John Hickenlooper Enters Colorado Senate Race

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who dropped out of the race for President just last week, is running for Senate in his home state.

Just days after dropping out of the race for the Democratic President Nomination, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has entered the race for his home state’s Senate seat, thus making it more likely that the Democrats will have a good pickup opportunity in Congress’s upper chamber:

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary race one week ago, announced Thursday that he will challenge Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in 2020.

“I’m running to give Colorado’s priorities and values a voice in Washington,” Hickenlooper said on his campaign website. “Right now we’re represented by a senator who works to undo our progress by voting 99% of the time with Donald Trump and going along with Mitch McConnell’s obstruction and partisan political games.”

In his video statement released last Thursday marking the end of his White House campaign, Hickenlooper said he’s heard from many Coloradans who want him to jump into the race against Gardner, widely considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election next year.

“They remind me how much is at stake for our country. And our state,” Hickenlooper said of those urging him to mount a Senate bid. “I intend to give that some serious thought.”


Hickenlooper’s campaign website states he is running for Senate “to make Washington work for Coloradans by bringing people together to lower health care and prescription drug costs, to keep our families safe from gun violence, and protect the state’s public lands while also combating climate change.”

More from The Denver Post:

John Hickenlooper is launching a bid Thursday to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, exactly one week after pulling out of his run for the presidency.

“I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done – but this is no time to walk away from the table,” the former governor of Colorado says in his announcement video, posted at “… I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.”

In the video, filmed at the Denver brewpub he founded, Hickenlooper echoes his presidential pitch to voters, which focused on ending the conflict in Washington. And he promises to work on fighting climate change, prescription drug prices and economic inequity.

“We ought to be working together to move this country forward and stop the political nonsense,” he says.

His entry is certain to upend the nascent Democratic Senate primary, which already includes 11 candidatesEarly polls have shown Hickenlooper outpacing Gardner in a hypothetical matchup. However, he is not expected to clear the Democratic field. Several Senate candidates pledged to stay in last week after Hickenlooper dropped out of the presidential race.

Partisan control of the U.S. Senate hangs on a handful of key races, including Colorado’s. Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans up for re-election in 2020, and national Democrats, who want to leave nothing to chance, leaned heavily on Hickenlooper to run against him.

By entering the Senate primary, Hickenlooper fulfills their wishes. However, his candidacy could dash the dreams of Colorado progressives who had hoped the seat would be filled by a woman or person of color — adding diversity to Colorado’s Washington delegation.

Hickenlooper’s decision also reverses months of public statements bluntly rejecting the idea of a Senate run. In February, he said, “I’m not cut out to be a senator.” In May, he said he would “be a difficult candidate” for Senate.


The former governor’s entry makes an even dozen candidates in the Democratic race for the Senate. He is sure to reorder the top tier, which has been led by former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff and former state Sen. Mike Johnston in early polling. Johnston has also led the race in fundraising, bringing in more last quarter than Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign.

Candidates in the race’s lower tier, made up primarily of progressives, are sure to criticize Hickenlooper’s moderate stances. Many have expressed frustration at efforts to recruit the centrist white male rather than support a progressive woman. Colorado has never elected a woman to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Gardner’s campaign on Wednesday aimed to lump Hickenlooper with the rest of the Democratic field.

“To us Governor Hickenlooper is just another liberal in the clown car,” Casey Contres, Gardner’s campaign manager, said in a statement.

“Whoever their party nominates will be wildly out of step with Colorado and we look forward to facing them in the general election.”

It was just a week ago, of course, that Hickenlooper had dropped out of the Presidential race after several months in which he failed to make much of a mark. Even while he was running for President, though, Democrats at the national and state level were lobbying the popular former Governor to run for Senate rather than President, something that some of his closest aides also reportedly urged him to do. Hickenlooper responded by saying he was not interested in running for Senate, something that mirrors what he said in February when he said he wasn’t “cut out” to be a Senator. \

Despite this, the pressure on Hickenlooper continued and increased earlier this week after a poll showed him with a huge lead over other Democrats in a potential primary race Gardner in a hypothetical head-to-head race while another poll showed him leading Gardner 51% to 38% in a head-to-head matchup. That being said, a Senate bid by the former Governor would not be a cakewalk. There are already several Democrats in the race for the 2020 Senate nomination, for example, and it’s clear that those candidates are not inclined to drop out of the race. All that being said, by all accounts Hickenlooper will be the frontrunner for the nomination and a strong candidate against Gardner in the fall of 2020.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Climate Change, Congress, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Hickenlooper makes his long awaited return to relevancy.