Where do Denver’s Runoff Mayoral Candidates Stand on Youth Agenda Issues?
June 5, 2023
By Molly Stawinoga, Communications Coordinator
Ahead of the June 6 runoff election for Denver’s mayor, we found ourselves gripped by a (silly yet strategic) idea: What if we asked candidates Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough increasingly spicy questions as they munched on increasingly spicy hot wings? In “Hot Ones” fashion, we put their tastebuds and plans for Denver to the test. If you want to catch all of New Era Action Fund, Cobalt, COLOR Latina, and ONE Colorado’s forum shenanigans, check out our video of the forum, listen to City Cast Denver’s recording, or read the full Q+A transcript. That feel tmth? We have you covered. Below are some quick highlights of the candidates’ answers to questions about the issues that matter most to young Denverites.
Photos captured by Esteban Monzón.
Both candidates actually said the word “abortion!” In addition, we learned that Brough and Johnston both want to keep Denver as a safe haven for people accessing reproductive health care, for people living in and coming to Colorado for essential care.
What they do not want to keep is also something neither has the power to change: limits to offering abortion care in the state Constitution. Currently, it bans abortion coverage if you get your insurance through Medicaid, you work for the federal government, or you work for the state government. Brough suggested creating a fund for employees of the City and County of Denver to cover abortion care. Johnston echoed Brough’s desire to offer city and county employees full reproductive health care coverage but didn’t state how he would do so. Johnston’s other proposals included protecting patients and providers from threat, harassment, and discrimination, along with increasing access to care for county jail inmates.
Immigrant Rights and Economic Justice
Besides Johnston offering the influx of migrants his extra hot wings (side eye), both he and Brough emphasized the need to continue providing assistance to immigrants coming to the U.S., especially for those in our city temporarily and whose final destination is not Denver. They both said they want to figure out peoples’ preferred destinations earlier in the process so folks aren’t forced on buses to random cities so that resources become more accessible and used where they’re needed.
Both candidates also said they want to give migrants the ability to work in the U.S. while they wait on asylum claims. Johnston said he would call on federal officials to give new arrivals temporary protected status to get this done, while Brough said there is a path forward with or without the federal government. No word on what that path is.
Neither candidate could commit to eliminating single-family zoning across the board in Denver.
Brough said she would use programs like master leasing or third-party leasing to bring down the cost of rent in Denver (basically, this is where nonprofits take over a long-term lease for a block of rental units, assume the role of property manager, and offer affordable rent. Brough also proposed building for-sale, affordable condos on publicly-owned land to increase home ownership).
Johnston (while drinking his first glass of milk since he was 12 years old) committed to building or converting 25,000 units that are permanently affordable in the next eight years. He said the units would be funded through Proposition 123 funds and he would cap rent at 30% of the tenant’s income.
When it comes to our community members who are unhoused, Brough committed to ending encampment sweeps but still didn’t rule out arrests for the purpose of saving lives. Johnston didn’t rule out sweeps. He did, however, say that he would increase access to housing with on-the-spot mental health services, addiction treatment, and workforce training.
Side note: Brough hasn’t paid rent since 1991 and Johnston since 2004. We loveeeee that homeownership was in their reach, but let’s expand it to all Denverites.
In a rapid fire round, we asked the candidates some quick questions on essential Denver issues, like:
- Elitch Gardens or Lakeside?
- Johnston: Lakeside because there’s nothing more terrifying than knowing you might actually collapse while you’re on the rollercoaster. That adds real terror. It could fall apart at any moment.
- Brough: Lakeside because it’s, you know, historic.
- Chipotle or Illegal Pete’s?
- Johnston: This is gonna be unpopular, but Chipotle is closer to my house. I gotta say Chipotle.
- Brough: I have to say Chipotle.
- If you could each describe the legacy you hope to leave Denver as the mayor in one sentence, what would it be?
- Johnston: That [Denver] would be a city that is vibrant and affordable and safe for everybody in every neighborhood.
- Brough: A city where every single one of us can make our home, raise our kids, find our future.
The runoff election is on Tuesday, June 6. Here is all the information you need to cast your vote! Remember: in Colorado, you can register to vote and vote through 7 p.m. on Election Day; just be in line at a Voter Service & Polling Center or dropbox by 7 p.m.!
Young people made up 1 in 5 voters in the April 4 general election. Our numbers give young Denverites the power to decide elections–when we all show up. Your vote is your voice–so use it, Denver!