By Danny Gonzales-Hyde
“It’s not about what we oppose (when endorsing a candidate) it’s about what’s possible,” stated former Denver mayoral candidate, Dr. Lisa Calderón, as she wrapped up her mayoral campaign after placing third in last month’s Denver Municipal election. Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough are the top two candidates for the City’s runoff election on June 6.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Calderón announced her endorsement for Denver mayoral candidate Mike Johnston. Calderón was joined by a coalition of Latino and labor leaders at La Alma Recreation Center in west Denver.
“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,” stated Calderón, in a press release.
In the April 4 election, Calderón, received 18% of the overall vote, representing 31,493 voters. Johnston secured 24.5% of the vote (42,273), while Brough earned 20% of the votes (34,627).
Calderón collaborated with a select group of Latino community members to create a scorecard that focused on nine categories which included immigration, gentrification and displacement, economic justice, and education equity to name a few. Out of the 79 firm demands on the scorecard, Johnston signed on to a total of 74, while Brough signed on to 66.
Deciding between two centrist candidates backed by wealthy corporate interests was not what we wanted, but is the reality we face.”
Lisa Calderón, Former Denver Mayoral Candidate
Calderón explained she chose her endorsement based on a variety of ideas and occurrences. She also stated that many of Brough’s political ideologies do not align with her own, as Brough “opposed renters rights and eviction defense, opposed climate protections, opposed decriminalizing homelessness, opposed education funding, and opposed the rights of agricultural laborers.”
Nearly half of Denver’s population are people of color who are being displaced at an alarming rate. While Latinos comprise the largest share at about 30%, they have been historically underrepresented in appointee and leadership positions which hold influence and help to shape the direction of the city. Last week, both candidates met with 30 Latino and labor leaders to discuss critical issues facing the historically marginalized communities, and assessed on nearly 80 questions related to housing, public safety, immigration, economic and racial justice, health, education equity, and leadership culture change. Leaders asked each candidate direct questions as to whether they intend to address issues that are of primary concern to these communities.
Calderón pointed out a few issues that she and Johnston do not see eye-to-eye on. One such issue she mentioned was in regard to SB 191, which values educators to be evaluated based on student scores. Calderón, a professor at Regis University, said she has debated Johnston in regard to this bill a number of years ago and argued that it is wrong to punish teachers “when we have a system that doesn’t adequately fund them”.
When she discussed this issue with Johnston about this, he acknowledged the past and knows that he needs to make an effort to mend his relationship with teachers going forward.
Calderón acknowledged the weight of her endorsement and hopes that those who voted for her understand that “this is a harm reduction approach that we can build upon to continue to build power.”
Going forward, Calderón said that the Latino community will need to hold Johnston accountable, for the things that he agreed to on the scorecard. Calderón mentioned a variety of ways in which she will plan to do this, as she will be part of his transition team, giving her a voice in appointee processes.
Calderón’s team will also be releasing regular report cards on his progress, as “he made some pretty tall promises, including ending homelessness.” Lastly, Calderón emphasized the importance of voting for other progressive candidates in the upcoming runoff election, naming Shontel Lewis, Shannon Hoffman, and Candi CdeBaca for Denver City Council seats. Calderón explained her viewpoint in supporting the candidates, and that progressive legislators are needed to balance the power of a mayor, who Calderón claims “is close to monied interests,” and that progressive candidates will represent the voices and concerns of communities of color.
Looking to the future, Calderón stressed that communities need to continue to hold our legislators accountable, as we no longer have the luxury of hoping to get it right. This comes in the wake of Denver becoming more unaffordable for communities of color, thus pushing them out at an unprecedented rate.
Danny Gonzales-Hyde is an Independent Reporter for The Weekly Issue/El Semanario.
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