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August 23, 2019 01:59 PM UTC

Hickenlooper Walked Through an Open Door

  • by: Colorado Pols
John Hickenlooper

The decision by former Gov. John Hickenlooper to enter the race for U.S. Senate has stirred up some recognizable complaints about outside forces conspiring to foist a preferred candidate upon the masses in Colorado. Many of these are familiar arguments from familiar faces, but are they accurate?

As Chase Woodruff wrote recently for Westword, any number of Democratic candidates could potentially defeat incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020. We’re not convinced this is true, but regardless, it is an incomplete argument because none of these candidates are equally likely to succeed. You may be able to make a case that former State Senator Mike Johnston and former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff could each defeat Gardner in 2020, but you’d be a fool to imply that Trish Zornio has similarly favorable odds.

If you can allow that Johnston or Romanoff are better candidates than Zornio, then you must also be prepared to acknowledge that there are better potential candidates than any of the current bunch of hopefuls. That’s what is happening with Hickenlooper’s candidacy. Nothing more.

The reality is this: If there was even one candidate already in the race that had demonstrated strong fundraising ability and unmistakable support among a broad group of Democratic voters, then Hickenlooper wouldn’t be running. Period. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC), for example, is charged with trying to win control of the Senate Majority in 2020. It doesn’t serve their purpose to stoke a competitive Primary race if they already felt comfortable with the current field of candidates. The DSCC wants to win, and they think Hick has the best chance to do that in Colorado. It’s not more complicated than this.

Johnston, Romanoff, and all of the other Democratic candidates have had months and months to show that they were indisputably the best of the bunch. None of them could do it. That’s not to say that some of these candidates would not have been able to eventually rise to the top of the pack, but how long are you supposed to wait for them? The first person to file campaign paperwork isn’t entitled to a 12-month head start.

We don’t blame supporters of any candidate for being upset when a recognizable name enters a race they hoped to win — but that’s politics. If you leave a door open, eventually someone else is going to walk inside.


8 thoughts on “Hickenlooper Walked Through an Open Door

  1. Colorado voters will be the ultimate arbiter in this case.  I'm not upset that John jumped in and I'm not going to trash him; I'll vote for him if he's the victor.  I'm only annoyed by the narrative that there is only one person in Colorado today that can beat our junior senator.  There is only one, and it's going to be the he/she that captures the hearts and minds of Colorado voters between now and next November.  Let's have a primary based on winning the voter with the ideas and vision that in many cases have already been implemented here.  We have the number one economy in the nation and we're one of the best places to live, work, farm and be educated.  Build on that narrative and may the best man/woman win. 

    1. Indeed, welcome to all candidates and may the strongest prosper on behalf of all of us….

      Here's a first take on the criteria I'm going to be using. I'm not certain of the order of importance after the first.

      • capable of running a race to beat Cory.
      • able to play nice with a full range of Democrats in the Senate.
      • able to work with some Republicans, when they are at least tolerant of working together.
      • likely to build a long-term growth in the influence of Democrats in Colorado and nationally.
      • looks likely to build influence of Colorado in national politics.
      • shows commitment to stronger action on climate change.
      • shows interest in using federal taxation to diminish income and wealth inequality, provide more equitable opportunity for kids and youth, and come close to paying for what is being spent.
      • will maintain & improve health care access.


  2. P.S.  Don't knock Trish Zornio.  I've never met the lady but followed the research trail mj laid out on her.  She seems like a very bright, dedicated woman and head to head, she'd kick Gardner around like a soccer ball.  We can take pride in an exceptionally talented field, including a long overdue influx of women. 

    And give Alice Madden a close look.  

  3. Yes, and he also may close a door. Let me be clear, I'll vote for Hick when (not if) he is the nominee through the party process. I also think it's absolutely his right to enter the race. That said, his entry isn't just walking through a door into a crowded room, it's opening a door onto a different room, while closing a door others were hoping to open.

    If you look at the field before Hick, you had a crowd of rather progressive candidates who were making a proposition to Colorado voters: one of us can not only beat Cory Gardner, but we can do so from the Progressive wing of our Party rather than triangulating up the imaginary middle. It's a risky proposition on the surface, but it also acknowledges the extent to which Colorado's electorate has polarized to political extremes as much or more than the national electorate. Yes, we may be a purple state in 2019, but it is now because the red and blue are so strong, not because they mix in the middle as they did a decade or more ago.

    Now enter John Hickenlooper, a candidate who made his career more than a decade ago in a reddish-purple state by triangulating up a far more robust political middle with a folksy style that comforted those more red than blue.

    Hick doesn't open a door into the more progressive, contemporary race posited above, but rather to an older, more comfortable political space for many Democrats, and also for many Republicans, Gardner included. In doing so, he also begins to close the door on those bold enough to attempt campaigns that might change Colorado's political future, just as Hick did over a decade ago.

    If Hick wins, which he likely will given his name recognition and financial backing, the door to that political future may remain closed for six or more years. We can speculate whether this is an accident of politics, or an intentional outcome, but the result will be that Colorado will see more moderate Democrats in future races, even though the majority of their Party continues to lean to their left.

    If, on the other hand, Hick loses either the primary or the general it will be a testament to the fact that some of the more progressive candidates were correct in their analysis of Colorado's changing political landscape. More than that, it will be another statement to go along with the results in 2016 and 2018 that the Party will ignore at it's own peril after 2020. 

    Hick  has indeed walked through an open door, but if we are honest it is a door to Colorado's past more than Colorado's future. Hopefully, Hick can find a way to leave the door to that more progressive future open just a crack. If he does, he'll find he can not only win, but win over more of his own Party.

    1. You're right, JiD. Hick is a step back to the past, but right now, that looks pretty good to me. A past when Congress did what we sent them there to do: pass sensible laws, keep the President in check and pass budgets on time. That's a past I can live with.

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