2020: Ex-Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper Announces He’s Running for President

John Hickenlooper
AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) announced Monday he is running for President of the United States in 2020.

“I’m running for president because we need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” Hickenlooper said in his campaign video announcement. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”

He becomes the second governor to enter the sprawling field, after Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced last week and is trying to cast himself as a pragmatist who can also take on President Donald Trump. Though as governor Hickenlooper prided himself for staying above partisan fights, he has argued his record as a former governor and big-city mayor distinguishes him from a broad field of Democratic hopefuls who are backing ambitious liberal plans on health care, taxes and the climate.

Hickenlooper has hedged on supporting Democrat rallying cries like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal to combat climate change. He once worked as a geologist for a petroleum company and was roundly criticized for telling a congressional panel he drank fracking fluid while arguing for the safety of the energy extraction technique.

It was after Hickenlooper was laid off from his geologist position during the energy bust of the 1980s that he inadvertently started on his road to politics. He opened a brewpub in a then-desolate stretch of downtown Denver that unexpectedly took off. That enabled Hickenlooper to become wealthy by building a mini-empire of restaurants and bars. It also led to him making a successful run for Denver mayor in 1993.

His first term was marked by a series of disasters and tragedies, some of which he alluded to in his launch video — record wildfires and floods, the assassination of his own prison chief and the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, which killed 12. After that attack and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting massacre in Connecticut months later, Hickenlooper called for gun control legislation and signed bills requiring universal background checks and limiting magazine capacity to 15 rounds.

He backed civil unions for gay couples and signed a law providing them in Colorado in 2013, before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage. Hickenlooper announced in 2013 that he opposed the death penalty and refused to execute a quadruple-murderer who was on death row. And, as he prepared to leave office and was openly mulling a presidential bid, he ordered the state to adopt California’s low-emission vehicle standards to fight climate change.

In the run-up to his announcement, Hickenlooper has repeatedly taken aim at President Trump’s policies and personal-style. In a January 31 interview with CNN Tonight, the Colorado Democrat claimed the president has divided the U.S. more than it has been divided in the past century.

“I think, if you look at President Trump, he has divided the country worst than it’s ever been divided in its history — or at least certainly for — in the last 100 years. You know, my history, both as a mayor, and as a governor, as a businessperson was to bring people together and find solutions to vexing problems,” he said. “To — you know, we brought environmentalists together with the oil and gas industry for methane regulations, the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road. We got expanded Medicaid. We got almost 95% of the population of Colorado now has healthcare coverage. Those are difficult, tough problems. We’ve been able to get people together.”

Hickenlooper joins an ever-growing presidential field, which including Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), all of which have begun campaigning in key primary states such as New Hampshire and South Carolina. Former Vice President Joe Biden and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) are expected to launch bids in the coming weeks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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