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Lisa Calderón offers tepid endorsement of Johnston in mayoral race

A scorecard shows where Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough fall on various topics including gentrification, immigration and education.

DENVER — The candidate who just missed the runoff for Denver mayor has announced she's endorsing Mike Johnston in the race against Kelly Brough.

Calderón, who missed the runoff by 3,143 votes, offered a less than resounding endorsement Tuesday, saying picking Johnston is her "harm-reduction strategy" and she arrived at the decision reluctantly.

"Either way, one of these two people will be elected, and so how can we work with the person who may be most open to change, who will be most open to hearing our voices and moving us forward into a new future and being collaborative?" Calderón said.

Johnston received 24% of the vote in the April 4 election, and Brough made the runoff in second with 20%. Calderón finished with 18%.

Calderón, who acknowledged she struggled with whether to endorse anyone, spoke at La Alma Recreation Center, appearing along with Latino United Neighborhoods Association of Denver -- a coalition of 30 Latino and labor leaders.

The coalition met with Johnston and Brough last week. That resulted in a scorecard showing which candidate’s answers aligned with the coalition.

The topics the candidates were questioned about included:

  • Economic justice
  • Education equity
  • Leadership culture shift
  • Gentrification and displacement
  • Public safety
  • Health & well-being
  • Immigration

Out of 79 questions, Johnston scored 74 and Brough scored 66.

“Deciding between two centrist candidates backed by wealthy corporate interests was not what we wanted, but is the reality we face. I'm asked daily by my supporters for direction in choosing between candidates or by supporters who are considering under-voting by not selecting either,” Calderón said in an email statement. “I will answer that question after receiving extensive input from Latino leaders and trusted advisors who wanted to make sure that historically disadvantaged communities are finally prioritized by the next mayor.”

On the scoreboard, candidates were given a green box for “firm commitment,” and a red box for “equivocated.”

Brough received several “equivocated” marks for economic justice, including supporting a taskforce to explore public banking, granting full collective bargaining rights to all city employees and opening police union contract bargaining to the public.

Johnston was labeled as “equivocated” on the issue of supporting an Office of Labor Relations to work with labor unions.

Under education equity, Brough was given red marks for not supporting rejecting ballot initiatives to change Denver Public School (DPS) governance structures and not supporting opposing attempts to eliminate the DPS board and efforts for mayor takeover of schools.

Johnston was given a red mark for not supporting “harm done by SB191” – a Senate bill he sponsored as a state Senator in 2010.

That Senate bill required the state Board of Education to adopt guidelines to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers and principals. The rules created had to ensure that at least 50% of a teacher’s evaluation was based on the academic growth of the teacher’s students. It also created guidelines for a how a teacher could earn and lose tenure.

The most red marks in one section were given to Brough under the public safety category.

"Why am I endorsing a white man--did you hear the options I just gave? I would much rather be having these folks voting for me. We don't have a choice between voting for a white candidate. And so, the woman card in this situation doesn't clear it for me. It isn't just a woman. It's a woman with the values that I ran on, and the woman in this race still doesn't have those," Calderón said in her Tuesday appearance.

9NEWS hosts its third debate for Denver mayor on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on KTVD, channel 20. The debate will also air on 9NEWS+.

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