Mike Johnston Enters Race for U.S. Senate

Mike Johnston (center)

As had been expected, former State Senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Mike Johnston has joined the 2020 race for U.S. Senate.

The Denver Post had the official announcement this morning:

The 44-year-old father of three joins a growing list of Democrats competing for the chance to challenge Gardner in what is expected to be one of the most high profile and contentious Senate races in the country in 2020. Gardner, a first-term senator, is the only Republican to win a Senate, gubernatorial or presidential race in Colorado since 2008.

Johnston is not the first Democrat to enter the field for 2020, though his is the first name with any real chance of winning the Democratic nomination (sorry, Lorena Garcia, Trish Zornio, and Keith Pottratz). Plenty of other Democrats are also looking to squeeze into the 2020 clown car, including former House Speakers Andrew Romanoff and Crisanta Duran. Former Gov. John Hickenlooper is also regularly mentioned as a potential candidate, though it seems much more likely that Hick will stick to his Presidential aspirations in 2020.

Johnston wheezed to a third-place finish in last June’s Primary for Governor, so the big question for him is whether or not he’s already reached his political ceiling as a statewide politician. Johnston looks like a fine General Election candidate on paper, but can he make it to November? This is, after all, the same guy who pulled out of the caucus/assembly process altogether in 2018 after it became clear that he didn’t have a strong base of support among the Democratic base. As Corey Hutchins of the Colorado Independent wrote in April 2018:

Since March 6, Johnston has been showing up and giving speeches at county assemblies, but he hasn’t caught fire with the delegates to the extent that Kennedy and Polis have.

Johnston has long been packaged as an up-and-comer who takes a different approach to electoral politics; his 2018 campaign, however, managed to be both vanilla (“Frontier Fairness“!) and gimmicky at the same time. If his 2020 Senate kickoff is any indication, Johnston is still “turkey and Swiss on wheat.” From today’s Denver Post:

“I think one of the things that gives me a real advantage is people are looking for someone who represents Colorado,” Johnston told The Denver Post in announcing his run. “I’m a fluent Spanish speaker, and I’ve had a diverse set of experiences and jobs in all parts of Colorado.”

“He Speaks Spanish and He Likes Colorado” probably won’t end up on a yard sign anytime soon.

Nevertheless, Johnston could still be a formidable candidate because he has demonstrated an ability to raise serious money from donors all across the country. One of the main reasons that then-Rep. Cory Gardner was able to waltz into the 2014 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate was the complete inability of GOP candidates to raise significant funds for a viable campaign (See: Stephens, Amy).

Early money and a head start on other candidates are very real advantages for Johnston. Of course, Johnston had these same advantages in the 2018 gubernatorial race, and it only got him about 24% of the Democratic vote.


14 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. DavieDavie says:

    Johnston might want to cut a deal with Cary so she doesn't enter this race devil

  2. ElliotFladenElliotFladen says:

    Because we knew one of the candidates I had my parents from Ohio watch some of the 2018 Dem debates.  They were really impressed with Mike.  My parents aren’t liberal at all, and that should be a sign that Mike has some ability to get mandate type vote.

    You Dems should think very strongly about him as your nominee.

    • Conserv. Head Banger says:

      Way early to be thinking of who potential nominees might be. Having said that, I like Mike. I've met him and talked at length with him. He'll have more appeal, I would think, to the non-affiliated than the other candidates mentioned.

      As for the teachers' union, they need to get over themselves. I've already opined that a centrist Dem will have the best chance of taking out Cory.

    • flatiron says:

      Possibly because he misrepresented his education experience and wasn't pushed to defend his stupid education bill that threw teachers under the bus instead of seeking much needed funding in a state where half the districts are on 4 day schedules.  His dumb law connected standardized test results to teacher performance, which there is no connection at all. Such test scores correlate to affluence and do not reflect a teacher's strength in the classroom. We don't need more dumb ideas from the corporate make-money-off-public-education crowd that supports Johnston.


      • MADCO says:

        Colorado school districts:  181
        Colorado school districts on 4 day week: 102

        181 / 102  = 56% 

        However, rating and paying teachers on standardized test scores is … too weird.

    • MADCO says:

      Oh, that is exactly how that works.

  3. gertie97 says:

    Would somebody remind me what it was for the teachers union to get that pissed off at Johnston?

  4. doremi says:

    When SB191 was passed, I counted the years until it would go into place, and said "Whew!  I can retire before that."  and I did.   Having 1/2 of a teacher's evaluation based on student's test scores is discouraging to good teaching practices and encourages "teach to the test."  That sort of education philosophy is one I wanted no part of.  I saw it as nothing more than "Beat up on Teachers."  Geez..teaching is an incredibly tough job, and laws like the one Johnston got enacted only made it harder on educators, and undermined respect for teachers by students, parents, communities,  and newspaper editorial writers.

    • kwtreemamajama55 says:

      Right….”Teacher Accountability”, i.e., how well teachers do on standardized tests depends a lot on the kids teachers get that year. So one year, you have kids who are moving 3 times a year, barely surviving on parents' minimum wage jobs, entered US school late or attended intermittently because of immigration and refugee problems.  They might not do so well on the standardized tests.

      Another year, you get kids who are stable, interested in and hopeful about their futures, not hungry, have basic skills either from their home country or from the US.  They do fantastic on the tests.

      And then, within the school and community culture, one year, you may have 3 different principals because nobody wants to teach in your district or your school is about to  be "re-organized" and made into a charter school.  (Thanks Mike Johnston!)

      Discipline is shaky because of the inconsistency, and crime is rising in the neighborhood. Families are getting split up constantly because you have a new President who thinks this will MAGA.

      Both years, you could be doing an exemplary job of teaching, being creative, teaching with rigor to the standards, having good relationships, etc. Those are the factors you can control, over all of the ones you can't.

      What we know works in education is smaller class sizes, more adults in the room (the Title 1 model with a licensed teacher and a paraprofessional in each classroom), adaptation to kids' levels, remediation or advancement as necessary. There are a few tried and true writing models that work well (6 traits, created by Vicki Spandel) . Educational success doesn't have a lot to with fancy expensive curriculums or online learning that attempts to replace the teacher with an algorithm.

      And yes, it does help to pay teachers well enough that they don't have to work a second job or marry a rich person to be able to stay in the profession. Denver teachers negotiate with DPS, which is about to cut some central office positions in order to pay teachers better.



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