When former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper dropped his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination two weeks ago, it seemed obvious he would enter the Democrats’ Colorado primary race to win the right to challenge Sen. Cory Gardner, the Republican, next fall. Hick is a Democrat, last we checked. Granted, he is a moderate, but that still counts, or it should.
So what happened after Hick declared his Senate candidacy last week was not surprising, although some of it verges on sad, and all of it gives a preview of the primary getting underway, with 12 candidates.
One of the more restrained reactions came from candidate Dan Baer, a former ambassador in the Obama administration. Speaking to a dinner for Pitkin County Democrats Thursday, Baer said, “John Hickenlooper loves people, he calls himself a brewer but he’s really a human embodiment of hospitality. He works to make people feel welcome. I continue to count him as a friend and I have a genuine personal regard for him.”
Apparently alluding to the fact that he is gay and married, Baer continued, “Twenty years ago, someone like me wouldn’t have been expected to step aside, because 20 years ago, someone like me wouldn’t have been running in the first place. Times have changed. Our leadership must change too.”
No one should have assumed this primary would be a cakewalk for Hick, not in 2019, not in a crowded field, despite polling that showed him with advantages over Gardner and the rest of the Democratic field. But Baer was signaling that, for him, this would be a clean fight, which ought to benefit everyone.
Colorado Sen. Angela Williams, who founded the Colorado Black Democratic Legislative Caucus, is also in the race. One of her biggest accomplishments is passing a law that allows undocumented immigrants to attend college with in-state tuition. Hick seems to have gotten under her skin, not with the way he governed in Williams’ adopted state for eight years, but because he explicitly rejected socialism as the answer to the country’s problems.
When Hick exited the presidential contest, Williams said, in prepared remarks, “Gov. Hickenlooper says he’s not done fighting, but a lot of Colorado’s working families are wondering when exactly he started to fight. On health care, worker’s rights, climate change, criminal justice reform and more, Gov. Hickenlooper has failed to fight for the progressive solutions our state and country need.”
It is bewildering to see Hick kicked this way by Democrats in Colorado. It also seems nakedly opportunistic. Yet other nominal Democrats, far from Colorado or the Senate primary, piled on. Waleed Shahid, the spokesperson for Justice Democrats, a political action committee that promotes the Green New Deal, Medicare for All and socialism generally, tweeted, “Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign was a genius move to make Democrats so desperate to push him off the presidential stage that many would forget that he would join the Senate as a conservative Democrat who has already pledged to block most progressive priorities.”
On Friday, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, with what we imagine was a sigh of relief, endorsed Hick, saying, “If we want to end the gridlock, cut the costs of health care and prescription drugs, and act on climate – we need to flip this #COSen seat.”
Still, if this is to be a contest to see who is farthest left, Hick will lose and Gardner could win. We are going to make some popcorn now.