Colorado ex-Governor Hickenlooper Joins 2020 Presidential Race

Hickenlooper, 67, will tout his business background and two terms in office, during which Colorado's economy soared and the state expanded healthcare and passed a gun control law

File photo: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper waits to speak at the Story County Democrats' annual soup supper fundraiser, in Ames, Iowa, February 23, 2019.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper joined the growing field of Democratic presidential candidates on Monday, hoping to position himself as a centrist and an experienced officeholder who is best poised to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020.

Hickenlooper, 67, will tout his business background and two terms in office, during which Colorado's economy soared and the state expanded healthcare and passed a gun control law.

"I’ve proven again and again I can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver," he said in a statement announcing his campaign on Monday, adding "we... need to get things done."

The former governor, who left office in January, refused to air negative ads during his two gubernatorial campaigns, a position his aides insist he will carry into his presidential bid.

"There's no profit margin in making enemies," Hickenlooper says frequently to describe his political philosophy.

But staying positive will be harder to do in a presidential campaign expected to draw a large slate of Democratic hopefuls and against Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee who won in 2016 after a race replete with personal attacks on his opponents.

Hickenlooper is jumping straight into an ongoing debate within the Democratic Party about the best path to beating Trump in 2020. He joins those in his party who believe an establishment figure who can appeal to centrist voters is the way to win back the White House. Others believe a fresh face, and particularly a diverse one, is needed to energize the party’s increasingly left-leaning base.

Hickenlooper has so far refused to take corporate money for the political action committee he formed to allow him to raise and spend federal funds helping other candidates - a position he is expected to continue in his presidential bid.

Over the past two years, he actively sought to bolster his bipartisan credentials.

In 2017, he asked then-Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, to join him in advocating for compromise over the future of the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare. The two held a series of national events touting the ability to reach bipartisan agreement.

The tour generated speculation that Kasich and Hickenlooper could mount a third-party bid for president and vice president together, rumors both camps denied.

Hickenlooper often speaks of his personal biography. After getting laid off from work as a geologist in the 1980s, he opened a brewery and pub. He frequently talks about the risk of opening his own business - a point he makes to argue he understands the needs of the economy.

He was elected mayor of Denver in 2007 and governor of Colorado in 2010.

In 2012, the state's residents voted to legalize marijuana. At the time, Hickenlooper called the legalization a bad idea but agreed to implement the will of the voters. He has since said he believes legalization and the oversight system created in the state worked.