Schumer Call to Hickenlooper Hints at Possible Senate Challenge to Gardner

Outgoing governor is currently exploring a presidential run, but hasn't had traction

John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper / Getty Images
• January 7, 2019 1:00 pm


Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D.), the state's pubmaster turned politician, recently revealed that although he is exploring a run for president in 2020, he is also considering challenging incumbent Republican senator Cory Gardner if the presidential idea fizzles.

Both men were on the Colorado ballot in 2014, when Hickenlooper won re-election to the governor's office, taking in just over a million votes to beat former congressman Bob Beauprez. At the same time, voters in the state promoted Gardner from his position as a representative to the U.S. Senate with about 983,000 votes. Gardner ousted incumbent Democrat Mark Udall.

It seems likely that other power players are thinking of a Hickenlooper senate run as well, as the outgoing governor recently disclosed to Colorado Public Radio that he received a call from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) recently.

"He wants to talk to me," Hickenlooper told CPR. "I have no idea what he's said (about Hickenlooper running) … Back and forth, we've said ‘Yes, I will sit down, happy to talk to you.'"

In Gardner's last two years, he served in a leadership role helming the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which saw Republicans slightly increase their majority in the Senate in the 2018 elections.

In September, Hickenlooper announced he was forming a leadership PAC. While he didn't formally tie the PAC's formation to a presidential run, it "is a traditional step for candidates with ambitions for higher office" the Colorado Sun noted, which first broke the news of the PAC.

Then in late October, Hickenlooper was in the early primary state of New Hampshire, and was recorded introducing himself to an employee at a local diner by saying that he was running for president. But moments later he qualified his remarks.

"To be honest, to be honest, I haven't made the final decision," said Hickenlooper. "And if I say I'm absolutely going to, then there are all kind of legal ramifications. So, let's say I'm leaning strongly."

In a December straw poll by the liberal group, Hickenlooper failed to break the 1 percent mark in the crowded Democratic field, and other polls have also showed him in the back of the party's pack.

Hickenlooper is term-limited and leaves office on Tuesday when governor-elect Jared Polis, also a Democrat, is sworn in.