Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough got more than $1.36 million combined in taxpayer funds to run for Denver mayor

They’ll each get a good chunk of change for the runoff, too.
3 min. read
Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston are the finalists in the 2023 Denver mayor’s race.
Credit: Kevin J. Beaty

The two finalists in the Denver mayoral election -- both benefiting from billionaire backing -- also received the most taxpayer dollars to fund their campaigns: the max of $750,000 for former Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce head Kelly Brough and $613,539.00 for former State Sen. Mike Johnston.

That's according to the latest Fair Elections Fund data from the Clerk and Recorder's office.

Brough could also receive another $187,500 and Johnston could receive another $153,384.75 in public money in the runoff.

While Johnston brought in the second-most in taxpayer dollars, he did not have the second-most contributions. Those went to State Rep. Leslie Herod, who had 1,612,  yet came in fifth place in the election and came in third place in Fair Elections Fund money received, with $587,057.13.

The mayor's race cost taxpayers more than $3.5 million. More than $2.15 million went to losing candidates.

In total, $7,131,830.14 in public money was spent on the 2023 general election. Another $563,641.78 could be spent in the runoffs.

"All candidates in the June Runoff Election qualified for the Fair Elections Fund in 2022, and each candidate will receive 25% of the total amount that was disbursed to them prior to the April 4 Municipal Election in one lump sum payment," the Clerk and Recorder's office noted in a statement. "The Fund has not matched small dollar contributions since the February 28 deadline and will not match any contributions for the runoff election."

LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman has made the single-largest contribution in the race: $779,803.98 to an independent expenditure committee backing Johnston, who has benefited from big out-of-state money.

The National Association of Realtors has given three separate $150,000 contributions to an independent expenditure committee backing Brough, who has benefited from contributions from the real estate, construction and development industry.

In the City Council race, there were two candidates who received $250,000: at-large winner Sarah Parady and defeated Travis Leiker, a fellow at-large candidate who had the biggest coffer in that race.

The second at-large candidate to win was Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, who came in fourth place in Fair Elections Fund matches with $220,652.64.

The losers in the race likely have unspent taxpayer money to refund and some paperwork to complete.

"Candidates who were unopposed, who dropped out of their race, or who lost their election are required to return unused Fair Elections Funds. Return deadlines are 60 days from the candidate's disqualifying event," explained the Clerk's office. "Candidates will include returned funding amounts according to their respective campaign finance reporting deadlines, and the Office will audit all returns, along with other contributions and expenditures as usual."

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