DALLAS — Colorado state Sen. Chris Romer, a former public finance consultant and the son of ex-Governor Roy Romer, announced plans Tuesday to run for mayor of Denver.
Romer made the announcement after meeting with business leaders to discuss economic issues.
The Democratic lawmaker, whose district includes south Denver, is seeking to succeed Mayor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who was elected governor Nov. 2. Hickenlooper plans to remain mayor until his Jan. 11 inauguration to avoid a special election. Deputy mayor Bill Vidal will become acting mayor until the regular mayoral election in May.
Romer has worked in public finance 23 years and played a key role in financing the state Regional Transportation District’s FasTracks and Denver International Airport.
As a consultant for JPMorgan, Romer was involved with two controversial bond deals involving New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s transportation bond program that came under federal investigation and a $750 million Denver Public Schools pension fund issue that proved more costly than advertised.
In 2008, Romer left JPMorgan to become president of the Knowledge is Power Program, a Denver network of charter schools for underprivileged children. He had been with JPMorgan since 2002.
While at JPMorgan, Romer was the lead banker on $1.5 billion of New Mexico bond deals implicated in a federal grand jury’s pay-to-play investigation. The probe was concluded without any action or charges. Romer was not accused of wrongdoing.
The investigation focused on the firm CDR Financial Products and its founder, David Rubin. CDR allegedly won a contract as swap adviser on the New Mexico bond deals as a result of contributions Rubin made to Richardson’s political action committees.
In the Denver Public Schools deal, Romer designed proposals to solve the district’s pension liability deficit. In devising a $750 million issue of certificates of participation, the deal featured complex interest rate swaps that became costly when interest rates spiked. Critics questioned the timing of the variable-rate structure, which was established in early 2008 when the auction-rate securities market had collapsed.
One of the goals of the deal was to cover DPS’s pension liability so that it could merge with Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association. Denver Public Schools officials have defended the deal as economical in the long run.
Romer will face City Council members Doug Linkhart and Michael Hancock, city employee Danny Lopez, and Denver Preschool executive director James Mejia.
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Corrected November 30, 2010 at 7:53PM: Romer had been working with DPS on designing solutions to the pension deficit but was not still working with DPS when the bonds were issued, according to his campaign staff.