Mike Johnston Defeats Kelly Brough to BecomeDenver’s Next Mayor

By Eric Heinz

Mike Johnston claimed victory as Denver’s next mayor on election night, as his opponent, Kelly Brough, conceded after the third set of votes was released.

“In Denver, we have the drive to dream something different, which is to believe we can build a different kind of city,” Johnston said during his victory speech at Union Station. “We can build a city that is big enough to keep all of us safe, to house all of us, to support all of us, that is our dream of Denver.”

Johnston had about 55% of the vote by 10 p.m. on election night to Brough’s roughly 45%, and he mentioned his call with her when she conceded.

Mike Johnston, who won Denver’s election for mayor, gets a hug from his mother on election night at Union Station before giving his victory speech. Photo by Eric Heinz

“I thanked her for her incredible service to this city, for her creativity, for her generosity,” Johnston said. “We’ve gotten to spend a lot of time together on this campaign, and I’ve seen her as someone who is deeply committed to what this city can become and who has brought great ideas to the stage that we want to make sure become part of the future of Denver.”

Brough wished Johnston well on the road ahead, “because our city is challenged, and it needs a lot of work,” she said in her concession speech.

“What I see in this room is a lot of power, a lot of love, the kind of power and love that money can’t buy, and I’m so grateful,” Brough said. “We set out to restore the promise of Denver, and I still believe in this campaign and the work we did, we were successful in doing just that and creating the sense of optimism and possibility for our city.”

Johnston based his campaign largely on addressing the homeless crisis in Denver. Many of his five-second advertisements solely address that issue. Following the concession from Brough, Johnston received congratulations from Gov. Jared Polis and current Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

“I offer my heartfelt congratulations to Mayor-elect Mike Johnston on his hardfought victory in becoming the 46th mayor of Denver,” Hancock said in a prepared statement. “His experiences as a nonprofit community leader, legislator and educator have prepared him to hit the ground running. I’m confident the city will be in good hands and my team stands ready to support the incoming administration. I look forward to a smooth, collaborative transition over the next few weeks and will do everything possible to ensure Mayor-elect Johnston is ready to get to work on behalf of all the residents of Denver on July 17.”

By the Numbers

According to numbers from the Denver Office of the Clerk and Recorder as of the end of the election cycle, Mike Johnston had raised a little more than $1.2 million for his campaign, but a little more than $4.9 million was spent in support of his run, much of that coming from a group called Advancing Denver. Of that, nearly $1.95 million was donated by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

Brough had raised a little more than $1 million with another roughly $1.4 million spent in support of her run, much of that coming from the group called A Better Denver.

Of that, The National Association of Realtors contributed about $470,000 to that independent expenditure committee in March. Of note, Brough was able to get more small donations and therefore received more from the city’s Fair Elections Fund, about $937,000 to Johnston’s roughly $767,000. All together, over $6.9 million was spent by Johnston’s campaign or by outside groups in support of his campaign, double the $3.4 million that was spent by or in support of Brough.

Some of the notable endorsements received by Johnston include former Denver Mayor Federico Peña, former Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll, former Colorado Senate President Peter Groff, former Colorado first lady Dottie Lamm and more. Brough was able to secure endorsements from former mayors Wellington Webb and Bill Vidal, as well as former state Rep. Wilma Webb, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors and more.

Transition Team

Johnston’s transition team is packed with current and former elected Denver officials.

The team includes State Rep. Leslie Herod, District 8, who is serving as the inauguration chair and ran against Johnston in the municipal election for mayor, and he provided a list of his co-chairs.

Ami Desai is an educator who has worked with “historically excluded individuals,” as she founded Ami Desai and Associates, and she is taking a leave of absence from her role as the COO of the philanthropic organization Gary Community Ventures, which was led by Johnston until November.

Former Denver Mayor Federico Peña also helped lead transition teams for former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and he is a former secretary of energy and secretary of transportation under Clinton.

State Sen. Julie Gonalzes, District 34, represents North Denver and has been a leader in writing legislation to protect immigrants, streamline Colorado’s marijuana industry, and most recently helped create legislation to ensure access to abortions.

Greg Moore is former editor of The Denver Post, and he served in that role for 14 years. Kourtny Garrett is the CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership, which works to help businesses and visitors within the downtown area.

Makisha Boothe is the founder and CEO of Sistahbiz, a business incubator that provides Black women business owners with resources.

The team has been setting up meetings with organizations, such as a recent meeting with Colorado Village Collaborative, which helps homeless people, and Johnston said during his transition team announcement that he plans to establish 28 committees that will tackle a variety of issues.


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