Eight days after former state senator Mike Johnston left the 2020 U.S. Senate race despite having collected more in donations than anyone not named John Hickenlooper, former U.S. Attorney John Walsh has followed suit. And while Johnston has not yet officially given his blessing to Hick, who entered the contest after dropping his quizzical presidential bid, Walsh has already done so.
Expect these moves to be interpreted as more evidence that the Democratic establishment wants to clear the field so that Hickenlooper can concentrate on defeating Cory Gardner, widely seen as one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for re-election next year.
The way Walsh handled his exit speaks volumes about the way his campaign has been run. Note that the Hickenlooper camp released a reaction from the former guv expressing gratitude for the endorsement before Walsh put out an official press release about his decision — although the campaign's Andrew Markoff emphasizes that the info was sent to what he describes as "supporters" before Big John shared his thoughts.
The Hickenlooper statement, time-stamped 10:08 a.m., reads: "My friend John Walsh is a great Coloradan. He has spent his career fighting to give everyone a fair shot at the American Dream, and he ran a strong campaign based on that same fundamental principle. I'm honored to have his support in my campaign for U.S. Senate and look forward to hitting the trail with him to defeat Cory Gardner."
The Hick email blast came a little over an hour after Walsh posted a goodbye video on his Facebook page. Here it is:
Like Johnston, Walsh appears to have determined that getting out now will leave him with more political options in the future. The latest rumor du jour is that he plans to run for Denver district attorney if current DA Beth McCann decides to split after a single term.
McCann has taken an increasing amount of heat since the embarrassing departure in July of Assistant Deputy District Attorney Ryan Brackley, who resigned under pressure after revelations that he took "half-swings" with a baseball bat at a female colleague and sent another woman in the office a threatening text sporting a prominent F-bomb and a derogatory reference to her appearance.
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After Hickenlooper made his challenge to Gardner official, several longer-term hopefuls expressed discomfort with the move. The most memorable quote came from state senator Angela Williams, who told us that if Hick "thinks there's going to be a coronation, there's not."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee seems to be doing everything it can to prove her wrong. The DSCC quickly backed Hickenlooper, and when Williams and five other female candidates sent the organization a letter asking that the endorsement be withdrawn, spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua let them know that wasn't going to happen. Her email to Westword reads, "John Hickenlooper is far and away the strongest candidate to beat Cory Gardner, and we’re proud to support him in his run for Senate."
Walsh is now warbling the same ditty.
This post was updated with information about Walsh's withdrawal being shared with supporters prior to John Hickenlooper's email.