Get to know Denver mayor runoff candidates: Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough

Since no candidate for Denver mayor received more than 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters, Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough, will go head-to-head in a June 6 runoff election. Here’s a roundup of our coverage of the candidates. Four City Council races appear to be headed for runoffs as well.


• Denver mayor’s race runoff set between Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough
• Here are the mayoral candidates with the most money behind them
• We asked every Denver mayoral candidate for 5 years of tax returns. Here’s what we learned.
• Denver mayoral candidates pick fights in latest debate


We sent questionnaires to Denver election candidates — here’s how Johnston and Brough answered some of the questions. Read all of their answers on the Denver mayor runoff candidate Q&A page.

What should Denver leaders do to address the city’s lack of affordable housing?

Mike Johnston
I spent the last two years building a coalition of 260 organizations to support passage of Proposition 123, which will provide Denver with $50 million a year to solve this problem. Here is how I will do it:

1) build 25,000 permanently affordable units where no Denverite will pay more than 30% of their income to rent and rent can’t go up unless your income goes up;
2) eliminate the red tape that slows housing development by requiring that affordable housing permits get approved within 90 days;
3) help renters build wealth and buy homes by directing up to $100 a month of their rent check into a savings account;
4) expand the Dearfield Down Payment Assistance Program.

Kelly Brough
We need housing solutions that benefit people across the income spectrum, particularly the ‘missing middle’ who earn too much to qualify for most public assistance but struggle to make ends meet. My plans to ensure more housing –- for rent and sale, market-rate and subsidized –- include:

• Building more housing on underutilized, publicly owned land and rethinking and revitalizing downtown and surrounding neighborhoods by converting commercial space to residential.
• Increasing density on major transportation corridors and at transit stations and working with neighborhood groups to find appropriate approaches for their communities.
• Fundamentally restructuring how development is reviewed and regulated in Denver.

What is Denver’s greatest public safety concern and what should be done about it?

Mike Johnston
Denver’s greatest public safety concern is the city-wide increase in crime and the feeling that downtown is inhospitable. Solving this issue requires four concrete steps:

1) focusing on prevention through early intervention with diversionary courts like mental health, drug, and gun courts;
2) putting 200 additional first responders on the streets, including mental health workers to support those in crisis and beat cops walking the streets;
3) converting two pods of the jail into mental health and addiction units that can provide services people badly need;
4) after providing permanent supportive housing for those who are homeless, enforcing the law on those who are committing crimes or harassing residents downtown.

Kelly Brough
I will take a comprehensive approach to community safety. My safety priorities include:

• Strengthening the Denver Police Department, so we can attract and retain more officers to the force, particularly women and people of color.
• Working with our public safety officials – leaders, officers, and staff – to create a stronger culture built around national best practices, transparency, and accountability.
• Increasing investment in civilian response units to ensure we provide appropriate resources (e.g. – mental health support) and free up officers to focus on true crime.
• Address crime prevention by investing in housing, health care, education, and economic development.

Should the city’s policy of sweeping homeless encampments continue unchanged? Why or why not?

Mike Johnston
We know the current policy of sweeping is not working because people who are experiencing homelessness have no place to go. I would solve this problem by building 10-20 micro-communities that would include permanent supportive housing for 1,400 individuals. Then we can move communities of encampments together to safe, dignified housing where they can get the addiction, mental health, and workforce services they need. Once we meet that obligation to make sure everyone has a place to sleep, we must also ensure all Denver residents can enjoy our public spaces, businesses, and sidewalks. Once dignified housing is available people should not need or have the right to sleep outside someone’s home or business.

Kelly Brough
No. It is a tremendous waste of resources to move people down the block or around the corner. We need real solutions to ending homeless encampments. I will expand and evolve our shelter capacity and build more housing. While doing that, I’ll temporarily expand the use of sanctioned, supported camping. We must provide more humane and safer alternatives. If people refuse services and supports, I will use the legal authority to intervene to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the individual and the broader community. Unsheltered living in public spaces is not an acceptable option.

What should Denver leaders do to revitalize downtown Denver?

Mike Johnston
As the CEO of a business located at Union Station, I have seen this problem firsthand over the last three years. Denver needs to revitalize downtown by solving our crises of homelessness and crime. In addition, the next mayor needs to lead the charge to encourage businesses to return to working in-person by first doing the same with city workers and then encouraging other businesses to follow suit. We can do this by encouraging workers to come downtown through incentives for downtown childcare facilities and discounted and free public transit.

Kelly Brough
Making sure our residents and visitors feel safe is the first step toward revitalizing Downtown and it’ll be among my highest priorities. If employees and visitors don’t feel safe, stores don’t stay open and hotels close. Our entire region depends on a thriving downtown and my plan to end unsanctioned camping within my first year in office has been endorsed by four sitting metro area mayors. We will begin immediately working with property owners to convert some existing downtown office space to residential, and focus on retaining businesses and attracting new jobs and investments to restore the vibrancy of downtown.

How better can city officials protect Denver’s environment — air quality, water supply, ground contamination? And should the city take a more active role in transit?

Mike Johnston
Denver’s most pressing environmental issue is the city’s reliance on nonrenewable energy. I am committed to transforming the city into a national leader in clean energy and climate sustainability by committing to have 100 percent of Denver’s electricity sourced from renewable sources by 2040. This requires electrifying our fleet and electrifying our buildings while reducing vehicle emissions by providing incentives to increase the use of public transit, increase ridership, and increase route frequency and ride quality. We must also take a more aggressive approach to preserving water by incentivizing turf and xeriscaping wherever possible.

Kelly Brough
I’ll make Denver a national and global leader on climate by capitalizing on recent federal funding and promoting policies that ensure communities most impacted by air and water pollution benefit from new investment. Priorities will include:

• Promoting housing density, particularly along transportation corridors and at transit sites, and supporting the conversion of vacant office space to housing.
• Supporting the education and training necessary to prepare Denver residents, particularly people of color, for green economy sector jobs.
• Fostering partnerships with RTD, DPS and DRCOG to reduce emissions from our publicly-owned fleets and promoting regional action on air quality and water conservation.

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