Another familiar face is getting into the snowballing field of candidates in Denver’s 2023 mayoral race
Mike Johnston, a former state senator and Democratic gubernatorial candidate who spent the last three years leading one of Colorado’s most influential philanthropy organizations, announced Wednesday that he is running to succeed Denver’s term-limited mayor, Michael Hancock.
Once Johnston’s candidate paperwork is finalized with the Denver Elections Division, he will become the 17th person to jump in the race for the April 4 municipal election. It is the first open mayor’s race in Denver since Hancock first ran in 2011.
“I just see the promise of what Denver can be and see the places where we are falling short and I’m inspired to try to help deliver a Denver that we will all be proud of,” Johnston said in an interview Wednesday. “I want to help build a Denver that is vibrant, affordable and safe.”
Johnston worked as a teacher and principal before being elected to the first of his two terms representing northeast Denver in the Colorado Senate in 2009. He ran for governor in 2018, coming in third behind Gov. Jared Polis and Cary Kennedy in the Democratic primary that year.
Since 2020, Johnston has worked as the president and CEO of Gary Community Ventures. During his tenure, the philanthropic organization undertook efforts including launching COVIDCheck Colorado, the state’s largest COVID testing and vaccination initiative, and backing the campaign for Proposition 123 on this year’s ballot. That measure will redirect a sliver of Colorado’s income tax revenue to a permanent affordable housing fund to address the state’s housing crisis.
If elected in 2023, Johnston indicated those funds will play a big part in his plans for the city, including when it comes to addressing homelessness. Sweeping encampments just moves people from one part of the city to another, Johnston said.
“The problem we’re facing right now is we actually don’t have enough supply of permanent supportive housing to put people in who are homeless,” Johnston said. “What we need to be able to do is build those permanently affordable, supportive housing units. Prop 123 makes that housing possible.”
Johnston’s announcement comes two days after sitting State Sen. Chris Hansen announced he was running for mayor.
Some other presumptive candidates are now off the board. Outgoing Speaker of the Colorado House Alec Garnett will take over as Polis’s chief of staff next year. Penfield Tate, a former state senator with two previous mayoral runs under his belt, announced this week that he is running for an at-large City Council seat next year.
Aside from Hansen, the other candidates who so far have filed paperwork to run for the city’s top office next year are: Kelly Brough, Anna Burrell, Lisa Calderón, Alex Cowans, Marcus Giavanni, Leslie Herod, Aurelio Martinez, Debbie Ortega, Jesse Lashawn Parris, Terrance Roberts, Andy Rougeot, Ken Simpson, Ean Thomas Tafoya, James Walsh and Thomas Wolf.
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