You know him, you love him. He’s governor-elect John Hickenlooper. OK, according to a recent election, not much more than half of you love him. Still and all, he’s our governor.
Arguably one of the most popular mayors in Denver history, he’s also something of a national curiosity — an out of work geologist turned brewpub millionaire. A Democrat who appeals to Republicans with a non-confrontational approach that emphasizes business savvy and team-building.
Sunday, The New York Times ran an upbeat six-page profile of Hickenlooper in the magazine section. The reporter pointed out that he received little scrutiny during the campaign because of Republican dysfunction that kept the media spotlight out of Hickenlooper’s eyes. You could say the same for The Times profile.
Of course, it wasn’t completely devoid of news and controversy. Hickenlooper is quoted as saying “We should drill the living daylights out of natural gas and cut regulation.”
Here, Hickenlooper spokesman Alan Salazar explains the comment to Colorado Pols.
All in all, it’s a good read. Here’s an excerpt:
Hickenlooper’s style has not only been fun-loving and freewheeling but also largely nonpartisan, and it has served him well. He decisively won election as mayor of Denver in July 2003, at the age of 51, despite no previous bids for elective office or experience in government. And he has had a remarkably successful administration, streamlining government, persuading voters to go along with a range of tax increases for projects like regional light rail and a new city jail and shepherding many homeless people off the streets and into newly built affordable housing. In 2005 Time magazine named him one of the five best big-city mayors in the country; in 2007 he won re-election with 87 percent of the vote. The pollster working on his 2010 gubernatorial campaign found that in the Denver metropolitan area roughly three of every four voters had a favorable impression of him. What Hickenlooper has enjoyed over the last seven and a half years isn’t so much a sustained political honeymoon as a round-the-world Love Boat cruise — with complimentary piña coladas nightly on the Lido Deck.
But can it last? Colorado is much more ideologically diverse than Denver itself, home to both the backpackers of Boulder and the Bible thumpers of Colorado Springs, and it’s in deep fiscal trouble. Hickenlooper will cross the lawn between City Hall and the State Capitol — they face each other across a picturesque park downtown — to encounter a budget shortfall of roughly $1 billion for the coming fiscal year and an obligation, written into Colorado law, to balance the books. Like chief executives far and wide, he must cut and cut and then cut some more, and he must do so in concert with a divided Legislature in which Democrats control the Senate and Republicans the House.
“Being governor of Colorado right now — it’s like trying to pick your teeth with a rattlesnake,” says Charlie Brown, a Denver City Council member and a onetime Democrat who switched his party registration years ago to “unaffiliated,” a group that represents about a third of Colorado’s voters. But he and others who have worked with or closely observed Hickenlooper say that his deft political touch up to now gives him as good a chance as anybody might have — and makes him especially interesting to watch.
The Times even hints that the governor’s office may not be the end of the line for Hickenlooper.