One day after former United States Attorney John Walsh ended his bid for the U.S. Senate in the face of the Colorado electoral juggernaut known as John Hickenlooper, onetime U.S. ambassador Dan Baer has done likewise. The result is both a narrower field for the Democratic nomination and more evidence that party powers at the state and national level want to make sure Hick has no distractions as he attempts to take down his Republican target, Cory Gardner, in November 2020.
Like Walsh, Baer also gave his blessing to Hickenlooper despite the continuing campaigns of many other Democratic candidates for the office.
There's no need to pussyfoot around theories about the influence on Baer's decision of Hickenlooper or the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which defended its lightning-fast endorsement of the ex-Colorado governor even after receiving an extremely pointed letter from six female Senate candidates upset about the lack of a level playing field. After all, statements from Hick and the DSCC were part of Baer's official announcement.
Hickenlooper references his better half, Robin; Baer's husband, Brian Walsh; Baer's post-ambassadorial gig at the Colorado Department of Higher Education during Hick's gubernatorial tenure; and even former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in his statement: "Robin and I are grateful for our friendship with Dan and Brian, and I’m glad to have his support. He is a genuine public servant. From working with Secretary Clinton on her famous LGBTQ human rights speech to working with me when I was governor to tackle equity challenges in education, Dan’s career has been about making more things possible for more people. His history-making, record-breaking campaign won’t be the last we hear from him."
As for the DSCC, its chair, Catherine Cortez Masto, remarked, "Dan Baer made this decision for the good of Colorado and the country. He ran a strong campaign and has a great future."
For his part, Baer delivered his farewell in the video below:
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The allusions by Hickenlooper and the DSCC to Baer's political viability down the line carry an unmistakable message: By quitting now, he remains in the good graces of the Democratic power structure, which presumably will do what it can to pay him back for kindly committing electoral hara-kiri on cue. And there's no doubt he has what it takes to make waves in Colorado politics: a connection to Barack Obama (Walsh has that, too), policies that fit snugly within what has become the Democratic mainstream, and a compelling personal story. Indeed, being a gay politician in the state right now is practically a stamp of progressive authenticity in the wake of Governor Jared Polis's election and his strong performance thus far.
Nonetheless, Baer certainly deserves to feel snake-bitten given the latest events, since he's already been through this routine.
Recall that in 2017, Baer seemed a lock to become a Congressman in the 7th Congressional District after the incumbent, Representative Ed Perlmutter, declared that he was giving up the office to run for governor. Baer promptly joined the race to succeed him, but mere months later, Perlmutter abandoned his gubernatorial ambitions, and after flirting with political retirement, he declared that he would seek re-election to Congress in 2018. Faced with the prospect of taking on an incumbent in a contested primary, Baer cried uncle.
The senatorial candidacy of Hickenlooper, made public a week after he abandoned his dreams of the presidency, produced the same dynamic — and once again, Baer stepped aside in favor of a better-known veteran. He no doubt hopes that his day will come eventually, but it's not here yet.