Hickenlooper, 67, who completed his second term as Colorado governor in January, has a knack for political salesmanship and showmanship — and cracking jokes. He's also been in the microbrew business.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, known as a pro-business leader who tries to bridge partisan differences, said he’ll join the large field of Democrats competing for the nomination to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
In a campaign announcement video released on Monday, Hickenlooper presented himself as a Washington outsider capable of both confrontation and cooperation.
“As a skinny kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies,” Hickenlooper says in his video. “I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”
His record of bipartisanship in a battleground state stands in contrast with the nation’s polarized electorate and a desire among progressives in the Democratic Party for confrontation over cooperation.
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While Hickenlooper is the latest Democrat to announce his candidacy for president, another possible contender, former Attorney General Eric Holder, took his name out of contention in a Washington Post op-ed Monday. Holder said he’ll remain involved in the National Democratic Redistricting Committee.
Hickenlooper, 67, who completed his second term as governor in January, has a knack for political salesmanship and showmanship — skills that could help in challenging a former reality TV star turned president. His unorthodox story and folksy personality could enable him to break through among Democratic contenders, though his wisecracking tendencies may also lead to campaign missteps.
On Thursday, Hickenlooper is expected to hold a kick-off rally in Denver before departing on a two-day tour of Iowa, where the first nominating contest of 2020 is scheduled to be held in 11 months.
He joins an already-crowded Democratic primary field that, among others, includes Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist senator from Vermont who lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016, and senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kamala Harris of California, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
In 2005, during his first of two terms as Denver’s mayor, Hickenlooper twice parachuted from a plane for a television commercial backing voter referendums in Colorado to permit government spending that he considered critical for the state’s future.
Five years later, he appeared in a shower, fully clothed, for another TV spot. This one was in support of his candidacy for governor and a pledge to conduct a clean campaign as others engaged in dirty politics.
Born in suburban Philadelphia as the youngest of four children, Hickenlooper attended a private boys’ academy on a scholarship and graduated from Wesleyan University.
After being laid off as a geologist during a slump in Colorado’s oil industry, he co-founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company in a then-abandoned warehouse district in Denver, and later used a “running of the pigs” to celebrate anniversaries of the microbrewery and restaurant. Riding the craft beer craze, he went on to open 15 brewpubs and restaurants, mostly in the Midwest, according to his campaign.
Hickenlooper parlayed his business success into a winning 2003 bid to become mayor of Colorado’s largest city. In that post, he streamlined government and persuaded voters to support tax increases for light rail and to help address homelessness. Time magazine named him one of the five best big-city mayors in 2005, and he won re-election in 2007 with 87 percent of the vote.
In 2010, then-President Barack Obama called Hickenlooper, who was mayor when Denver hosted the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and asked him to run for governor. He won with 51 percent of the vote in an election against a Republican and a third-party opponent.
As governor, Hickenlooper promoted a business-friendly environment in a state that’s been among the fastest-growing in the nation in recent years and has increasingly leaned more Democratic.
During his time as governor, Colorado became one of the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana, even though he opposed the ballot measure that started the process. He also supported an expansion in the state of Medicaid, and backed LGBT rights.
But Hickenlooper’s record on energy issues and climate change could put him at odds with the Democratic base that dominates the nomination process. While he supported limits on methane and vehicle emissions and has said he believes the U.S. must move to a clean energy economy, Hickenlooper has also defended the energy industry and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Hickenlooper has appeared jointly with former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich to promote shared positions on health care, trade and bipartisanship. Kasich unsuccessfully ran in the 2016 GOP presidential primaries and may be considering a long-shot bid to challenge Trump or run as an independent in 2020.
Clinton considered Hickenlooper as a potential vice presidential running mate before opting for a senator from another important swing state, Tim Kaine of Virginia.
Hickenlooper, former chairman of the National Governors Association, had previously formed a political action committee called Giddy Up.
Shortly after he was elected governor, Hickenlooper told the New York Times that he had no ambitions for higher office because he’s too unorthodox a Democrat to be supported in a national race. That assessment will now be put to the test.