May 8, 2023 - Politics

Kelly Brough banks on women voters to win the Denver mayoral race

Kelly Brough, center, with supporters at Raíces Brewing Company in Denver on May 3. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

It's time for Denver to break boundaries, make history and elect its first female mayor. At least, that's how Kelly Brough sees it.

Why it matters: The former Denver chamber leader is betting on that message to appeal to women, win their votes, and defeat challenger Mike Johnston in the mayor's June 6 runoff election.

  • Women make up 50% of the Mile High City's population, per the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

Driving the news: Brough hosted a forum last week focused on breaking the glass ceiling. One of the primary points of the discussion was the importance of representation in public office.

  • "When women see women in action, then they're more apt to think, 'I could do that,'" Joan Fitz-Gerald, the first woman president of the Colorado Senate, said at the event.

What she's saying: "We're taught leadership is tall, it has a deep voice, it is commanding, it's decisive, it dresses in a suit and a tie … and that's not me," Brough said.

  • Much of this race has been spent "trying to overcome all of those issues to convince people, actually, leadership can look very different," she added.

State of play: Denver women are feeling "generally really excited" to see Brough on the ballot, Maggie Gómez, a grassroots community organizer for women's rights, told Axios Denver. She described Brough as someone who has a history of listening to women and encouraging their participation in the political process.

  • Gómez said women voters are looking for candidates with a track record of promoting and successfully implementing issues that support them, including equal pay and paid family leave — an issue Brough has flip-flopped on.

Yes, but: Women are facing increasingly high barriers, including rising child care costs, that could prevent them from turning out for Brough at the polls.

  • "Civic engagement often just falls to the backburner for hard-working, everyday families — and women traditionally take on the care, health care and household responsibilities," Gómez said.

The other side: Not all women have Brough's back, however. In fact, she has yet to earn an endorsement from Lisa Calderón — the second top-finishing woman in the mayor's race — who leads Emerge Colorado, which supports women's campaigns for public office.

What we're watching: Whether the chance to become Denver's first female mayor will be enough of a driver for women to rally around Brough come June 6.


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