Colorado Dems Won’t Clear the Field for Hickenlooper

Other Dems give sharply negative reaction to Senate flip-flop

John Hickenlooper / Getty Images

At least two Colorado Democrats running for the party's nomination to take on Republican Senator Cory Gardner next year won't be clearing the field for John Hickenlooper now that he's decided to run.

Other Democrats, meanwhile, have expressed a less than enthusiastic reaction now that Hickenlooper has declared his candidacy for the Senate, a job he repeatedly said he didn't want or wasn't suited for while campaigning for president over the last seven to eight months.

The top-tier candidate based on fundraising numbers, former state senator Mike Johnston, released polling earlier this week showing he would be competitive against Gardner.

"Hickenlooper is not special," said Andrew Baumann, a pollster with Global Strategy Group as quoted by the Colorado Sun. "He’s not a savior. We don’t need him." The polling group is working on behalf of Johnston's campaign.

Angela Williams, also a declared candidate and former Colorado state senator from Denver issued a statement, saying, "a lot of Colorado's working families are wondering when exactly he started to fight."

"While Governor Hickenlooper was in Iowa and New Hampshire, I've been crisscrossing the state hearing directly from Coloradoans about what's on their mind. I'm staying in this race because all of Colorado's working families deserve a senator who's willing to fight for them in Washington."

Former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives Andrew Romanoff released a statement midday Thursday that tried to tie Hickenlooper as ideologically similar to Gardner.

"We deserve –and I pledge to run—a campaign grounded in public policy," he said.

"I know and respect both Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper, but I disagree with them on fundamental issues."

"As Colorado's next senator, I'll lead the fight for the Green New Deal. They're leading the fight against it."

"I'll champion Medicare for All. They've vowed to defeat it," he continued.

"Cory and John have attacked these progressive priorities as socialist or Stalinist. That's outrageous. Would they say the same of Social Security or Medicare itself?"

Many state Democrats have pointed out that with the possible exception of his first run for Denver mayor, Hickenlooper has never faced a protracted primary fight. And he's notoriously averse to negative political campaigning, even when it comes to races that don't involve him.

All the while, others in the party have been expressing some frustration that the former governor got to chase his dream of the presidency while other candidates were out doing retail politics.

"Running for US Senate isn't a consolation prize for losing a presidential primary," tweeted Keith Barnish, a communications director for Democrats in the state senate.

"@Hickenlooper repeatedly said he didn't want the job and would be bad at it. Colorado is ready for a new generation of progressive leadership. #copolitics #cosen"

Barnish later moderated those comments somewhat, adding, "All opinions are my own," in a clear reference to his job with state senate Democrats.

Even before Hickenlooper made his senate run official, he was already seeing interesting pushback from the left.

The left-leaning editor for the Aurora Sentinel served up an editorial arguing for a more progressive candidate.

"Don't make us all settle for six years of Hickenlooper's compromise casserole," the editorial said. "Democrats can pick something better."

Republicans, meanwhile, have been focusing on Hickenlooper's statements from the presidential campaign in which he appeared to disregard the senate and the job, as in this video put together by Republican outlet Colorado Rising Action: