Aug 15, 2022 - News

Kelly Brough to make a bid for Denver mayor in 2023

Kelly Brough in 2011. Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post via Getty Images
Kelly Brough in 2011. Photo: Cyrus McCrimmon/Denver Post via Getty Images

Kelly Brough filed paperwork Monday to run for Denver mayor in 2023, despite saying a year ago she had no plans to compete for the job.

Why it matters: The former head of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, Brough is the first big-name candidate to enter the wide-open race to replace Mayor Michael Hancock, who is term-limited after 12 years in the post.

State of play: Brough's candidacy is not a surprise, even with her prior denials. When she stepped down as CEO of the chamber in June 2021, pundits suggested she'd be a strong candidate.

  • She served as the city's lead business promoter for 12 years and previously was chief of staff to former Mayor John Hickenlooper.
  • "Kelly is smart, knows the city well and will have the business community behind her. All of which would make her a formidable candidate," Sheila MacDonald, a Democratic strategist in Denver, told us at the time.

What she's saying: In an interview, Brough told John she wants to create a city "where everyone feels safe, where people are housed."

  • "I see a path where we could address those issues," she added.

Of note: Eight lesser-known candidates filed paperwork for mayor so far and a handful of prominent names are still expected to enter the race.

  • Brough's campaign rollout didn't seem ready to go. It came with no announcement and no campaign website.
  • She told us her campaign would take shape after the November midterm election.

Between the lines: She initially moved to a role as chief strategy officer at Metropolitan State University of Denver but resigned effective Aug. 5 after less than a year on the job.

The other side: Brough's candidacy will test whether the city wants another business-backed moderate at City Hall.

  • She often clashed with Democratic leaders like Gov. Jared Polis and top lawmakers at the state Capitol, and her competitors are expected to paint her as a big-business conservative.
  • Brough emphasized her work on equity issues at the chamber and side-stepped questions about whether her politics fit the city's current mood.

The bottom line: Her experience in Hickenlooper's administration gives her an edge, but the city has shifted noticeably to the political left since her boss left the office in 2011.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with details throughout.

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