Hick Announces for Senate, Blows Up Race to Beat Cory Gardner

John Hickenlooper as seen in the home-page image on his new senatorial campaign website.
John Hickenlooper as seen in the home-page image on his new senatorial campaign website. hickenlooper.com
One week after pulling the plug on his dying presidential campaign, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has confirmed what everyone already knew: He's running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by ultra-vulnerable Republican Cory Gardner.

While he gave an interview about his decision to the Denver Post, which published its item at 9:48 p.m. yesterday, August 21, word about the launch of his campaign website and first senatorial video, on view below, began circulating among East Coast news operations this morning.

Hickenlooper is going back to the tactics that helped him become Denver's mayor and the top elected official in the state: cheeky videos. For "Not Done Fighting," as his first clip is titled, he doesn't go full goofball; there's no jumping out of airplanes or taking showers while dressed in a suit. But he deploys the game of pool as a theme and caps off his message with a trick shot in which he rolls in two balls with a single carom.

In addition, he addresses one of the main impediments to the run — his own earlier statements about why he thought he was wrong for the job. Note that in February, he told Politico, "I’m not cut out to be a senator. Senators don’t build teams. Senators sit and debate in small groups, which is important, right? But I’m not sure that’s my — I’m a doer. That’s what gives me joy."

His take today? The text to the spot reads: "When they play games in Washington, D.C., Coloradans take the hit. Trying to knock out protections for pre-existing conditions? That could be devastating for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. Playing games while prescription drug prices soar? That's costing people more than they can afford. And don't get me started on the shots they're taking at public lands, leaving them to developers rather than sportsmen. I don't think Cory Gardner understands that the games he's playing with Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell are hurting the people of Colorado."

He continues: "We ought to be working together to move this country forward and stop the political nonsense. We're running out of time to confront climate change. We've got to help families who are crushed by prescription drug costs. And everybody should have a shot at building a better future. I know we can do that. Look, I'm a straight shooter. I've always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done. But this is no time to walk away from the table. I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot. I'm not done fighting for the people of Colorado. I'm John Hickenlooper, candidate for United States Senate. I approve this message, and I hope you'll join me in this campaign."

The glancing mention of climate change in the ad certainly won't placate climate activists, who told us this week that they hoped Hickenlooper, dubbed Frackenlooper by his ecologically minded critics, would stay out of the Senate race.

Many of the nine other current Democratic Senate hopefuls, some of whom we spoke to for a recent take on the race, are already attacking this perceived zone of vulnerability. Take Diana Bray, who said, "I look forward to debating him on many issues, particularly on the topics of climate and public and mental health. I will continue to make my position clear: The support of the fossil fuel industry leads to the end of a livable climate for humanity."

Bray added: "Those people who promote oil and gas development, including Governor Hickenlooper, have bolstered a system that is highly detrimental to our health and safety."

State senator Angela Williams stressed that Hickenlooper shouldn't expect a "coronation" after leaping into the fray, despite a Post poll that showed him with a 51 percent lead over his Dem competitors.

"I'm sorry that the governor's presidential race didn't work out," Williams told us. "I know how hard it is to run for office. But I'm running for the U.S. Senate, and I intend to win." She also stressed, "I'm tired of Washington interfering with Colorado voters and trying to decide who they should select as the Democratic nominee."

Comments Williams released after Hickenlooper's announcement echo this tone. "Governor Hickenlooper says he’s not done fighting," she maintains, "but a lot of Colorado’s working families are wondering when, exactly, he started to fight. On health care, workers' rights, climate change, criminal justice reform and more, Governor Hickenlooper has failed to fight for the progressive solutions our state and country need. While Governor Hickenlooper was in Iowa and New Hampshire, I've been crisscrossing the state hearing directly from Coloradans about what's on their mind. I’m staying in this race because all of Colorado’s working families deserve a senator who will fight for them in Washington."

Ex-ambassador Dan Baer, another Democratic Hick rival, has also weighed in via email, writing, "There are new voices ready to lead across our state and in the U.S. Senate, voices who understand that there is no back to normal, there’s only forward to normal. That’s why I was running yesterday, and that’s why I’ll be running tomorrow."

For his part, Gardner shrugged off Hickenlooper's anticipated entry during a brief exchange with Fox31's Joe St. George on Monday, saying, "The more the merrier."

This post has been updated to include comments from Senator Angela Williams and ex-ambassador Dan Baer.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts