John Hickenlooper Maps Out Presidential Agenda at Campaign Kickoff

Michael Emery Hecker
Standing tall before a packed crowd in Civic Center Park on Thursday, March 7, John Hickenlooper delivered his first major speech as a presidential candidate. And the speech offered glimpses into what the former Colorado governor will be campaigning on in the coming months.

"It's time to bring all Americans together, and that is why I'm running for president of the United States," Hickenlooper told the crowd gathered at the park's Greek amphitheater.

Between shots at President Donald Trump, Hickenlooper returned to unity and bridge-building. "Being a pragmatist doesn't mean saying no to bold ideas. It means knowing how to make them happen. That is my record. And that will be my promise as president," Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper isn't a particularly progressive Democrat, but he did speak about health care as a right and said that he would "close corporate loopholes" and make sure that there are "no more tax cuts for the wealthy."

Framed himself as an environmentalist, Hickenlooper said that as president, he would rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Meanwhile, environmental activists stood just beyond the railing protesting "Frackenlooper," as he's known in some circles because of his cozy relationship with the oil and gas industry while he was in the governor's mansion.

Before Hickenlooper's speech, other Colorado political heavyweights spoke, offering ringing endorsements for the man they hope will become the next president.

"Do not underestimate John Hickenlooper...from the Wynkoop to the White House," former Denver mayor Wellington Webb said, acknowledging Hickenlooper's previous career as co-founder of the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

click to enlarge Hickenlooper's presidential campaign kickoff in Civic Center Park. - COURTESY OF EVAN SEMÓN PHOTOGRAPHY
Hickenlooper's presidential campaign kickoff in Civic Center Park.
Courtesy of Evan Semón Photography
Mayor Michael Hancock also endorsed Hickenlooper, pointing to his legacy as someone who brings people together across the aisle. "Now, more than ever, we need a unifier in the White House," Hancock said.

Hickenlooper also received an endorsement from Keith Bath, a self-proclaimed dirt farmer from eastern Colorado. Bath garnered cheers from the crowd when he shared stories of Hickenlooper helping out farmers and riding a John Deere tractor. "He shows up for rural Colorado. ... Today, Colorado has one of the best rural economies in the country," Bath said.

Hickenlooper's path to the White House won't be an easy one. He's part of an ever-growing field of Democratic candidates for president and doesn't have the name recognition or the progressive chops of Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Even he made jokes about his relative small star. Acknowledging he wasn't as well known as some of his competition, he pointed out that "at four syllables and twelve letters, 'Hickenlooper' is now the biggest name in the race," he said.

Some in the crowd may not have even been there to hear Hickenlooper speak; Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats performed a few songs following Hick's speech. "What time does the band come on?" a woman in the crowd asked before the event began.

Hickenlooper will now head to Iowa for a weekend of campaigning.