On April 27th, 2023, the multifaith community organization Together Colorado held a nonpartisan mayoral forum at Congregation Rodef Shalom in Denver, attended by around 400 community members featuring Denver mayoral candidates Mike Johnston and Kelly Brough. During the event, faith and community leaders from across the city shared their vision for Denver’s future and asked the two candidates questions on priority issues, including climate change, immigration, criminal justice reform, affordable housing and zoning, access to guns, labor unions, and racial justice.
There was a strong multifaith presence throughout the forum, which opened with a faith reflection by Rabbi Rachel Kobrin and closed with a powerful prayer by Minister Sharon Battle. Before launching into candidate questions, Together Colorado leaders shared the organization’s collective Vision for Denver: “As people of faith representing many sacred traditions… We are compelled to announce a Vision for Denver based in radical inclusion, human dignity, and racial justice.” They spoke about the systems of injustice that have made life unsustainable for many Denver families facing crisis, and called on candidates to work with them to transform Denver into a place of “structural and racial equity, people’s control of the government, community control of the economy, and a public sphere grounded in dignity for all.” (Read the full vision statement here).
All eight questions posed to candidates by community leaders, union leaders and students regarded urgent issues facing Denver communities and the city’s future direction. “Zoning codes in the past have been used as tools to separate communities by race, class and culture. How would you change current zoning codes, many of which are relics of redlining, to promote that all neighborhoods have multiple housing options?” asked Together Colorado community leader, Eva Hutt. Rosemary Pesko acknowledged that Denver is one of the worst cities in the country for ozone pollution, and asked the candidates how they would raise and spend the hundreds of millions of dollars required to reach 90% fossil fuel-free by 2035.
While candidates’ answers differed on many questions, it was noteworthy that, when asked about their stance regarding immigrants rights, Both Brough and Johnston expressed commitment to protecting and advocating for Denver residents without documentation, especially in the face of a potential overturn of DACA.
Together Colorado leader Angela Tzul emphasized the importance of co-governance and asked the candidates if they would commit to bringing community voices, including those typically excluded from decision-making, into the governance process.
The forum closed with a blessing of the candidates by faith leaders of various traditions, and a call to action encouraging those in attendance to volunteer for voter turnout efforts leading up to the June 6th runoff election.
To hear the candidates’ full answers to each question, please see the livestream of the forum here: https://www.rodef-shalom.org/stream.
More photos available here.
Other articles about the forum:
View a slideshow of photos from the forum: