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Mike Johnston Chosen as Denver’s New Mayor Amidst Rapid Growth and Escalating Housing Costs

Denver announces Mike Johnston as the city’s new mayor amidst rapid growth and escalating housing costs.

Denver mayor ballot.
Denver Mayoral Election ballot with the list of candidates. Credit: Jamilya Khalilulina/Shutterstock

In the runoff election for Denver’s next mayor, former Colorado state senator Mike Johnston emerged victorious as his opponent, Kelly Brough, conceded on Tuesday night. Unofficial results showed Johnston with 54.05% of the vote compared to Brough’s 45.95%. Johnston’s lead of 8,000 votes at the close of the polls expanded to nearly 11,000 votes as the night progressed.

Johnston’s win signifies a changing of the guard in Denver, as he becomes the city’s first new mayor in over a decade, taking over from term-limited Michael Hancock, who was elected in 2011.

Brough, the former president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, graciously acknowledged Johnston’s victory and expressed her hopes for his success in addressing the city’s challenges. She recognized that Denver faces significant issues and emphasized the need for dedicated work.

Both Johnston and Brough, who were considered moderates, advanced to the runoff after emerging as the top vote-getters in a crowded 16-way race held in April.

As Denver has evolved into a thriving tech and business hub in the Mountain West, it has encountered similar problems to those experienced by cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. Johnston will now lead a rapidly growing city grappling with skyrocketing housing costs and an escalating homelessness crisis.

The position of Denver mayor has served as a launching pad for political careers in the past, including that of John Hickenlooper, who went on to become Colorado’s governor and currently serves as a U.S. senator. Frederico Peña, another Democratic mayor of Denver, went on to become the U.S. Energy Secretary under former President Bill Clinton.

Johnston received an endorsement from Peña and had a significant financial advantage, with nearly $5 million raised from outside contributions. He emphasized the need for comprehensive approaches to the city’s challenges and acknowledged the shared problems with cities like San Francisco and Seattle.

Candidates in the race debated various issues, including the enforcement of a ban on growing homeless encampments, police funding, rent control, and the establishment of supervised drug injection sites to prevent overdoses.

The future mayor of Denver will inherit a city grappling with rising homelessness, gentrification, a surge in crime rates, and a concerning increase in opioid overdoses. Addressing these pressing issues will be among the top priorities for Johnston as he assumes office and seeks to steer Denver toward a prosperous and inclusive future.

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