The Denver mayoral race is winding down, and it seems Kelly Brough’s chance to take the top seat must be slipping away. That would explain the recent spat of half-measure, indirect attacks against Mike Johnston.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my personal experience working with Johnston and why I supported him in the race. I had a front row seat to his leadership style when I served as general counsel for COVIDCheck Colorado and took offense when a former state worker went to multiple media outlets to undermine our work.

I knew it was not coincidental that the story broke just before ballots went out. I have worked in politics too long and campaigned too often not to recognize it immediately. It was obvious that Brough’s campaign — or someone working to help her — pushed that story. To me, it is just a part of the game.

I did not believe it was an effective attack against Johnston: most voters believe there is plenty of credit to go around for anyone who worked to help us through the pandemic. The attack just upset and energized people like me who took offense to the comments.

But it seems Brough has doubled down in the interim. 

Now her campaign is slinging mud at people who endorsed Johnston. That is the kind of bank-shot candidates put up only when they see the campaign slipping away. It is a move that cries desperation — especially when your own glass house of endorsements could have questionable members.

In this case, Brough picked on yet another person I know well. Her campaign decided to go after former mayoral candidate Rep. Leslie Herod. Brough claimed Herod sought a promise that she would have an important job in Brough’s administration in exchange for Herod’s endorsement. Brough’s less-than-subtle implication is that Johnston must have made that promise.

To me, it is a bunch of Brough BS.

I spoke to neither Herod nor Johnston’s campaign before writing this column, but do not need to. Herod would never have endorsed Brough. 

Herod bristled at many of the policies that Brough championed in Denver — from Brough’s opposition to paid family leave while at the Denver Chamber of Commerce to opposing automatic raises for city workers and increased parking meter fees while working for the city. Herod abhorred Brough’s plan to arrest unhoused neighbors and worked against the violence perpetrated by police officers Brough had a hand in hiring while Brough served on the Denver Civil Service Commission.

And those are just the things I could think of off the top of my head. Effectively, Herod and Brough have not been aligned on most issues facing Denver.


But Herod is an able and willing public servant. She is more than qualified to help an incoming administration. In fact, in April more than 18,500 Denverites thought she was qualified for the top job.

It should not be a surprise that she met with Brough and offered her perspective and advice, including that BIPOC women should have a seat at the table. It would not be untoward for Herod to tell Brough she would be willing to work in her administration, if Brough were elected. Herod has spent her whole adult life in public service; a continuation would make sense. She legitimately feels called to help people.

But a quid pro quo? Honestly, Brough should be ashamed that she publicly suggested a public servant of Herod’s caliber would ever stoop to that.

Those are the kind of ham-handed attacks flailing campaigns make. Brough has not been able to land a glove on Johnston directly, so she has obviously taken to swinging at his supporters. Yet punch-drunk attacks have a way of unbalancing boxers and campaigns alike.

In this case, it means Brough is attacking yet another Black woman who garnered significant support during the first round of the election. It is almost as if Brough is trying to unify the progressive base behind the already formidable coalition Johnston has put together.

Or maybe Brough believes she has to take such a tact to appease the Denver GOP and Andy Rougeot’s far right supporters. I am not convinced that is a winning strategy in deep blue Denver, but it is as good a theory for such erratic campaign behavior as any.

A part of me feels some pity for Brough. She is an accomplished woman who has overcome significant setbacks in life. But now she is seeing her dream job slipping away and must feel powerless to stop it. I believe political dark arts do not come naturally to her — which would explain why she is so bad at them.

There are less than two weeks until all ballots will be cast and counted. At that point, it should be clear that this BS bought her nothing.

Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq.

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