Denver election updates: Mike Johnston declares victory

Denver’s runoff election ends today. Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston are the headliners, but that’s not all!
22 min. read
Supporters of Denver mayor-elect Mike Johnston celebrate at Union Station on election night, June 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Quick things to know:

? 11:12 p.m.: Time for bed, but come back tomorrow

We in the Denverite and CPR newsroom are calling it a night, but we'll be back tomorrow with the remaining votes for the mayor's race and City Council Districts 8, 9 and 10.

-- Sarah Bures

?️ 10:45 p.m.: 'This is our Denver,' says in victory speech

Mayor-elect Mike Johnston announces his election-night victory at Union Station. June 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

After Kelly Brough called Mike Johnston to concede, Johnston spoke at to a crowd of supporters at Union Station. "We believe in a Denver where everyone ought to be able to afford to live in this city," Johnston said.

-- Sarah Bures

?️ 10:25 p.m.: Kelly Brough concedes race to Mike Johnston

In a speech to the crowd gathered at her watch party, Brough said she had called Mike Johnston to concede in the mayor's race. Throughout the evening, Johnston led Brough in results and by 10 p.m., he had 54.05% of the vote. Read the full story here.

Mike Johnston is expected to speak publicly shortly.

-- Sarah Bures

? 10:05 p.m.: Latest results

District 10 candidate Shannon Hoffman, District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis, District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca and former mayoral candidate Lisa Calderon, from left, want for election results on election night.
Desiree Mathurin/Denverite

At the 10:00 p.m. result drop, Johnston still leads Brough with 54.05% of the vote. Brad Revare still has a tight lead over Shontel Lewis with 5,866 votes in the City Council District 8 race. Challenger Darrell Watson has sustained his substantial lead in the District 9 City Council race over incumbent Candi CdeBaca. Incumbent Councilmember Chris Hinds remained ahead of Shannon Hoffman in the race for City Council District 10.

-- Sarah Bures

? 9:05 p.m.: Denver Elections share information about the turnout

In a Tweet, Denver Elections shared a breakdown of the votes counted so far. The 7 p.m. vote drop contained results from ballots that had been cast by the end of the day Monday, June 5. The results released at 8:30 p.m. reflected ballots cast by 3 p.m. today, June 6.

The 10:00 p.m. results drop will "contain total unofficial turnout numbers and reflect all Election Day ballot returns," said Denver Elections. Results will continue and be unofficial until certification on June 20.

-- Sarah Bures

? 9:00 p.m.: At Brad Revare's watch party

Amelia Tranchina and Nicholas Lineback with their daughter Aoife at Denver City Council candidate Brad Revare’s watch party on election night.
Rebecca Tauber/Denverite

Big cheers at Brad Revare's watch party as his lead grows from 25 votes at the first drop to 110 votes at 8:30. I talked with Revare supporter Amelia Tranchina, who first met Revare after what she called a "sassy" Facebook interaction with him about a Central Park bike lane. "I was very sassy, very confrontational, and he was very graceful," she said. "He ended up inviting us to events and stuff... and just talking to him more and found out that he was a fellow neighbor, cyclist, parent, and we found out that he was running for City Council and from there became supporters."

-- Rebecca Tauber

? 8:45 p.m.: The latest votes are in

The crowd cheers as the 8:30 p.m. election results go up at Mike Johnston's Union Station watch party on election night, June 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Denver City Council runoff candidate Darrell Watson and supporters at his watch party at Tracks on election night.
Tony Gorman/CPR News

At the 8:30 p.m. drop, Mike Johnston is leading Kelly Brough with 53.87% of the votes counted so far. In the City Council races, District 8 candidate Brad Revare is ahead of Shontel Lewis by 110 votes, District 9 candidate Darrell Watson is ahead of incumbent Candi CdeBaca with 63.5% of the votes, and Chris Hinds is ahead of Shannon Hoffman with 57.8% of the votes.

The next drop is expected at 10 p.m.

-- Sarah Bures

? 8:20 p.m.: 10 minutes before the next vote drop

? 7:45 p.m.: The Denver Socialist City Council watch party

The mood is restrained but energetic at the Denver Socialist watch party at Park Hill Nutrition. Incumbent Candi CdeBaca, in District 9, is currently behind her challenger Darrell Watson, but she said late votes will continue to trickle in. District 10 challenger Shannon Hoffman echoed the same sentiment. CdeBaca trails Watson by about 3,000 votes. Hoffman trails incumbent Chris Hinds by about 1,900 votes. District 8 candidate Shontel Lewis hasn't arrived yet (she was dropping off last-minute ballots) but the her supporters are in high spirits. Lewis trails behind candidate Brad Revare by 25 votes.

-- Desiree Mathurin

? 7:30 p.m.: The mayoral watch parties

My colleague Kyle Harris said that the crowd is laid back at Reelworks, even after the first results showed Kelly Brough is trailing Mike Johnston. The campaign says they've confirmed many more votes are coming in, and they will have more to say after the 8:30 results drop.

CPR reporter Ben Markus is at Mike Johnston's party in Union Station. The place is packed; It's still a transportation hub, after all. There were cheers in the crowd when the results were posted on the screen at 7 p.m. The volume in the room has risen. Still no sign of Johnston yet. Folks clearly excited, but no one's ready to call this one.

-- Sarah Bures

? 7:19 p.m.: The first round of results are in

In the mayor's race, Mike Johnston is ahead of Kelly Brough with 53% of the vote.

In the City Council District 9 race, Darrell Watson has taken the lead over incumbent Candi CdeBaca. He leads with 6,882 votes, 64.1%. of the vote. CdeBaca has 3,854 votes, 36% of the vote.

In the City Council District 10, incumbent Councilmember Chris Hinds is ahead of Shannon Hoffman. Hinds has 58.45% of the vote; Hoffman has 41.55%.

And in the City Council District 8 race, Brad Revare is ahead of Shontel Lewis by 25 votes.

-- Sarah Bures

? 6:58 p.m.: 'Refresh, refresh, refresh'

At Christ Hinds' watch party, the City Council District 10 candidate chanted "refresh, refresh, refresh" as he and his team waited for results to come in.

Supporters of Denver City Council member Chris Hinds are glued to runoff election results on a laptop at his watch party Tuesday night, June 6, 2023.
Rebecca Tauber/Denverite

-- Rebecca Tauber

?6:50 p.m.: 10 minutes before polls close

Denver mayoral candidate Kelly Brough, at right, speaks with reporters before her watch party at ReelWorks on runoff election night.
Kyle Harris/Denverite

Kelly Brough, out spent mightily by Mike Johnston, is describing herself as the underdog in the race. With fewer than 10 minutes to go before polls close, she's still encouraging people -- including the journalists in the room -- to get out and vote.

-- Kyle Harris

Union Station’s main floor is empty ahead of mayoral candidate Mike Johnston’s watch party Tuesday night, June 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

At Mike Johnston's watch party, Denverite visual journalist Kevin Beaty said the candidate and his team were in a private room awaiting the first results drop.

?️ 6:35 p.m.: We're expecting the first round of results at 7 p.m.

No matter who wins the job of Denver mayor, here are some of the big projects the next mayor will face: Addressing homelessness and housing affordability crises, improving public safety, turning around the trend of Denver Police misconduct settlements, Making transportation and Vision Zero, the plan to end traffic fatalities by 2030, work, and climate change.

-- Kyle Harris

And City Council also has some big responsibilities.

Denver is a "strong-mayor" city, which means the mayor is ultimately at the head of the ship, setting the city's priorities. But a ship's captain is only as great as their crew.

While the mayor creates the budget, City Council can make amendments, changes and will ultimately approve it. Checks and balances happen like this across the spectrum.

There are A LOT of positions throughout city government that the mayor is required to hire, but City Council gets the last say, such as the heads of Department of Parks and Recreation, Community Planning and Development, along with Denver Fire, Police and Sheriff's Department.

City Council creates the laws of the city and they're responsible for the way your neighborhood looks, zoning-wise. Look at all of the news surrounding accessory dwelling units. That's a Council responsibility.

Several council races have already been determined. Many incumbents were re-elected including District 1's Amanda Sandoval, District 2's Kevin Flynn and District 5's Amanda Sawyer. Several councilmembers ran unopposed including District 3's Jamie Torres, District 6's Paul Kashmann and District 11's Stacie Gilmore.

Council will also see some new faces. With At-Large members Robin Kniech and Debbie Ortega finishing their final terms, filling their seats will be State Representative Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez and Sarah Parady.

District 4 also has a new representative with Diana Romero Campbell.

-Desiree Mathurin

⏲️ 6:15 p.m.: 45 minutes before polls close

At a little before 6 p.m., supporters of Denver mayoral candidate Kelly Brough had not yet arrived at her watch party at ReelWorks.
Kyle Harris/Denverite

As a slow-moving storm parked itself on top of eastern Denver, the Denverite team headed out to candidate watch parties across the city.

At ReelWorks, where Kelly Brough's party is being held, owner Andy Feinstein said he was confident either candidate would do a good job -- though he has been campaigning hard for Brough.

"The soul of Denver is at stake tonight," said Feinstein.

He predicts a close race, and said he is more concerned about the City Council races than who wins the mayor's seat.

"Do we want to continue going down the path of becoming a 'progressive city' like San Francisco?" he asked. "Or do we want to get back to the Denver that we all know that Denver can be?"

-- Kyle Harris

? 4:30 p.m.: Who has voted so far?

Cuahutemoc Pasillas votes at the Glenarm Rec Center in Five Points.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite
Denver District 9 incumbent Candi CdeBaca drops off her ballot at the Glenarm Rec Center in Five Points. She’s being challenged in the runoff election by Darrell Watson.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

As of 4 p.m., Tuesday afternoon, 25.26% of voters have cast a ballot. In total, 112,790 ballots have been cast; 333,023 have not.  A plurality of those participating are over 65. As far as party breakdown, 31% of registered Democrats, more than 28% of Republicans and nearly 20% of unaffiliated votes have participated in the election -- and counting. Voting ends at 7 p.m.

-- Kyle Harris

? 4:05 p.m.: Smiles and votes

Meg Ryan Sippel and Philip Hiester found something cute among the ballots in a lockbox they're unloading in Denver Elections' Bannock Street headquarters. June 6, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

"Sometimes people put these in," Meg Ryan Sippel exclaimed as she and fellow Denver Elections official Philip Hiester found a cute smiley face among the ballots in a lockbox. Things were tame at elections HQ Tuesday afternoon, with plenty of room for workers to appreciate surprises like this.

-- Kevin Beaty

?3:01 p.m. The third-place candidate in the general election is supporting Mike Johnston. What impact might that have tonight?

Lisa Calderón, who in the last two mayoral elections has come in third place, endorsed Johnston in mid-May. The progressive candidate got more than 31,000 votes and nearly knocked Brough out of the runoff. Calderón's base was younger and more diverse; she won big in districts with larger populations of people of color and more registered Democrats.

While her endorsement of Johnston may have come as a boon to his campaign, the challenge for him was ensuring that Calderón's supporters actually returned their ballots by Election Day.

-- OM

?2:17 p.m. Meet the election judges making sure today runs smoothly

At the Denver Elections Division building across Civic Center Park, the scene is steady at lunchtime as election judges shuffle around the prep room tables in their green vests and party affiliation pins. Plastic bins, some empty and others filled with ballots, are stacked and organized on tables and on thin metal shelves around the room.

"Happy Election Day!" they said to each other as they passed by.

Maryalice Rael and her team will be here until midnight in the Denver Election prep room checking ballot signatures and making sure they are readable to be processed in the room next door. A northwest Denver resident, this is her third time counting ballots and she said she likes coming back because of the people she gets to meet from all parts of Denver.

"How much it takes to look into just one ballot," Rael said about her experience. "My eyes were opened to the ballot process."

Election Judge, Adam Ballinger, collects a ballot from a voter outside of the Denver Elections Division. June 6, 2023.
Isaac Vargas/Denverite

Outside at the drive-up voting location on Bannock Street, a large tent is placed in the middle of the street with two election judges in bright orange vests accepting ballots from either side of the tent.

This is Adam Ballinger's 15th year and 31st election as an election judge. His first election was in 2009, the year he moved from Memphis to Denver, at Harvey Park, before ballots were mailed out to folks in 2010.

He's met lots of people collecting ballots, like Sen. John Hickenlooper, but his most memorable interaction was during 2019's November election.

"It was 8 degrees and my eyebrows had frozen over," Ballinger said. "A lady handed me three ballots and asked if I knew what a hero looked like. I said I didn't. 'Go look in the mirror' she said."

Ballinger said Denver has one of the best voting systems, noting just how easy it is to vote on a day like today. For example, if voters lost their ballot or haven't registered to vote, Ballinger can call someone inside to bring out a brand new ballot for drivers to fill out. He calls Denver Elections' drive-up station, "valet voting."

-- Isaac Vargas

?️1:52 p.m. Voters in District 7 will see their race on the ballot, but that one is already decided.

Nick Campion dropped out of the runoff race for Denver City Council District 7, making Flor Alvidrez the de facto winner for the open seat. Any votes for Campion would be considered undervotes and will not count. Since write-ins are not allowed in the runoff, Alvidrez would be the only active candidate on the ballot.

"The reason for my decision is due to unexpected but wonderful news - I will soon become a father," Campion wrote in a statement Monday. "This life-changing event would make it difficult for me to devote the necessary time and energy to both the campaign and elected office. District 7 deserves a champion who will prioritize our residents every day."

-- DM

?️12:13 p.m. It's not all about the mayor's race tonight. Three council seats are up for grabs, too.

Voters in City Council districts 8, 9 and 10 are also going to decide who will represent them at City Hall, meaning that after today, we'll know what the council will look like.

In 8, Shontel Lewis is competing with Brad Revare. The northeast district covers Central Park, East Colfax, a portion of Montbello and all three Park Hills. The biggest issues at play are housing and crime and both candidates agree.

With housing, Lewis and Revare both agree that accessory dwelling units and motel acquisitions can help solve the housing crisis from an affordability and availability aspect. Lewis also wants to focus on social housing, while Revare is focused on creating more community land trusts. With crime, Revare would like to build a better relationship with Denver police, while Lewis wants to focus on the root causes of crime. We have a full profile of the race, along with endorsements and funding facts.

In District 9, incumbent Candi CdeBaca is defending her seat against Darrell Watson. Out of the three City Council runoff races, the District 9 race may be the most intense. The north Denver district covers a portion of City Park, Clayton, Cole, Elyria-Swansea, Five Points, Globeville, Skyland, Whittier, along with portions of North Park Hill and South Park Hill. Housing and public safety are also big factors in the district. Watson and CdeBaca agree that affordable housing is at the center of many issues surrounding District 9, but where they differ is on how they will achieve adding more income-restricted housing to the pool.

This race has seen the most influx of funding. Check out who's endorsing who, why that's important and other facts about the race.

-- Desiree Mathurin

And in District 10, incumbent Chris Hinds is defending his seat against Shannon Hoffman. Representing downtown, Union Station, much of Capitol Hill and Denver's flagship parks, District 10 sees all the top issues at play this election season, like housing and homeless and transportation issues. The main difference between the candidates is public safety. Hinds has voiced support for adding police staff and expanding the alternative Support Team Assisted Response, while Hoffman wants to divert police funds to other departments that work on health and safety. Read our profile of the race to learn about who's supporting them.

-- Rebecca Tauber

⚖️11:31 a.m. Still undecided between Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston?

Leading up to runoff Election Day, we partnered with Denver 7 and the Denver Post to hold a debate between the two candidates. They both played it pretty safe at the debate but still managed to show a bit of how they differ from each other.

Read this recap from Kyle from the night of, in case it helps you decide between the mayoral candidates.

-- Obed Manuel

?️ 11:01 a.m. How candidates address homelessness, neighborhood issues drive Five Points residents to the polls

Katherine Dempsey, a new resident of Five Points, brought her dog Koda, a good boy, to drop off her ballot at Glenarm Recreation Center. Dempsey said she wanted to know how the two runoff mayoral candidates would address homelessness.

"That's definitely something I've been thinking about," Dempsey said.

If elected mayor, Johnston plans to build "micro-communities." Brough's plan is to maximize already existing space and move encampments into shelter space.

Koda, a good boy, joined his owner in dropping off their ballot in Five Points on Tuesday morning.
Paolo Zialcita/CPR News

Stephanie Cross was born and raised in Five Points. She makes sure to vote in every election to "represent her ancestors" who weren't allowed to vote. This year, however, she left part of the ballot blank -- she felt neither Mike Johnston nor Kelly Brough represented her and her neighborhood's interests.

"We're dealing with current issues going on, the trash, sidewalks, streets, potholes, snow shoveling," Cross said. "Just basic services that we're struggling with right now, in all communities, and especially in this community of District 9."

For the city council race between incumbent Candi CdeBaca and challenger Darrell Watson, Cross looked for responses to the same issue and found it hard to decide between the two.

"It just came to personal preference," she said.

-- PZ

?️10:28 a.m. Today's election is a big deal!

Who will be Denver's next mayor, the City's CEO, and what many call the most powerful position in the state of Colorado! This person will run the city, oversee the airport, be the boss of more than 11,000 workers, and set the agenda for the next four years -- and likely decades to come.

The next mayor will inherit a number of massive projects. Those include the River Mile development, the conversion of Ball Arena parking lots into a mixed-use development, a possible redesign of the Auraria Higher Education Campus, ongoing construction at the Denver International Airport and its Great Hall, the expansion of Cherry Creek, and the National Western Center redevelopment. Oh...and don't forget the future of the Park Hill Golf Course, perhaps the most contentious issue in the April election.

-- KH

?️ 9:46 a.m. This voter went with his gut feeling when choosing the next mayor

At the Highland Recreation Center in District 1, Chuck McCoy said voting for the runoff was remarkably easier than the April municipal election. Still, McCoy said it was hard to decide between Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston for mayor, mainly due to how similar they are.

Chuck McCoy voted at the Highland Recreation Center in District 1 on Tuesday morning.
Paolo Zialcita/CPR News

"Some of it was a gut feeling," he said. "And how they phrased what they wanted to do. They both wanted to do similar things but I think we chose a candidate that might be able to get it done."

-- Paolo Zialcita

?️ 9:01 a.m. Election Day is here! 

Last-minute voters (including some of us at Denverite, who will be working late into the night) are scrambling to cast ballots citywide. If you're having trouble figuring out how, here's a primer on how to vote on Election Day. Trying to decide how to vote? Check out our runoff voter guide.

And a quick reminder that write-in votes will not count in the runoff.

-- Kyle Harris

? 7:01 a.m. If you're done voting, another lens to watch through tonight ...

Let's take a peek back at the very last step of how we got here -- aka election results for the municipal election on April 4.

In a very crowded field, very different from tonight -- 17 candidates on the ballot, 16 still running as of that day -- Mike Johnston was the leading vote-getter, with 24% of the vote, and Kelly Brough was obviously second, with 20% of the vote.

In the five-way Denver City Council District 7 race, Flor Alvidrez was the runaway leader with 39% of the vote. Nick Campion qualified for the runoff with 19%, but he's withdrawn from that race, so Alvidrez will win it. (There was a close third in this one: Adam Estroff's 18.54% trailed Campion's 19.23% -- a difference of just over 100 votes, according to the Denver Elections website.)

In another five-way race in district 8, Shontel M. Lewis took 36% of the vote to 33% for Brad Revare.

In district 9, Candi CdeBaca's 44% was tops, with Darrell Watson coming in at 43% -- the only other candidate, Kwon Atlas, earned 13% of the vote.

And in the four-way district 10 race, Chris Hinds won 36% of the vote, with Shannon Hoffman taking 27%. Here, too, there was a relatively close third: Noah Kaplan's 25.68% trailed Hoffman's 27.06% -- 235 votes apart, per Denver Elections.

-- DB

☕ 6:36 a.m.: Let's get started finishing this thing

Good morning. It's Election Day! If it feels like the fourth time we've been here in the last 12 months, well ... yes! Yes. There was the 2022 Colorado primary, the 2022 Colorado general, the 2023 Denver election and now, finally, the 2023 runoff! And am I typing this while muting multiple phone notifications about the 2024 presidential? I sure am!

For tonight: Kelly Brough and Mike Johnston get top billing, as they're the last two standing in the competition for arguably the most powerful job in Colorado.

There are also runoff elections for Denver City Council districts 8, 9 and 10!


A few stories you might want to revisit:

How to choose a Denver mayor, according to four Denver mayors.

(And you could also send the Denverite voter guide to your friends who haven't voted yet and remind them that the ballot is really short this time!)

Your friends and neighbors were mighty busy using Denverite's election guide this weekend, so here's that link one more time. ​​​​

You can review Denverite coverage on the two mayoral candidates on the following topics:

?Housing and affordability

? Homelessness

?Public safety


? Climate change

And Ryan Warner of Colorado Matters sat down with both candidates in early May to talk about the election and other pressing issues. You can read and listen to their interviews here:

Brough on homelessness, transportation and more

Johnston on housing, education, crime and more

And if you're one of the lucky folks voting in a runoff for your city council district, your guides are here:

Voters in District 7 will see their runoff race on the ballot, but Nick Campion withdrew from the race in April.

District 8 - Brad Revare vs. Shontel M. Lewis

District 9 - Darrell Watson vs. Candi CdeBaca (incumbent)

District 10 - Chris Hinds (incumbent) vs. Shannon Hoffman

-- Dave Burdick

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