Hickenlooper enters Colorado Senate race, but he will have competition

Former governor announced his withdrawal from the presidential race a week ago

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding in Clear Lake earlier this month before he announced he was dropping out of the presidential race. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

After spending a week off the campaign trail, former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper announced Thursday that he will run for Senate in Colorado. 

The former two-term Democratic governor said he wants to challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in next year’s election. Hickenlooper will face several challengers for the Democratic nomination, and will have to address statements he made earlier this year that he was not interested in the job.

“I’ve always said Washington is a lousy place for a guy like me who likes to get things done,” Hickenlooper said in an announcement video on his campaign website. “But this is no time to walk away from the table.”

Colorado will be one of the top Senate battlegrounds next year. Before Hickenlooper’s announcement, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rated the race a “Toss-up.”

Hickenlooper announced his withdrawal from the presidential race one week ago. He sought to differentiate himself from the crowded Democratic primary field with centrist positions on health care and climate change, but his candidacy never gained traction.

In a video declaring he would step away from the presidential race, Hickenlooper said he had heard “from so many Coloradans who want me to run for United States Senate.”

Hickenlooper’s entry is not expected to clear the already crowded primary field. Some candidates have stressed the importance of a candidate who is progressive or a trailblazer in terms of diversity.

Former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2014 and Senate in 2010, told KOA News Radio last week that Hickenlooper’s entry into the race would not change his approach.

“What I heard Gov. Hickenlooper tell everybody who asked is, he wasn’t cut out to be a senator and didn’t want the job,” Romanoff said. “Look, I respect that. I respect him.”

After Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race, former state Sen. Mike Johnston implied in a statement that he would not leave the race.

“I decided to run for U.S. Senate for two simple reasons: First, I think I’m the right candidate to relentlessly challenge and defeat Cory Gardner, and I know I can effectively work in the Senate to make progress on the issues that matter most, like the climate crisis, gun safety and health care,” Johnston said.

State Sen. Angela Williams said in an interview with CQ Roll Call in July that she would also stay in the race if Hickenlooper launched a Senate run.

“I would stay in the race,” Williams said. “Females need to be represented in this race.”

Dan Baer, who served in Hickenlooper’s administration and as ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe under President Barack Obama, said in a statement he was staying in the race.

“There are new voices ready to lead across our state, voices who understand that there is no back to normal, there’s only forward to normal,” Baer said. “That’s why I was running yesterday, and that’s why I'll be running tomorrow.” 

Johnston, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018, has raised the most money in the Democratic field so far, raking in $3.4 million, which is more than the $3.1 million Hickenlooper raised for his presidential run. Baer and Romanoff have both raised over $1 million.

Former U.S. Attorney John F. Walsh has raised $777,000.

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