Election 2020 Hickenlooper forum

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during a forum on Friday, June 21, 2019, in Miami.

The Denver Democratic Party wants the U.S. Senate Democrats' campaign arm to stay out of Colorado's U.S. Senate primary, the county party's central committee decided at its Saturday meeting.

In a sternly worded resolution that passed "close to unanimously," the Denver Democrats demanded that the national Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee "rescind" its endorsement of former Gov. John Hickenlooper in the 2020 Senate race — or "cease using the word 'Democratic'" in its name.

Declaring that the party "has a policy of remaining neutral" in primaries, the Denver Democrats issued the same demands to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the DSCC's House counterpart, asserting that "any outside organization using the word 'Democrat'" in its name risks misleading voters if it supports candidates in a primary.

"This action by the DSCC is the essence of bad money in politics and the poster child for the need for campaign finance reform," wrote Denver Democrat Mike McDaniel, who proposed the resolution. "We need to get money out of politics."

A DSCC spokeswoman on Monday reiterated the group's support for Hickenlooper in a statement to Colorado Politics but didn't say whether the committee plans to drop "Democratic" from its name in response to the local resolution.

“John Hickenlooper is far and away the strongest candidate to beat Cory Gardner, and we’re proud to support him in his run for Senate," DSCC communications director Lauren Passalacqua said in an email.

It's only the latest salvo in a fracas over the national group's involvement in the crowded primary for the seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who is seeking a second term.

The DSCC, a subsidiary of the Democratic Party according to campaign finance law, threw its official support behind Hickenlooper on Aug. 23, the day after the popular former two-term governor announced he was joining the 11 other Democrats running in the Senate primary.

The endorsement came after U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Senate minority leader, spent months urging Hickenlooper to drop his long-shot presidential bid to instead take on Gardner, whose seat is considered a must-win if Democrats hope to gain the majority in the Senate.

Several Democrats already running against Gardner immediately cried foul, insisting that the DSCC should let Coloradans decide who to nominate rather than unfairly putting its thumb on the scale.

Last week, however, former state Sen. Mike Johnston, the fundraising leader in the primary field, withdrew from the race, saying he "understood" the DSCC's decision to back Hickenlooper as the candidate with the best chance to unseat Gardner.

So far, the DCCC hasn't gotten involved in any of Colorado's 2020 congressional primaries, though some Democrats are still angry over its early support for Democrat Jason Crow over Levi Tillemann in last year's 6th Congressional District primary. (Crow won the primary and went on to unseat five-term Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman.)

Hickenlooper spokeswoman M.E. Smith had this to say about the resolution: “John believes anyone who wants to throw their hat in the ring should step up and run for office. He is focused on getting out there, making the case to the people of Colorado as to why he is the best candidate to take on Cory Gardner and change Washington, and earning their votes.”

A spokesman for Colorado Democratic Party Chairwoman Morgan Carroll didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but Carroll emphasized late last week that the state party is "strictly neutral" in all primaries.

"As far as I'm concerned, we are pretty clearly and consistently committed to having a level playing field for everybody who's there, and we think it's important that Colorado voters do know they're the ones who will be making the decision," Carroll told reporters in response to a question about the DSCC's endorsement of Hickenlooper.

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