Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who just finished his second term as governor, announced his 2020 presidential campaign Monday, and though he lacks the national profile of some of his cohort, he and his campaign team are hoping that his highly popular record with Colorado might shine through. Reports mention his ability to work with Republicans, and his team hopes this capacity to reach across the aisle will distinguish him as a candidate.
When Hickenlooper’s staff planned his first trip to Iowa back in January of 2019, it became clear that the governor just might run for president. CNN called him a geologist-turned-brewer-turned-politician, and now he takes a run at the White House.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Has A Master’s Degree in Geology, Which Is How He Ended Up in Colorado
Hickenlooper was actually born in Pennsylvania in 1952, and later on, he attended Wesleyan University, where he received a master’s degree in geology. The geology field being prominent in Colorado, Hickenlooper found himself moving there.
He worked for Buckhorn Petroleum but was laid off in the 1980s. He then visited California, spotted a brewpub that he thought might conceptually work in Denver, and opened Wynkoop Brewing Company in 1988.
Wynkoop grew so much that he decided that the relationships it formed for him were enough to help him run for mayor of Denver in 2003. WATCH the video of his mayoral campaign above.
He won his race for mayor, and held the position for eight years before running for governor of Colorado and serving two terms from 2011 to 2019.
2. He Had His Reservations at First, But He’s Come Around to Pot Legalization
Hickenlooper was, of course, the governor of Colorado: a state that faced marijuana legalization. On Late Night with Seth Meyers (WATCH video above), Meyers asked Hickenlooper, “So your state legalizes marijuana, [and] when this was voted on, you were actually against legalization, so explain–you’ve softened on it in recent years–so explain your thinking on it then as opposed to now.”
Hickenlooper explained that generally, it is not a good idea to be “in conflict” with federal law. Once the marijuana legalization bill was passed, Hickenlooper said, it passed 55-45, and once “the voters tell you something like that, you really have to do your very best to say, ‘alright, we’re gonna make it work,'” Hickenlooper explained to Meyers.
The regulatory framework for marijuana legalization is not perfect, Hickenlooper said in the video, speaking to Meyers. “We’ve still had more kids in the hospital for eating edibles…but in many ways, we see anecdotally less [sic] drug dealers.”
3. He’s Only the Second Governor to Announce a 2020 White House Bid
The first governor to announce a campaign in what is quickly becoming a very crowded Democratic field was Washington’s Gov. Jay Inslee (D). Hickenlooper would be the second governor.
Inslee’s strong platform, as reported on Heavy.com, is the environment. “We went to the moon and created technologies that have changed the world—our country’s next mission must be to rise up to the most urgent challenge of our time: defeating climate change,” Inslee said in a video posted on Heavy. Hickenlooper’s platform, as anyone would guess, would be the economy.
On the state level, Hickenlooper was very popular, according to reports, and he was a pro-business governor. Reports state that he left Colorado with a strong economy. Both candidates may lack some of the national familiarity and social media spoofing of more well-known senators and congresspeople in the race, but as time progresses, that could change.
4. During His Tenure, Colorado Was Ranked as Having the Best Economy in the United States
USA Today released a report in August of 2018, showing that Hickenlooper’s state of Colorado had the best economy in the United States. The following data was reported by USA Today:
- 5 yr. GDP annual growth rate: +2.7% (4th largest increase)
- 2017 GDP: $302.9 billion (18th largest)
- June 2018 Unemployment: 2.7% (tied — 3rd lowest)
- 5 yr. annual employment growth: +2.4% (5th largest increase)The report showed that Colorado leaped ahead because of its sizable GDP and job growth. Colorado’s economy 2.7% over five years.
In Hickenlooper’s state, employment increased by 2.4% over the same period. In Colorado, nearly 40% of the adult population has a bachelor’s degree, according to USA Today’s report, which is the second highest number in the country.
5. Hickenlooper Governed During Many Tragedies
In his eight years as governor, Hickenlooper and Colorado faced many tragedies. Colorado faced several wildfires and floods in 2013.
In 2012, a shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, left 12 people dead and traumatized the nation. Hickenlooper mentions these tragedies in his campaign video above.
Reports state that he worked with Republicans on many of these concerning matters dealing with his state. “Some of his biggest supporters have been prominent statewide Republicans,” said Max Potter, Hickenlooper’s former senior media advisor and speechwriter. “What John brings to the table may not ‘excite’ the Ocasio-Cortez base, but what it should excite is the chance for a Democratic party to beat Donald Trump.”