John Hickenlooper’s legacy in Colorado is that of a man who invested early in a dream to revitalize our capital city and then stepped up to lead a thriving economy, a prosperous business environment, a developed transportation network, and progressive reforms.
Coloradans should reflect on Hickenlooper’s productive eight years as mayor of Denver and his eight years as governor as they cast their ballots for U.S. Senate. We know who Hickenlooper is: the Democratic who, as a candidate for president, decried socialism soliciting boos from a California assembly; the Democrat who convinced the oil and gas industry to agree to leak detection when the state legislature couldn’t achieve meaningful reform, and the Democrat who signed universal background checks and limits on high-capacity magazines into law after 12 people were murdered at an Aurora movie theater in 2012.
He’s a man Coloradans can trust to keep their interests at heart, to make sound decisions, and to help repair our national system of governance.
In fact, it’s Hickenlooper’s reluctance to enter into this race that makes him such an attractive candidate for Coloradans, most of whom would also rather not meddle with Washington-style politics. Is Hickenlooper a slick politician who wins debates? Nope, but this board is done with political gamesmanship.
In sharp contrast, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner is excellent at playing the political game, but he has proven to have terrible judgment and communicate poorly with his constituents.
Gardner declined to meet with The Denver Post editorial board for our endorsement process. In part, we are sure, that is because of a harsh editorial we wrote in 2019 after he didn’t join 12 other Republicans to repudiate the fake emergency declaration President Donald Trump used to steal congressionally appropriated funds from the Department of Defense. “Gardner could still prove to be a great senator for Colorado, a man who puts his state and his principles above party and politics,” we wrote concluding it was a mistake to endorse him in 2014 if he was not going to stand on principle when the nation needed him most.
Gardner traded unyielding party fealty for election-year favors: the Arkansas Valley Conduit, moving dozens of Bureau of Land Management employees to Colorado, and securing billions of dollars a year for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to purchase additional public lands and pay for a backlog of projects in our nation’s parks.
The price for these wins was too steep at the federal level. President Donald Trump reigned unchecked — crashing through norms, knocking down constitutional protections, stirring up racial animus, leaving American allies abroad out in the cold, and claiming more and more authority for the executive branch of government. Gardner had many opportunities to oppose the administration’s “burn it down” approach to governance. Instead, he joined the enablers who turned a blind eye to Trump’s corruption.
Hickenlooper is the better choice for Coloradans in these trying times.
For an hour, Hickenlooper sat down with The Post’s editorial board — in a socially-distanced, mask-on meeting at our Washington Street campus.
He addressed his ethics infraction head-on.
“These are two relatively minor reporting errors that I made, that I took responsibility for and I paid my $2,750 fine,” he said. Hickenlooper mishandled the complaint against him — as we’ve already said — but we do not believe accepting a flight on a private plane to assist in the USS Colorado ceremony was a breach of Coloradans’ trust, nor was it untoward for him to attend a conference in Italy where his transportation and meals were comped by corporate sponsors. Hickenlooper should have disclosed these gifts or paid for them.
If Trump is re-elected, Hickenlooper said he would respect the office of the presidency, but stand up to the president when he is wrong. Hickenlooper noted that Gardner has not adequately defended America’s election system against Trump’s assault on our democracy. There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud, yet Trump continues to say there is a threat of this election being illegitimate.
If Democrats sweep in November, and we are faced with a single-party government as Republicans had in 2016, Hickenlooper assured us he’s not going to let his party push him around.
“I think I’ve proven, a number of times, that I’m always trying to get people together. I’m always trying to do everything I can to build bridges and find common ground,” Hickenlooper said. “But when something needs to be said, I’ve never been afraid to say it.”
We think Democrats should, and likely would under the leadership of former Vice President Joe Biden, take the high road and end this escalation of extremism. Retaliation is a zero-sum game that only hurts Americans, and it’s what Trump has done for the past four years. Of course, we must rollback the most egregious assaults on human decency: family separations and other inhumane policies at the border and the abandonment of our global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
But Democrats shouldn’t end the filibuster or pack the Court. Supporters shouldn’t chant “lock him up” and our leaders must not continue Trump’s abuse of the Attorney General’s office. Ramming through drastic policy changes would be a mistake too, and Hickenlooper agrees. America needs to move forward.
He does not support a single-payer health care system like the Medicaid for All pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders. “I do think we have to get to universal coverage. Health care is a right, not a privilege,” Hickenlooper said. So how do we fill the glaring gap that exists right now between those who qualify for federal health insurance Medicaid and those who can’t afford insurance on the private market even with federal subsidies?
The solution clearly isn’t to force Americans off of Medicaid, as Sen. Cory Gardner voted to do when he supported massive cuts to Medicaid in proposed rollbacks of the Affordable Care Act. Hickenlooper supports creating a public option, which is something The Denver Post editorial board was pushing Congress to include in the ACA back in 2012.
While Gardner says he is an advocate for America’s Dreamers, Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that gave in-state tuition to Dreamers at state universities and colleges. For Colorado high school graduates who were brought to America as children without proper documentation, this was a life-altering piece of legislation. Gardner is on record in 2013 opposing the ASSET Bill along with most Republicans in the state legislature.
For eight years, Gov. John Hickenlooper threaded the needle between working hard to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado as part of a global effort to slow global warming and lessen the effects of climate change on vulnerable regions. He balanced that against the risk of escalating energy prices and harming the state’s oil and gas industry. We think he struck a good balance and is ready to go further in Congress to reduce emissions.
Coloradans know Hickenlooper: the governor who donated his $90,000 a year salary to charities while he was governor; the governor who helped us mourn and recover from floods and fires and mass shootings; the man who is ready to serve once again in Congress.
Updated Oct. 9, 2020 at 2:29 p.m.This editorial was clarified after it was pointed out that Cory Gardner has at least three times made statements supporting Colorado’s vote by mail system.