John Salazar

In this file photo, then-U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., speaks at Pueblo Community College in October 2010.

Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, an early endorser of Democrat Andrew Romanoff's U.S. Senate campaign, threw his support Wednesday behind John Hickenlooper, Romanoff's primary rival, calling the former governor the best candidate to take on Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.

“I'm proud to announce my endorsement of my friend John Hickenlooper,” Salazar said in a statement. “He's someone who knows how to bring people together to get things done on behalf of all Coloradans, and he's the right choice to defeat Senator Gardner and bring change to a broken Washington."

Hickenlooper and Romanoff are competing in the June 30 primary. Mail ballots went out to voters last week.

Calling Salazar a "champion for rural Colorado who knows how to get things done," Hickenlooper said in a statement that he was "humbled' to have his support.

“John was able to bring Colorado commonsense to a divided Washington, and that’s exactly what I’m running to do," Hickenlooper said. "We need more leaders like John who know how to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”

Salazar, a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in the San Luis Valley, served four years as Colorado's commissioner of agriculture under Hickenlooper after losing a bid for a fourth term representing the 3rd Congressional District in 2010 — the same year Hickenlooper was elected to his first of two terms as governor.

Late Tuesday night, Salazar was one of three prominent Romanoff endorsers featured on the former House speaker's supporters page, along with former state Sen. Polly Baca, D-Thornton, and former Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, and another 400 current and former elected officials listed as endorsers.

Salazar endorsed Romanoff just over a year ago, about three months before Hickenlooper jumped in the primary.

Salazar was elected to Congress in 2004, the same year his younger brother, Ken Salazar, won election to Colorado's other U.S. Senate seat. He served one term with Romanoff in the state House from 2003-2005.

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