint Budget Committee. And he says he’s not afraid to take a stand, citing his role last year on a conference committee, and in a key Senate vote, to stiffen penalties for fentanyl possession.
In his campaign, Hansen has called for hiring more police officers — along with establishing more accountability and better training to help restore community trust.
He vocally supports the city’s camping ban, portraying it as an important tool, while saying he would scrutinize the effectiveness of the roughly $250 million Denver is spending this year on homelessness-related initiatives.
Details matter, he says, and the city should spend more on better programs, such as those that prioritize getting people into housing before addressing their underlying problems.
Later in an interview, he said: “Let’s not forget the important work we need to do here in Denver on air quality and the environment,” including boosting transit and supporting electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
Before running for the legislature, the Goodland, Kansas, native — who graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in nuclear engineering and also has degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Oxford in England — worked nearly 10 years at IHS Markit, an analytics and energy advisory firm, most recently as a senior director. His work included projects around the world in IHS’ power and renewable energy group.
“When I’m talking to folks about what sets me apart,” Hansen said, “it’s really that long track record of delivering results” — both in the public and private sectors.
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