FLASHBACK: Hickenlooper Lamented 'Backwards Thinking' in Rural Areas

Candidate is promoting his agenda for rural America in Iowa op-ed

Democratic presidential candidate Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
July 30, 2019

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, currently promoting his "agenda for rural communities," once lamented "backwards" thinking in rural western America.

"We need a rural agenda that builds on the distinctive assets of each community and addresses challenges at the local level rather than imposing one-size-fits-all strategies," Hickenlooper wrote Sunday in an op-ed for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. He is trying to break out of the lower tier of Democratic presidential candidates.

"I will empower local authorities and residents to take action to create and sustain vibrant local economies where Americans of all ages want to live, work and raise their families."

However, as Hickenlooper was making his first run for governor in 2010, video emerged in which his comments expressed a dim view of the rural parts of his own state.

The interview followed the 2009 establishment of the Matthew Shepard Foundation offices in Denver. Shepard was a gay man whose 1998 murder in Wyoming became a spark of controversy and protest.

Hickenlooper was asked why the foundation set up offices in Denver and not Wyoming, where Shepard had lived and was murdered.

"I think a couple things, I mean, you know, the tragic death of Matthew Shepard occurred in Wyoming," he began. "Colorado and Wyoming are very similar. We have some of the same, you know, backwards thinking in the kind of rural Western areas you see in, you know, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico."

Hickenlooper's campaign tried to defend the remarks by saying the then-Denver mayor "was making the point that the kind of intolerance that led to Matthew Shepard's murder is not unique to a single community in Wyoming."

Just over a year ago, Hickenlooper said the political divide between rural and urban America was becoming one of the most corrosive forces in the country.

"We are seeing a divide in this country that is as significant as when we had slave states and anti-slavery states," Hickenlooper said on a Politico podcast. "This rural-urban divide, people in rural areas of Colorado and across the country feel like the urban areas have just left them behind and don't care."