9 things to know about John Hickenlooper

Former Colorado governor joins gaggle of Democratic presidential candidates

Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to reporters at the Westin Denver Downtown on Nov. 6, 2018. (Photo by John Herrick)

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.
  • Hickenlooper has been in campaign mode for months. He traveled to Iowa in October and again in late January, when he stopped in to review a brown ale at the Court Avenue Restaurant and Brewing Co. in Des Moines. He visited Iowa again in February. The geologist-turned-craft-brewer-turned-politician also visited New Hampshire in October and again in February.
  • 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 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, Colorado’s 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.
  • Once reluctant to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Hickenlooper came to see recreational reefer as a boon. 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.

Sarah Kleiner joined the Center for Public Integrity’s federal politics team in 2017 after 13 years with daily newspapers. Kleiner has reported on a range of topics: state politics, city government, education, mental health, criminal justice and real estate. Her awards include the 2016 Virginia Press Association Journalistic Integrity and Community Service award for her investigation into the death of a mentally ill jail Sarah Kleiner joined the Center for Public Integrity’s federal politics team in 2017 after 13 years with daily newspapers. Kleiner has reported on a range of topics: state politics, city government, education, mental health, criminal justice and real estate. Her awards include the 2016 Virginia Press Association Journalistic Integrity and Community Service award for her investigation into the death of a mentally ill jail inmate. In 2015, Kleiner’s series about the lasting effects of toxic Chinese drywall in Hampton Roads received top awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors and the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, and she was a runner-up in the 2015 Best American Newspaper Narrative Contest. Kleiner graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2004 with a degree in journalism.

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