Kelly Brough wins endorsements from Wellington Webb, Denver’s first Black mayor, and former state rep. Wilma Webb

Brough is Webb’s second pick, after State Rep. Leslie Herod, who came in fifth place in the general election.
7 min. read
Wellington and Wilma Webb announce their endorsements for mayoral candidate Kelly Brough on the outskirts of the Park Hill Golf Course. April 18, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Updated at 11:53 a.m.

Standing on the edge of the former Park Hill Golf Course, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb and former state rep. Wilma Webb endorsed mayoral candidate Kelly Brough.

Wellington Webb, speaking to a crowd of supporters Tuesday morning, said Brough has experience to attract business and economic development to the city and added that she knows how to build coalitions with people from diverse backgrounds.

"This is the toughest management job that there is," he said. "We have to elect people that are hard working, have the right temperament and the right judgement."

Wilma Webb, in her endorsement, said Brough is the only candidate who has worked for Denver and knows the city.

"She represents the human spirit because she is a person who has experienced so much that we ordinary people  have experienced," she said. "She has dealt with all kinds of ills our city has been facing."

Wellington and Wilma Webb prepare to announce their endorsements for mayoral candidate Kelly Brough on the outskirts of the Park Hill Golf Course. April 18, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Brough addressed what the Webbs' endorsement means to her. 

"You were leading this city as I raised my girls here," Brough said to the former mayor. "You built the city of promise for my family, and I benefited from that promise. It is hard to express how committed I am to returning and restoring that promise for our residents. But it's your work I hope to build on and honor."

She said the Webbs came along and believed in her when she was unsure she should run. They helped remind her why she's in the race.

Brough pointed to Wellington Webb's legacy of building the Hyatt at the Convention Center and boosting the tourism industry downtown as an inspiration.

"You changed our region because of it," Brough said. "You took the public sector into work that people said we're not supposed to be doing. And because you did it, you built a great city. And you started to attract investment and attention and visitors like nobody else."

Brough celebrated Wilma Webb for the values she brought to her decades of leadership in the city and her "willingness to be vulnerable, and to acknowledge how much people in life go through, and how much we share," she said. "And understanding those vulnerabilities, frankly, is what builds the values that guide us every single day."

Former state legislator Wilma Webb announces her endorsement for mayoral candidate Kelly Brough on the outskirts of the Park Hill Golf Course. April 18, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

In the general election, Wellington Webb described both Brough and her runoff opponent, former State Sen. Mike Johnston, as "big-business candidates."

"Kelly has raised the most money, but she's been consistent in that," Webb said last month to opponents of Westside Investment Partners' failed attempt to redevelop the Park Hill Golf Course. "She has not done what some others have done." What's that? Take money from Andy Klein, the head of Westside.

Webb has been a longstanding opponent of development on the site and was the mayor who ushered in the conservation easement that mandates the land must be used as a golf course.

At the time, Webb described Johnston as a "good friend" and as disappointing for taking money from Klein and not acknowledging it when asked if he had accepted campaign contributions from Westside or related entities at a debate.

But Brough, too, has taken money from Westside Investment Partners' Vice President Megan Waldschmidt -- albeit about a tenth of the $500 Johnston received. At Tuesday's endorsement, Brough was surprised to learn about that contribution and said she would refund it.

"Because we were voting on this issue, because it's such a huge issue in our city, we said we would not accept any contributions, so that's why we're going to refund it immediately," Brough said.

Both candidates initially said they'd vote in favor of Referred Question 2O, which lifted the conservation easement for a mixed-use development, citing Denver's need for more housing as the reason. But since voters shot down the proposal, Johnston and Brough say they'll attempt to buy the land from the developer and turn it into a regional park.

Westside has maintained its plans to turn the site back into a golf course and declined to comment on whether the company would consider such offers.

Webb landed on Brough because she met with the opposition group soon after voters widely shot down Referred Question 2O. Though her side had lost, she wanted to find ways to collaborate.

"You may not like the Lakers and the Celtics, but if they're the only two teams playing, you got to pick one," he continued. "And I'm picking Kelly, because she reflects more of the values that I believe the city needs. I think this city needs to say to the world, we have the capacity to elect a woman mayor and be proud of it and get our swagger back."

Wellington Webb's first pick for mayor was State Rep. Leslie Herod, who came in fifth place in the general election.

Brough has been endorsed by other candidates in the race.

Those include mayoral hopefuls State Rep. Alex Valdez, who withdrew before the general election, and investment banker and anti-encampment activist Thomas Wolf. Travis Leiker, who raised a lot of money but fell short in the at-large race, also supports Brough.

She also has the endorsement of City Councilmember Kendra Black and former Deputy Mayor Bill Vidal, her colleague from then-Mayor John Hickenlooper's administration, where she worked as chief of staff. Vidal briefly served as mayor when Hickenlooper transitioned to governor.

Neither Hickenlooper nor current Mayor Michael Hancock have endorsed a candidate.

Last week, Federico Peña endorsed Johnston, his only mayoral endorsement in the race. He's also been endorsed by former state lawmaker and Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll, former Colorado Senate President Peter Groff and most recently the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 and SMART Local 9 Sheet Metal Workers unions.

Mayoral candidate Kelly Brough thanks Wellington and Wilma Webb after they announced their endorsement for her on the outskirts of the Park Hill Golf Course. April 18, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Webb's endorsement is among the most significant of the city's living mayors.

Webb was a three-term mayor remembered for overseeing the opening of Denver International Airport, the arrival of the Colorado Rockies, the redevelopment of the Central Platte Valley, including the launch of Ball Arena (then called the Pepsi Center), the buildout of Denver Health, and the creation of parks along the South Platte River.

Webb, the city's first Black mayor, has been a larger-than-life figure in Denver politics and one of the few living politicians to have a major city building named after him.

Since his time in office, he has run a successful lobbying company, opposed housing and other development in the name of preservation and the protection of open space, and lobbied against City Council's flavored tobacco ban, which Mayor Michael Hancock ultimately vetoed.

Earlier this year, we asked Denver's former mayors what they thought voters should look for in their next CEO. Addressing crime was at the top of Webb's priority list.

"The city has to be safe," Webb said. "There can only be one sheriff in town and that's the mayor."

Webb's a proponent of the strong-mayor form of government, and he believes mayors need a vision.

"You've got to have a playbook," he said. "But you also have to have everybody that you hire -- those political appointees, they have to buy into what that playbook is. And if they don't buy in, then you made some poor choices in who you are hiring."

He also made it clear before endorsing Herod or Brough: "It's a woman's time."

This article has been updated with comments from Brough and to clarify that Bill Vidal was mayor, not deputy mayor, after Hickenlooper left the mayor's office to be governor. We added several endorsements Johnston has received. 

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