Hickenlooper Opens White House Bid Casting Himself as Bipartisan Uniter
Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper on Monday announced he is running for president in 2020, positioning himself as the candidate who has proven he can bridge partisan divides to accomplish progressive goals.
“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper, 67, said in a two-and-a-half minute YouTube video announcing his campaign.
“I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver,” he said.
Hickenlooper has long been expected to join an already-crowded Democratic field. His announcement came on the same day that another widely anticipated candidate, former Attorney General Eric Holder, revealed via a Washington Post op-ed that he is not going to run.
Holder, who served under President Barack Obama and is currently chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, said he plans instead to focus on those redistricting efforts.
The committee has sued several states over voting rights issues arising out of how electoral districts have been drawn.
Holder refrained from endorsing any of the Democrats who have entered the presidential contest to date, but said he believes voters already have many good options to consider.
Hickenlooper has been floating his potential candidacy for months. In December he told CNN’s “New Day” program that he was “past 50-50” on making a bid.
And in February, he told hosts Adrienne Elrod and Doug Thornell on The Electables podcast that he and others were looking at his possible candidacy and “why I’m different from the other potential candidates … [with] my experience of bringing people together and actually getting progressive policy initiatives implemented.
“I see myself really as the only person who has done that,” Hickenlooper said.
With Monday’s announcement, Hickenlooper becomes the second governor to enter the race, after Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced last week.
While his video stressed his progressive accomplishments, the former governor also sought to portray himself as a pragmatic leader who can take on President Donald Trump.
“As a skinny kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean he plans to go toe-to-toe with the president, angry tweet to angry tweet.
During his appearance on The Electables, Hickenlooper said he believes you don’t have to attack to someone to distinguish yourself from them.
“I mean if you just step back and squint your eyes a little bit,” he said before mentioning a litany of areas where he believes the current occupant of the White House has gone wrong. These included alienating our long-time European allies. who, he said, “no longer know where they stand with the United States,” and the separation of children from their families after they illegally crossed the U.S. border with Mexico.
“In Colorado, we call that kidnapping,” he said on the podcast.
Hickenlooper went on to say that if one looks at Trump record, what they’ll see is that the president has actually accomplished very little on behalf of the American people, and that many of the things he has done, “in my opinion, are un-American and abhorrent.”
Hickenlooper continued by saying plans to run on a record of accomplishments in Colorado, and will contrast those with things Trump has done “that have really torn the country apart.”
“It’s really black and white,” he said.
In his video Hickenlooper promises to “ repair the damage done to our country and be stronger than ever.”
A one-time geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum, Hickenlooper amassed a personal fortune after being laid off during the energy downtown of the 1980s and opening a brewpub in downtown Denver.
When the Wynkoop Brewing Company took off, he co-opened a number of other restaurants and bars, setting the stage for a successful bid to be Denver’s mayor in 1993. Among his major accomplishments was persuading the Republicans who led several other Denver cities to support a tax hike to fund a light-rail network.
Many Republicans also supported his run for governor in 2010. But his wasn’t to be a trouble-free governorship, as is made plain in his announcement video.
His term coincided with a series of natural disasters, including record floods and wildfires. He was also governor when the Aurora theater shooting occurred, a massacre in which 12 people were killed.
Hickenlooper responded by calling for gun control legislation and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.
Hickenlooper also backed civil unions for gay couples and signed a law providing them in Colorado in 2013, before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage.
But he also opposed ballot measures to limit oil drilling and fracking near populated areas, a position that inspired critics to say he remained too cozy with the petroleum industry that once employed him.
Despite the controversy, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is said to have seriously considered him as a possible running mate in 2016.
Throughout his political life, Hickenlooper has been something of an unorthodox campaigner, often opting for humor to make a serious point.
For example, during his 2010 campaign for governor he ran an advertisement showing himself walking fully-clothed into a shower to scrub off the negative attacks of his opponent.
Hickenlooper will hold his first presidential campaign rally in Civic Center Park in Denver on Thursday.