Johnston defeats Brough in Denver’s fifth open mayoral election since 1959

Former state Sen. Mike Johnston defeated former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce CEO Kelly Brough, 54% to 46%, in a runoff election for mayor of Denver, Colorado, on June 6, 2023. This was the city’s fifth open mayoral election since 1959.

Incumbent Michael Hancock (D), first elected in 2011, was term-limited. 

While the election was officially nonpartisan, both Brough and Johnston were Democrats.

Axios Denver’s Alayna Alvarez, John Frank, and Esteban Hernandez wrote that Johnston won “with support from a coalition of progressives and $5 million in outside spending from national big-money donors.”

Satellite spending topped $6.4 million between the two candidates, with $4.9 million supporting Johnston and $1.4 million supporting Brough.

Both candidates identified public safety, housing, and homelessness as key issues in the race.

In a series of position papers, Johnston said he would increase the quality and quantity of law enforcement in the city, make housing more affordable, and end homelessness by the end of his first term.

Denver has a strong mayor government, where the mayor serves as chief executive and the city council operates as a legislative branch. The mayor sets the city budget, nominates department heads, and appoints more than 700 officials citywide. The mayor also oversees the Denver International Airport, police and sheriff departments, and the community planning and development department.

Denver is the 19th largest city in the United States by population. Twenty-nine of the 100 largest cities are holding mayoral elections in 2023. Democrats hold 62 top-100 mayoral offices, Republicans hold 26, independents hold three, and nonpartisan mayors hold seven. Two mayors’ partisan affiliations are unknown.