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Mayor-Elect Mike Johnston speaks about Denver's future on morning after his election

Mayor-Elect Mike Johnston speaks about Denver's future on morning after his election
Mayor-Elect Mike Johnston speaks about Denver's future on morning after his election 02:54

Mike Johnston has been picked by Denver voters to be the Mile High City's 46th mayor. After the moderate Democrat's victory on Tuesday night, next month he will take over for Mayor Michael Hancock, who has been in office since 2011.

After the polls closed in Denver's official municipal runoff election, Johnston took an early lead over opponent Kelly Brough and eventually declared victory. 

The latest numbers show Johnston received 54.6% of the votes and Brough received 45.3%.


The former Colorado state senator and now mayor-elect got up early to appear on CBS Colorado Mornings and talked about what he plans to do to achieve his dream of Denver.

"I think for us to really achieve that dream we are a city that makes sure everyone can afford to live in Denver," Johnston said. 

"We know it's too expensive, making sure those that are unhoused can get access to housing and back on their feet and back into (being) productive members of society. And it means getting back to people who feel safe in every neighborhood so it is around public safety not just in downtown but all over the city. And those will be our jobs, one, two and three when we get started."

While Johnston is celebrating his victory with his family, last night Brough delivered her concession speech, congratulating Johnston on becoming Denver's next mayor.

The former president and CEO of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, told supporters Tuesday night that she had called Johnston and "wished him godspeed in the work ahead because our city is challenged and it needs a lot of work."

In addition to thanking Brough, Johnston in his Tuesday night speech thanked all of the other 15+ candidates who ran for mayor and didn't make it to Tuesday's runoff.

"I also want to thank and congratulate the amazing field of candidates that started out this race with us," Johnston said.

Watch Mayor-Elect Mike Johnston's acceptance speech 11:22

"To every one of those people who people who said 'I love this city enough to fight for it and to spend 6 months of my life making a case for it' I want to say thank you for your leadership."

Hancock also called Johnston with congratulations and said he knows the city will be in good hands.

Denver has become the tech and business hub of the Mountain West but now faces problems similar to those in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Johnston will helm a rapidly growing city faced with out-of-control housing costs and increased homelessness.

The job of Denver mayor has launched careers, notably that of John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who went on to become Colorado's governor and is now a U.S. senator. Another Democratic mayor, Frederico Peña, went on to become U.S. Energy Secretary under former President Bill Clinton.

Peña endorsed Johnston, who also had a larger warchest, including nearly $5 million raised from outside contributions.

A tech and aerospace hub, the Denver metro area's population has almost doubled over the past three decades, reaching 3 million. Fears that rapidly growing Denver is lurching toward a fate like other major cities defined the race.

Candidates debated whether to enforce a ban on growing homeless encampments, further fund the police, impose rent control and allow what are often called "safe injection sites" — where people may use drugs under supervision to prevent overdoses.

The ban was a legacy of Hancock's administration.

Johnston, who got slightly more votes than Brough in the April election, has said voters want the next mayor to do a good job of taking multiple approaches to problems.

"We do have the same problems that San Francisco and Seattle face," he said in April. "If we get that wrong, you end up like a lot of other big cities where no middle class people can live."

Brough campaigned on her knowledge of Denver and experience as a CEO. Besides leading the Denver chamber of commerce, she has been chief strategy officer for Metropolitan State University of Denver and was Hickenlooper's chief of staff for three years when he was mayor.

Denver's homelessness rate has grown by over 12% over the past two years. Whether to enforce the ban divided candidates in the April election but Johnston and Brough both have said they would enforce it.

Johnston will also inherit a city experiencing a rise in gentrification, the highest crime rate in decades, and a surge in opioid overdoses that reached 473 deaths in 2021.

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