2020 Presidential Profiles

Published — March 4, 2019

9 things to know about John Hickenlooper

(U.S. Department of Labor)

Former Colorado governor joins gaggle of Democratic presidential candidates

This article is published in partnership with the Colorado Independent.


Update, Aug. 15, 2019: John Hickenlooper has officially dropped out of the 2020 presidential race.

John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor and Denver mayor who once was hailed by a Washington Post columnist as one of the “most un-Trumpian politicians out there,” is bringing his progressive-yet-small-business-friendly outlook into the crowded race for the Democratic nomination for president.

Hickenlooper today filed president campaign paperwork and said he will run against heavyweights in his party — some with far more name recognition — with an eye toward taking on President Donald Trump in 2020.

“I’m running for president because we’re facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for,” Hickenlooper said in a campaign launch video as a grainy photo of President Donald Trump flashed on screen. “As a skinny kid with Coke bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies. Standing tall when it matters is one of the things that really drives me.”

Jennifer Rubin, a columnist for the Washington Post mused in September that Hickenlooper is the anti-Trump, in part, for his attention to detail, his bridge-building tendencies and his aw-shucks demeanor. Governing magazine said Hickenlooper, a former geologist and brewpub owner, “has spent his entire public career trying to lead from the center, usually with a great deal of success.”

Here’s more on his political and financial history:

  • Hickenlooper formed a leadership political action committee in September called Giddy Up PAC — a move that some described as a precursor to running for president. According to Federal Election Commission filings, Giddy Up PAC raised about $600,000 from Sept. 17 to Dec. 31. “Giddy up” is a phrase Hickenlooper often invokes in hashtag form on Twitter.
  • Giddy Up PAC spent $268,400 from Sept. 17 to Dec. 31, according to the FEC. The PAC spent some of its money supporting state and federal candidates across the country, including some in New Hampshire and Iowa.
  • The Giddy Up PAC launched a Facebook ad blitz on Jan. 25 touting Hickenlooper’s record on the environment and gun safety in Colorado. The ad appealed to voters not just in Colorado, but across the country: “If you want to see more of that kind of backbone across our country, add your name now.” Hickenlooper’s presidential committee, Hickenlooper 2020, also began a Facebook ad campaign immediately upon announcing.
  • Hickenlooper faces an inquiry by the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission over a conference he attended in Italy and other trips he allegedly took without disclosing as gifts. Hickenlooper said the complaint filed against him by former Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty, a Republican, was a “political stunt.”
  • “Job growth during the governor’s tenure has been nothing short of incredible,” Colorado Public Radio proclaimed in January. When Hickenlooper took office in January 2011, the state unemployment rate was 8.8 percent, but during his two terms, it fell to 3.3 percent. While praising Hickenlooper for “a success story of epic proportions,” the radio network also raised questions about how much credit a governor can take for economic triumphs.
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, left, waits to speak at the Story County Democrats’ annual soup supper fundraiser on Feb. 23, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. A Fellow Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaks in the foreground. (A /Charlie Neibergall)
  • Once reluctant to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Hickenlooper came to see recreational reefer as a boon to his state. Sales of marijuana more than doubled, to $141.3 million, between August 2014 and August 2018, according to Colorado Public Radio.
  • Hickenlooper was on the forefront of the craft brewing scene. He opened Wynkoop Brewing Co., in the late 1980s with three business partners in LoDo, a part of Denver that was deserted and in disrepair. In the 1990s, some of the brewery’s investors tried to remove Hickenlooper from daily operations of the company, but he remained.
  • In 2007, Hickenlooper sold his interest in seven restaurants for $5.8 million, according to the Denver Post.

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting, Bloomberg, Washington Post, Governing magazine, Colorado Public Radio, Denver Post, Colorado Sun, OpenSecrets.org, Federal Elections Commission, Tallahassee Democrat, Facebook, C-SPAN.

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[…] successful, the tactic could help make Hickenlooper into more of a household name – he is currently polling less than 1 […]

5 years ago

Saw Governor Hickenlooper in a downhill on CNN earlier this month and I’m on board. He’s smart, he re-evaluates his position when needed (state legalization of cannabis ) helped implement medicare for all (which I really wish Americans understood what that means! It is NOT free healthcare paid for by the government-and private insurers complete for individuals business. Ask me and I will more than happy to explain further (after 20 years working in Healthcare compliance, quality assurance and performance improvement, I know how it works. My career was spent improving the quality of care for all types of the… Read more »

5 years ago
Reply to  Kathryn

Meant “Townhill” which is apparently auto corrected to “downhill”