Denver City Council candidate Kayvan Khalatbari’s flier arrived recently via pizza delivery. (Dave Burdick, The Denver Post)

City Council candidate, who owns a pot shop, is campaigning via pizza box

Don’t accuse Denver City Council at-large candidate Kayvan Khalatbari of getting lost in the crowd. If there’s one thing he knows how to do, it’s stand out — this time, on a pizza box.

Khalatbari, 31, has been harnessing the natural delivery system of one of several businesses he co-owns — Sexy Pizza, which has three locations in central Denver neighborhoods — by affixing campaign fliers to pizza boxes before they’re sent out to customers.

Khalatbari says he printed 5,000 campaign fliers for the pizza boxes, enough to last about two weeks at the pizza shops. The piece pictures Khalatbari under the words “I’m a real person.”

He’s running against four others for two at-large seats in the May 5 election — incumbents Debbie Ortega and Robin Kniech, and fellow challengers Jose Silva and Jeffery Washington. (Read Q&As with each candidate here.)

So far, Khalatbari — who also co-owns Denver Relief, the city’s oldest marijuana dispensary — has raised some eyebrows among fellow candidates by missing candidate forums, though he says he had conflicts and plans to begin participating in some upcoming events.

His pizza box fliers are unorthodox campaigning. Where it gets a little squishy is that under Denver election code, Khalatbari must report Sexy Pizza’s ceding of the cardboard real estate — and, arguably, the delivery service — as an in-kind contribution.

He says he plans to do so. But it’s unclear what that’s worth. Denver leaves it up to candidates to assign a fair market value that’s “reasonable.” Khalatbari says he’s mulling that over and will probably rate the value at a penny or two per flier, or $50 to $100 total, on his next campaign finance report.

He says that’s reasonable because he’s used Sexy Pizza’s boxes to promote his other businesses, including Denver Relief and Sexpot Comedy shows, as well as partners’ events, at no charge. He pointed out that his campaign volunteers, not Sexy Pizza’s employees, are attaching the fliers to the boxes in advance.

Kayvan Khalatbari has been known to don a chicken suit and mock Gov. John Hickenlooper for promoting beer but not marijuana. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)
Kayvan Khalatbari has been known to don a chicken suit and mock Gov. John Hickenlooper for promoting beer but not marijuana. (Cyrus McCrimmon, The Denver Post)

Perhaps it was inevitable that Khalatbari would attempt such synergy in his run for Denver City Council.

This is, after all, the same guy who tried to make a point and mock Gov. John Hickenlooper, a former beer brewer who opposed pot legalization, by following him around in a chicken suit.

But his mailers strike a more serious tone, highlighting Khalatbari’s business experience as an entrepreneur who started or helped start seven local businesses (and making the claim: “I have more business experience than all current City Council members combined.”). He’s careful to mention his ownership of the marijuana shop in passing, below his support for LGBT and transgender rights and his position as an “opponent of greedy developers.”

He’s drawn more serious fundraising support lately, out-raising the other four candidates in March by collecting $22,383 (though he still trails the incumbents’ overall totals significantly).

It hard to say if he’s rounding up enough support to threaten Ortega or Kniech on May 5, but Khalatbari always exudes confidence. He noted that the pizza box fliers amount to a fraction of his efforts.

“We’re going to end up doing right around 70,000 mailers,” he said. “They’re going to go to various demographics. And we’re making a couple thousand phone calls. The social media is really what I’m getting a kick out of right now.”

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