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Runoff all but set between Johnston, Brough in Denver mayoral race; Calderón concedes

A runoff election would take place on June 6. In all likelihood, it will be Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough going head-to-head in the runoff for Denver mayor.
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Posted at 10:39 PM, Apr 04, 2023

DENVER — A June 6 runoff election between Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough was all but set with Thursday afternoon's release of voting numbers in the Denver mayoral election.

The numbers held Friday afternoon when the city released new numbers.

Johnston had 24.44% of the vote (42,205 votes) while Brough had 20.03% (34,593). As is customary in municipal elections, some ballots may still need to be cured, meaning the city needs to fix minor mistakes and do things like verify signatures.

Lisa Calderón, who gained significant ground in Wednesday's tallies but conceded the race Thursday afternoon, trailed Brough by about 3,000 votes Friday.

Very few ballots were likely left to count.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, Denver had counted 175,367 votes, which is more than the clerk's office estimated (175,034) as the total number cast.

The votes received totals 33.45% of registered voters.

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The runoff election would be between two of the more moderate mayoral candidates in the unusually large and divergent field of 16 contestants.

Brough is the president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. Johnston is a former state senator.

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Johnston and Brough had topped the field since the initial ballot drop on Election Night Tuesday. Johnston's percentage of the vote – around 24% – held steady throughout the three days during which votes were counted.

Brough's share of the vote dropped slightly as Calderón, the executive director of Emerge Colorado and a faculty member at Regis University and CU Boulder, narrowed the gap Wednesday and picked up more ground Thursday.

Calderón's had said Wednesday in a Wednesday statement that she was "confident" her campaign would get the votes needed to make the runoff.

Denver mayoral election: Update from Mike Johnston
Denver mayoral election: Update from Kelly Brough

Johnston and Brough would leave behind the more progressive candidates in a largely left-leaning contestant field.

All are vying for an increasingly powerful position in a city that faces rising crime rates not seen for decades, growing homeless encampments and dizzying housing costs.

Elections officials on Wednesday held a press conference to share new stats and highlights. Around 175,000 people in Denver voted over the last 22 days since ballots were mailed on March 13, according to Paul D. López, City of Denver Clerk.

With a runoff for Denver mayor likely, there were several questions raised about what ranked-choice voting could look like in local elections.

"We are very aware of it as an office, we have thought through quite a bit of the homework here on what it might look like for Denver voters should they want to consider it more seriously," said Lucille Wenegieme, Strategic Advisor and Spokesperson Office of Denver Clerk & Recorder.

Ranked-choice voting is a system in which voters rank candidates by preference then awarding the election to the candidate who receives the majority of first-choice votes. When no candidate claims the majority of first-choice votes, the candidate that receives the least first-choice votes would be eliminated and then the ballots with that candidate as the first-choice would then have their second choice counted.

Read more in this explainer.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.