Former Denver mayor candidate Lisa Calderón speaks during a press conference on May 16, 2023, at La Alma Recreation Center in Denver. Calderón appeared with a coalition of Latino and labor leaders and endorsed Mike Johnston for Denver mayor. (Quentin Young/Colorado Newsline)
The top progressive candidate in the Denver mayor race last month endorsed runoff contender Mike Johnston during a Tuesday press conference.
Lisa Calderón, who came in third behind top vote-getter Johnston and second-place finisher Kelly Brough, said during an appearance at La Alma Recreation Center in Denver that between Johnston and Brough, who face each other in the June 6 runoff election, Johnston’s positions are more in line with progressive priorities, even though the two runoff candidates are “centrist” figures and “close to monied interests.”
“I am endorsing today Mike Johnston for the next Denver for mayor, because it’s not just about what we oppose, it’s about what is possible,” said Calderón, who added, acknowledging that her supporters might not be thrilled about voting for Johnston, “I hope progressives will understand that this is a harm reduction strategy. This is about the future versus the past, and that our ideas actually can potentially take root and flourish in a Johnston administration.”
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Calderón’s endorsement could be influential, since few policy differences separate Johnston and Brough and given Calderón’s progressive credentials. In a 16-way race, Calderón, with 18.2% of the vote, trailed Johnston, with 24.5% of the vote, by just over 6 points.
“We have a rising voice that cannot be denied,” Calderón said.
She appeared at the press conference with a coalition of Latino and labor leaders under the banner “Latino mayoral agenda,” which she said compiled a scorecard for the runoff candidates on 79 positions in areas such as economic justice, education, promoting Latino leaders in city administration, housing, public safety and immigration. Johnston scored higher than Brough. One of the biggest issues for the group was whether the candidates would support full collective bargaining rights for city employees, to which the scorecard says Johnston gave a “firm commitment” while Brough “equivocated.”
Calderón originally planned not to side with either of the candidates.
“This endorsement was very hard to come by,” she said. “I was not going to endorse at all a few days ago.”
Calderón is executive director of Emerge Colorado, which works to get Democratic women elected to public office in Colorado.
Johnston had already earned endorsements from former mayoral candidates state Rep. Leslie Herod, Ean Thomas Tafoya, Terrance Roberts, Jim Walsh and Al Gardner. On Monday, U.S. Rep. Brittany Pettersen, a Lakewood Democrat, endorsed Johnston.
Brough has earned endorsements from former mayoral candidates state Sen. Chris Hansen and Thomas Wolf.
Runoff ballots are being mailed to voters this week.
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