DENVER– In a speech announcing his candidacy for governor Tuesday afternoon, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper sought to emphasize the independent nature of his leadership style and record in public service, an attempt to erect an early firewall against Republican attacks levied for months against Gov. Bill Ritter in particular and perhaps against more general dissatisfaction in the state with Democratic leadership in Washington.
But that was rhetorical, not personal, an opening salvo in what will be a difficult and likely ugly campaign. Hickenlooper embraced Ritter before stepping up to the podium set up on the Capitol steps and thanked Ritter for his hard work and dedication to the state.
“I am John Hickenlooper,” he said then, “and I want to be the next governor of Colorado.”
In an effort to take steam out of GOP attacks on Democrats as anti oil-and-gas, Hickenlooper told the crowd he came to Colorado as an oil-industry geologist. He praised oil-and-gas workers across the state.
“Colorado is full of those remarkable people who are working hard to make sure that there is a future for their children and families.”
He also underlined his record in Denver of seeking out the will of the residents when it came to tax and rate hikes, a clear reference to the heat Ritter has drawn during his administration for raising state vehicle registration fees and freezing mill levy tax rates without taking the proposals to the ballot.
“We have managed to create a more efficient [city] government with fewer resources. We have outlined choices and went to the voters every single time and left it up to the people to see what kind city they want to live in. We created new efforts in early childhood education, safety, and infrastructure after the voters voted for each initiative.”
Asked how he would balance being part of the Democratic ticket given his “independent streak,” Hickenlooper said that he was a proud Democrat but viewed issues non-ideologically.
“I don’t plan on compromising my independent streak… my approach is to find what is the interest of the different parties around a problem and try to think through what they really need and how to find solutions.”
He stressed his work as a businessman.
“I have not just talked about creating jobs. I have created jobs.”
He said there are clear differences between the public and the private sector, but he said that the lessons he had learned in uniting business communities as a restaurateur in Denver, Fort Collins, and Colorado Springs have shaped his work in government.
Hickenlooper said he decided not to run for Governor in 2006 because he was still growing into his role as a public servant and that he had not yet achieved the goals he and his team had set up for Denver. Now he feels comfortable with his record and as the leader of his team. He said he was ready to lead the state’s chief executive.
“What is ultimately the opposite of woah? Well, giddy up! Right now it is truly giddy up time in Colorado,” he said.
Hickenlooper said he would remain Mayor of Denver through the campaign. He said a mayoral campaign would cost the city $500,000, a price tag the city could ill afford to pay this year.
Hickenlooper said he has not spoken to former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff about a position on the ticket or in a Hickenlooper administration. Romanoff is running for U.S. Senate. His name has been batted about as a possible gubernatorial candidate since Ritter announced last week that he would not run for re-election.
State Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, who spoke earlier this week to state Democratic Party Chairwoman Pat Waak about a possible run, told the Colorado Independent that any decision she would make was contingent on decisions made by Hickenlooper and Romanoff. “Hickenlooper will be a very strong candidate,” she said.
Repeating what is sure to become a Democratic talking point in the campaign, State Rep. Joel Judd, D-Denver, said that between Hickenlooper and GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Scott McInnis, the voters now have choice: On the one side a man who has shown skill in business and finding solutions to problems and, on the other, merely “a career politician.”