May 18, 2023 - Politics

Denver mayor candidates struggle to explain their records

Kelly Brough, left, and Mike Johnston at a recent debate. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post

Kelly Brough, left, and Mike Johnston at a recent debate. Photo: Hyoung Chang/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Candidates in the Denver mayor's race are feeling the pressure with ballots now arriving in mailboxes.

State of play: Mike Johnston is being confronted with questions about his exaggerated resume, while rival Kelly Brough is still struggling to explain where she stands on key issues.

Why it matters: Both Democrats are citing their records as evidence they can deliver on their policy priorities. But they are rewriting history to make the point.

Details: Johnston touts his role in the Legislature and the nonprofit sector to push major progressive policies, but he didn't exert the leadership influence he claims.

  • As a state senator, he voted to support a 2013 package of gun restrictions but didn't play a primary role in driving the effort.
  • As leader of the nonprofit Gary Community Ventures, he takes credit for building COVIDCheck, a statewide program providing free COVID-19 tests. But state health officials told 9News that he can't take the credit and said the program even set up unapproved locations that put the state on the hook for costs.
  • He also misstated his role in pushing a universal preschool ballot measure. His campaign website said he "led the campaign" but he later acknowledged it was a broad coalition that won its passage.

The other side: In a 9News debate Tuesday, Brough put distance between her campaign positions and those she voiced as head of the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Zoom in: Brough deflected questions about oil and gas drilling and whether she supports the current 2,000-foot buffer between wells and homes.

Yes, and: She also dodged a direct question from Johnston about the chamber's opposition to a 2016 bill that expanded worker protections for pregnant women. Under Brough's leadership, the Chamber opposed the original bill, arguing it "grossly expands" federal law.

  • During the debate, however, she said, "I don't know the issue … but what you described to me, I'd strongly support and I have my entire life."
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