Marijuana and pizza entrepreneur has raised more than $100,000 to challenge Denver’s mayor in the 2019 election

Kayvan Khalatbari, a longtime marijuana industry entrepreneur, has built up fundraising momentum in his bid to take on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in the 2019 election, according to his latest campaign finance report.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock delivers the 2017 State of the City address on July 10.
Helen H. Richardson, Denver Post file

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock delivers the 2017 State of the City address on July 10.

Khalatbari raised $69,569 in the first three months of 2018, his Wednesday filing says, bringing his total since entering the race last year to slightly more than $101,000. That is more than any challenger to Hancock has raised since he was first elected in 2011, though he faced only unfunded challengers in 2015.

As Hancock seeks a potential third term, he still retains a large money advantage, raising more than $312,000 this cycle as of Dec. 31. His campaign says it plans to file his first-quarter finance report Monday, which is the deadline.

But Hancock was likely to face stronger headwinds in the May 2019 election, even before the February revelation that he sent several suggestive text messages to a security detail officer six years ago, early in his first term.

Khalatbari, 34, also co-owns the Sexy Pizza chain and co-founded Sexpot Comedy. In 2015, he ran unsuccessfully for an at-large City Council seat.

As he’s built a campaign, he has taken aim at Hancock’s leadership on a litany of issues, including homelessness and the controversial camping ban, the mayor’s support for the Interstate 70 project through northeast Denver, environmental issues and his coziness with developers.

In the first quarter, Khalatbari’s campaign spent nearly $21,000. It ended the period March 31 with more than $68,000 in the bank. That includes a $30,000 loan Khalatbari made to his campaign last year. But the loan wasn’t counted in the $101,000 contribution total touted this week by his campaign.

“This campaign is about a movement, building broad coalitions and having important conversations about what matters to the people of Denver,” Khalatbari said in a news release. “I’m humbled that so many people are participating in this process as we work together to maintain Denver as a city that feels like home.

“We are just getting warmed up, and the support people have shown this campaign will help us as we continue to gain momentum and engage even more people across the city over the next year.”

Joining Khalatbari in filing candidacy papers for mayor so far are returning challenger Marcus Giavanni, one of the unfunded citizen candidates in 2015, and new entrant Kalyn Heffernan, a disability rights activist who also leads the band Wheelchair Sports Camp. Neither has reported raising money.

Here is Kayvan Khalatbari’s campaign finance report; note that summary totals don’t account for his $30,000 loan to the campaign last year: