As far as John Hickenlooper is concerned, it only makes sense for Colorado Democrats to nominate the popular former two-term governor to try to unseat Republican incumbent Cory Gardner .
“We know this is not going to be an easy campaign,” Hickenlooper says, noting that whoever the Democrats put up will be subject to millions of dollars many times over in attack ads.
“Some of the things that I bring to the table – I won statewide in 2010 and 2014, those were very hard years for Democrats, very few Democrats won statewide in 2010 and 2014 in purple states. My name ID is still high, my approval is still high; those basic ingredients give me a higher probability — I would argue a significantly higher probability — of success in defeating Cory Gardner.
“I feel when everybody looks at all the pros and cons, they’re going to say, ‘Here’s somebody who’s been in small business, he knows how local and state government work and how they should work with the federal government..’ ”
Six months since Hickenlooper jumped in the race after a stalled presidential run, he’s the only one guaranteed a spot in the June primary, after submitting enough signatures on nominating petitions.
Hickenlooper, who finished behind former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in a preference poll at the March 7 precinct caucuses, withdrew from the assembly process — leaving that route to the ballot to Romanoff and, perhaps, one of the two women who trailed , Stephany Rose Spaulding or Trish Zornio.
Hickenlooper is keen to remind that he brings to the race a small business background — after he lost his job as a petroleum geologist in an industry downturn, he built a brewpub and restaurant empire from scratch — and that he’s tackled some big challenges and weathered events that weigh heavily in the state’s collective memory.
“When I was mayor, we had the incredible economic paralysis in 2008, 2009, and I'm having flashbacks to that, and I remember just how intense that is for small business and people trying to make a payroll,” he says about a week into the state of emergency to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We will all be asking for months and months why we still don’t have enough testing capacity. That’s at the root of so much of the problems,” he says .
“I look at things from a small business perspective, and making sure there are enough things like small business loans — and, if need be, that can be converted into grants so that workers don’t get laid off — how do we make sure that independent contractors and tip workers can be covered by unemployment insurance, in other words, expand unemployment insurance,” he says. “These are ways to get money into the hands of people immediately.”
He likes an idea floated by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, to send everyone some cash, chuckling that it’s drawn support from unlikely quarters, like ultra-conservative U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
“That’s the way the Senate used to operate, right? 25 years ago, 30 years ago, when I was a kid, you’d be able to count on, if the chips were down, if there were a crisis, the Senate would come together and they would find the unity necessary to resolve any challenge.”
Even though he’s been a steady target for some of the Democrats still in the primary, Hickenlooper doesn’t fire back.
“These primaries are intense, and people have worked really hard for long periods of time, and I respect that work, I really do,” he says.
Hickenlooper says he’s met with about half of his opponents, “to just sit down and talk to them, and, as you would want, it’s a really impressive group of people.”
Hickenlooper says he would “absolutely“ support whoever wins the nomination. “We’ve got to be very clear that leaving the Senate in the hands of Mitch McConnell and having a senator from Colorado who supports everything Mitch McConnell wants, supports everything President Trump wants, that’s not in Colorado‘s best interests.”
He scoffs at Romanoff’s steady drumbeat scolding that Hickenlooper has missed candidate forums since he joined the primary.
“I think the trick on debates is to make sure that we focus on the ideas and the innovations that Democrats bring to the table, and that we don’t try to take each other apart,” he says. “But, again, this is a contact sport, and I accept debates for what they are, and I look forward to debating Cory.”
“Cory is a skilled and nimble debater,” he adds and then laughs. It’s a phrase Romanoff employs when he’s bashing Hickenlooper for skipping forums.
“Andrew keeps saying that I haven’t been to these things, but I can give you all of Andrew’s quotes, which I’m not sure I’d know if I hadn’t been to a number of forums. ”