Election 2020: Hickenlooper responds to controversy, aims to bring people together
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has long considered the U.S. Senate to be a dysfunctional place. Now, he’s trying to change that.
“At a certain point you decide whether you’re going to stay outside the ring and be a critic or get in the ring and try to change things,” he said.
On June 30’s primary election, Hickenlooper will face Andrew Romanoff for the Democrat bid for the U.S. Senate election. If he wins, he will go up against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner and the winner of the Libertarian bid.
Hickenlooper is no stranger to Colorado. The brewpub owner turned politician served two terms as both mayor of Denver and governor. In 2019, he set his sights on the 2020 presidential election, but dropped out in August. Since then, he’s devoted his time to the senate campaign.
“A good senator needs to be able bring people together, maybe who don’t like each other, and to find common ground then get stuff done,” he said.
Lately, Hickenlooper’s campaign has been far from smooth sailing. The Colorado Independent Ethics Commission fined the former governor $2,750 for two ethics violations, according to reporting by the Denver Post. Hickenlooper allowed corporations to pay for private jet and limousine rides in 2018.
He maintains that he was not aware he was violating ethics codes and that the Republican Party was conspiring to cast doubt against him.
“I take responsibility for these things,” he said. “They were not intentional. I looked at every trip I took and did everything I could to make sure they complied with the ethics code. I stand in support of the Ethics Commision and I believe in ethics, but these allegations were dark money Republican efforts to smear my reputation. I don’t think Coloradans will be fooled by that.”
He has also come under fire for past comments. A snippet from a 2014 speech recently resurfaced, in which the former governor compared politicians to slaves on an “ancient slave ship,” drawing criticism from members of the public.
“I apologize and that was a thoughtless comment that obviously caused a lot of pain,” Hickenlooper said. “If I could take it back I would certainly do so. It’s not my finest moment.”
Despite past comments, the former governor shared support for the Black Lives Matter movement and spoke about his past work with Denver’s Black community. As mayor, Hickenlooper created the office of independent monitoring and a civilian oversight commission to hold police officers accountable.
“When you talk about Black Lives Matter, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, or the hundreds of thousands whose killings weren’t caught on cell phone or body camera, we have to keep seeking justice,” he said.
Hickenlooper believes his success as governor is evidence of what kind of senator he will be.
“I got elected in 2010, we had the worst wildfire, the worst flood, the worst mass shooting in the state’s history and yet we were able to bring people together and actually build back better than we were before,” he said.
To help mountain resort communities like Summit County recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic, Hickenlooper said the senate needs to sign the HEROES Act, a second round of stimulus funding to help people financially affected by the virus.
“This could have been avoided,” Hickenlooper said. “It was the inaction of our federal government that made this worse. There’s a responsibility to help the municipalities and the counties get finances back in balance. Also there’s a responsibility to the small businesses, to the hearts and souls of our communities.”
As senator, Hickenlooper has many other plans. He aims to build upon the Affordable Care Act, push for common sense gun reform and create a climate change plan that transitions to a 100% renewable energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050.
“I look at the partisanship and bitterness that’s in Washington and I look at when I was mayor and governor, how we bent over backwards to get everyone to work together,” he said. “It’s something this country needs right now. Desperately.”