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John Hickenlooper staff trying to figure out how to drive mayor/gubernatorial campaign hybrid

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John Hickenlooper's declaration yesterday that he will run for governor even as he keeps his job as Denver mayor creates a challenge for his mayoral staff, as mayor's office spokesman Eric Brown acknowledges. Yesterday, for instance, he helped set up the Hick announcement -- a task that had nothing to do with city business. So, in order not to rip off Denver taxpayers, he took the day off, at least technically.

"Yesterday was a full vacation day for me," he says. "And I'm talking to you right now on a cell phone paid for by the campaign. I get the joy of carrying two Blackberries for a while."

Likewise, Brown is wearing a couple of hats, just as Hickenlooper is. "There's definitely some double duty here in the short term, as we work to build what the campaign is going to look like," he notes.

Brown reiterates the reasons Hickenlooper offered yesterday regarding his retention of the mayor's job -- including the high cost of a special election -- and, he adds, "the mayor is very confident with the folks he has in place, from Bill Vidal at public works to David Roberts, the chief services officer, to Claude Pumilia, the chief financial officer, to Roxanne White, his chief of staff. He's got great people in place to help run the day-to-day operations of the city."

Of course, there's another advantage for Hickenlooper given this course of action: If he loses the governor's race, he can still run for mayoral reelection as an incumbent. Not that Brown will say this was a factor in his strategy.

"I've never heard that used as an argument for why he should stay in as mayor," Brown insists. "He's always made it clear that he intended to run for reelection in the spring. So this wasn't a safety net for him, but to prevent the chaos that would ensue if he resigned now to run for governor."

A call Hickenlooper received from President Barack Obama last Friday wasn't the determining factor in launching a gubernatorial bid, either, Brown emphasizes

"It was very much the same thing as the day before, when Secretary Salazar said he wasn't going to run, but that he supported the mayor and hoped he would get in," he allows. "With both announcements, the mayor was very grateful and honored -- especially for the President to call. But this was an intensely personal decision. The mayor and Helen and Teddy realized this would make a significant change for all of them, but together, they decided that this is what they want to do."

Now comes the transition period, during which a campaign staff will be hired and responsibilities designated. Until then, Brown says, "the question I keep getting is, 'What does this mean for you? What does it mean for Roxanne? What does it mean for the rest of the staff?' And we're heading toward the answers now."

How long before everything is spelled out?

"Out of personal self-interest," Brown says, "I hope it's sooner rather than later."

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