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Johnston, Romanoff, Gardner respond to Hickenlooper jumping into Senate race

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August 22, 2019, 1:16 pm

Former Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper made it official late Wednesday, entering the state’s 2020 U.S. Senate race against incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

Gov. John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper

In another Youtube video just a week after dropping out of the presidential race, Hickenlooper vowed he’s “not done fighting for the people of Colorado,” citing the runaway cost of prescription drugs, climate change and the Republican attacks on federally-owned public lands.

“I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who knows how to get things done. But this is no time to walk away,” Hickenlooper wrote on Facebook. “I know changing Washington is hard, but I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado. That’s why I’m running for U.S. Senate.”

Hickenlooper also said Gardner doesn’t seem to know just how much his games with President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are hurting Coloradans.

Sen. Cory Gardner
Sen. Cory Gardner

“To us, Gov. Hickenlooper is just another liberal in the clown car,” Gardner campaign manager Casey Contres said in an email. “Whoever their party nominates will be wildly out of step with Colorado, and we look forward to facing them in the general election.”

Hickenlooper joins a crowded field of Democrats seeking the nomination to take on Gardner, a Trump loyalist who’s viewed as one of the most vulnerable Republicans in a state won by Hillary Clinton by nearly 5 percentage points in 2016. Democrats need to flip three or four Senate seats to take control of the upper chamber, depending on who wins the White House.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, a Front Range Democrat once considered a possible candidate to take on Gardner, endorsed Hickenlooper over the weekend.

Hickenlooper, a former two-term Denver mayor and two-term governor, is an immediate favorite among the many Democrats vying for the nomination.

Vail native and former Denver state Sen. Mike Johnston was second among Democrats in a recent poll, but a whopping  51 percentage points behind Hickenlooper, who had not even officially entered the race when the poll was taken.

Mike Johnston (youtube photo).
Mike Johnston (youtube photo).

Asked to comment, Johnston’s campaign manager didn’t directly address Hickenlooper officially getting into the race.

Johnston campaign manager Elissa Kim emailed this statement: “This time of crisis in our country demands proven leaders of courage and conviction. Mike is in this race because he has demonstrated as a teacher and principal, and in the state Senate, that he has what it takes to rise to that occasion, both to beat Cory Gardner and to be an effective Senator for Colorado who will take on Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, the NRA and all the special interests that have motivated Cory’s time in the Senate. That is why it is no surprise he has built such a strong campaign — earning major endorsements, raising $3.4 million, and picking up support from all 64 Colorado counties as he crisscrosses the state.”

Former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff was third in that poll but first in and earlier poll that didn’t include Hickenlooper.

Andrew Romanoff
Andrew Romanoff

“The Senate race got a little bigger today, and the choice became even clearer,” Romanoff said in a lengthy press release statement. “We deserve — and I pledge to run — a campaign grounded in public policy. I know and respect both Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper, but I disagree with them on some fundamental issues.”

Romanoff went on to try to point out similarities between Hickenlooper, a moderate Democrat and former geologist for the oil and gas industry, and Gardner.

“As Colorado’s next senator, I’ll lead the fight for a Green New Deal. They’re leading the fight against it. I’ll champion Medicare for All. They’ve vowed to defeat it,” Romanoff said. “Cory and John have attacked these progressive priorities as socialist or Stalinist. That’s outrageous. Would they say the same of Social Security or Medicare itself?”

Romanoff is clearly angling to paint Hickenlooper as not nearly progressive enough for Colorado.

“Democrats must decide whether we want to combat the climate crisis and end our reliance on fossil fuel — or allow polluters to bankroll Congress and block reform,” Romanoff added. “Whether we’ll ensure health care for all — or condemn half a million Americans to bankruptcy each year and thousands to an early grave. Whether we’ll build an economy that works for everyone — or force families to work even harder for less.”

And Romanoff made it clear he won’t back down and has no intention of leaving the race.

“Those are the stakes in this election. They couldn’t be higher, and we can’t afford to cower now. The best way to defeat Cory Gardner is to present a clear alternative. Echoing his talking points will inspire no one,” Romanoff concluded. “This is no time to surrender our dreams. Let’s go fight for the world we imagine.”

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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