Mike Johnston has won the mayoral race in Denver, beating out Kelly Brough. Johnston, who received 54% of the vote, has promised to end homelessness in his first term by building 1,400 tiny homes and converting motels to shelters. He also plans to build 25,000 units of new housing, hire more cops and social workers, and provide young people with more after-school programs. Johnston was endorsed by former Mayor Federico Peña and most of the progressive candidates who competed in the general election. His campaign and the independent expenditure committee backing him raised more than $4.2 million in out-of-state money from billionaires Reid Hoffman and Michael Bloomberg, along with significant support from Davita’s former CEO Kent Thiry.
Brough, who lagged behind Johnston in fundraising, had support from Republican mega-donors Pete Coors, Philip Anschutz and Pat Broe. She pledged to end encampments in her first term by creating safe occupancy sites and said she would build income-restricted housing above publicly owned parking lots. Unlike Johnston, she said she would have police arrest people who were living on the streets and refused services in extreme cases. Brough distinguished herself in the race by contrasting her hardscrabble childhood and life as a single mother who lost her husband to suicide with Johnston’s privileged upbringing.
The win marks a big comeback win for Johnston, who has lost against Jared Polis in a race to be governor and withdrew from a Senate race to make way for John Hickenlooper. Johnston was raised in Vail and studied at Yale, where he was a member of the elite secret society, Skull and Bones. After graduating, he was a principal at an alternative high school; an education reformer who butt heads with teacher unions; a state senator; and CEO of the foundation Gary Community Ventures. He was also the architect of Proposition 123, which could be a major funding source for homelessness prevention and income-restricted housing construction if the city manages to speed up its permitting process to meet required deadlines.
Keywords: Mike Johnston, Kelly Brough, Denver, mayoral race, homelessness, housing, police, education reform, fundraising.
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