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Mike Johnston victorious in Denver mayoral runoff election, Kelly Brough concedes

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CBS News Colorado Live

Mike Johnston will be Denver's 46th mayor. Voters in the Mile High City elected the former Colorado state senator in Tuesday night's official municipal runoff election. He will become Denver's first new mayor in 12 years when current Mayor Michael Hancock's third and final term comes to an end in mid-July.

Mike Johnston delivers his acceptance speech late Tuesday night in Denver. CBS

Johnston took a healthy lead over candidate Kelly Brough early in the night and eventually declared victory. As of 10 p.m., he had a 54% to 46% lead and CBS News Colorado called the race. Brough conceded just after 10 p.m. and delivered a concession speech after calling Johnston.


Johnston is a former Colorado state senator who ran for governor and U.S. Senate and lost. Most recently, he was the CEO of Gary Community Ventures.

Mike Johnston went door to door trying to secure last minute votes on Tuesday. CBS

Brough was chief of staff for former Mayor John Hickenlooper and chair of the Denver Chamber of Commerce.

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

More than 15 candidates ran for mayor but none received more than 50% of the vote in the city's municipal election in early April, triggering a runoff between Brough who placed second and Johnston who placed first. Since then, the two candidates have participated in numerous public debates and forums in advance of Tuesday's election. The race has been defined by big issues like homelessness, affordable housing and crime.

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

During most of the debates both candidates admitted being mayor of Denver will be no walk in the park but they each promised to turn the city around. On the issue of homelessness, Johnston said he would enforce the city's camping ban without committing or arresting anyone, saying 72 hour mental health holds don't help. Brough said in cases where people continue to camp or openly use drugs, mental health holds or arrests may be necessary.

There were rarely any fireworks between the two throughout the race. During CBS News Colorado's debate, for instance, they fielded questions about everything from housing to health equity and trash to transportation without even a hint of animosity. But when they were given the opportunity to question each other the tone changed very quickly. It was a turning point in the debate as Brough turned to Johnston and accused him of misleading voters by taking credit for things like mass COVID testing, full day kindergarten and gun control when others had done the work. Johnston also went after Brough, accusing her of opposing an increase in minimum wage as chair of the Denver Chamber of Commerce.

In the last stages of the election cycle Brough and her supporters accused two out-of-state billionaires of trying to buy the race for Johnston. Johnston, however, said those people supported him because they worked on progressive causes together and claimed voters should be more worried about many of Brough's donors who he said had "development and real estate interests before the City and County of Denver."

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