Colo. Gov. Hickenlooper announces bid to be president

  • Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper speaks at New England College in Henniker last month. Paul SteinhauserFor the Monitor

For the Monitor
Published: 3/4/2019 7:24:14 AM

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper made official Monday what he strongly hinted at during a trip to New Hampshire less than three weeks ago – he’s joining a crowded field of Democrats running for the White House.

“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper said in a video announcing his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

The 67-year-old geologist turned successful start-up brewpub owner, who later served two terms as Denver mayor before being elected and re-elected Colorado governor, took aim at Republican President Donald Trump, saying a major reason he launched a campaign is because “we’re facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for.”

And repeating a line he used at a stop last month at New England College in Henniker, he explained that “as a skinny kid with Coke bottle glasses and a funny last name, I stood up to my fair share of bullies.”

Hickenlooper, who in January finished up his second term as governor of Colorado, becomes the second sitting or former governor running for the nomination, following Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee, who announced his candidacy Friday.

Like Inslee, Hickenlooper faces a long-shot bid against a number of higher-profile contenders such as Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

Former San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, is also running, as are Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, former representative John Delaney of Maryland, and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

A number of other Democrats are moving toward White House bids, including former vice president Joe Biden, former representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, and Rep. Eric Swalwell of California.

As Hickenlooper was jumping into the presidential race, former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder announced Monday that he won’t be running for the White House in 2020. Instead, Holder said he’ll keep battling to end partisan gerrymandering.

“Though I will not run for president in 2020, I will continue to fight for the future of our country through the National Democratic Redistricting Committee and its affiliates,” Holder wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post.

He emphasized that his party’s top priority is to make “sure a Democratic president is sworn in on Jan. 20, 2021. I will do my part to help make that possible, while leading an effort to ensure fairness in our democracy.”

Holder’s visit last June to New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary, sparked speculation that he was mulling a presidential bid. He headlined “Politics and Eggs,” a speaking series that’s a must stop for White House hopefuls. At the time he said he’d make a decision on presidential campaign early in 2019.

As he jumped into the race, Hickenlooper spotlighted the challenges he faced during his first term as governor, from the historic recession to devastating droughts, forest fires and floods, as well as the 2012 mass-shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo.

“We beat the NRA by enacting universal background checks and banning high-capacity magazines,” he said.

Hickenlooper also showcased passing through a divided health care legislation that now covers “nearly 95 percent of all Coloradans.” And he spotlighted bringing environmentalists and fossil fuel companies together to create “the toughest methane emission laws in the country” and moving the state from “40th in job growth to the number one economy in America.”

The listing of his progressive achievements is aimed at blunting perceptions that Hickenlooper is a moderate Democrat who’s known for his bipartisan efforts.

Hickenlooper’s expected to formally kick-off his campaign Thursday, with what’s being billed as a “hometown send-off” event in Denver. The next day, the former governor heads to Iowa – the state that kicks off the presidential caucus and primary calendar – for two days of campaigning.

A return trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire could come later in the month.

Hickenlooper’s no stranger to the Granite State – he’s here every summer for an annual vacation at Squam Lake.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a little kid,” he told the Monitor last summer. “We go to a restaurant and no one knows who I am. So it’s kind of nice to be with your family and have that private time.”

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