Election 2020 Kamala Harris

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris talks with former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, right, at the Story County Democrats' annual soup supper fundraiser, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

John Hickenlooper, the 12th and latest candidate for a Colorado U.S. Senate seat, has gained the backing of his party's Senate campaign leaders.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which backs the party establishment's favored Senate candidates, has come out in support of the former Colorado governor, who entered the crowded primary contest late Wednesday.  

".@Hickenlooper is running against Cory Gardner — the most vulnerable Republican up in 2020! If we want to end the gridlock, cut the costs of health care and prescription drugs, and act on climate — we need to flip this #COSen seat," the DSCC tweeted Friday.

The tweet featured a picture of Hickenlooper with the DSCC logo over it.

"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," the committee said in a statement.

Hickenlooper also has picked up backing from U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, both presidential candidates, as well as from Sen. Tom Kaine, D-Virginia, who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in 2016 when she won Colorado's presidential vote.

Former U.S. senator and Interior secretary Ken Salazar and U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmuttter, D-Arvada also are supporting Hickenlooper for Senate.

Democrats need to pick up a net four seats in the Senate in 2020 to wrest the chamber from Republican control. If a Democrat is elected president, the party will need to control both the House and Senate to adopt much significant legislation, and if President Donald Trump is re-elected, Democratic domination of the Senate would slow down Trump's legislative agenda.

Polls have shown Hickenlooper ahead of his 11 primary rivals and leading Gardner, the incumbent Republican, in a potential general-election matchup.

That helps explain why Hickenlooper faced heavy pressure for months from party leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, to enter the Senate race.

Of course, before he can run against Gardner, Hickenlooper would need to defeat the 11 fellow Democrats already in the race -- several of whom are sore that they now must contend with Hickenlooper after his presidential bid fizzled.

The DSCC tweet triggered a string of angry responses, some of which accused Hickenlooper of "trying to silence" progressive women candidates, of being pro-fracking, and of not really wanting to be senator based on his dismissive comments about the office while running for president.

One of Hickenlooper's Democratic rivals, former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, tweeted this:

"When I represented CO on the DNC, our party didn’t take sides in primaries. The @dscc has no qualms at all—they recruited a candidate to fight the #GreenNewDeal & #MedicareForAll, and now they’re doubling down on their investment."

In an op-ed for the Aurora Sentinel, another Democratic rival, state Sen. Angela Williams, said this of "my friend" Hickenlooper:

"During his short-lived presidential campaign, Governor Hickenlooper ran hard against the strong progressive energy in our party right now, and away from the big, bold, progressive solutions that our state and our country need. After spending the first half of this year campaigning against progressive ideas, he has some serious explaining to do to Colorado voters."

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