Former two-term governor John Hickenlooper, who waged a short-lived campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is the national party’s choice for taking Gardner, one of two Republicans facing re-election in a Hillary state Clinton worn in 2016.
But Hickenlooper, long regarded as the Democratic leader, faces competition from former President of the House of States, Andrew Romanoff, whose challenge from the left has grown after Hickenlooper suffered a streak negative headlines in June.
Romanoff is no stranger to the countryside. He unsuccessfully challenged newly appointed senator Michael Bennet in a Democratic primary in 2010. Four years later, he lost an offer for a seat in the Denver area. Now he is running for the Senate nod, campaigning on “Medicare for All” and the Green New Deal.
Hickenlooper has statewide name recognition, large campaign chests and strong support from outside groups spending on his behalf. But missteps on his part may have, at least temporarily, shaken his apparent advantage. In a sign that its allies were getting nervous, a new pro-Hickenlooper super PAC started spending more than a million dollars to attack Romanoff last week. This provided fodder for Romanoff to call on Hickenlooper’s pledge to withdraw political money from hypocritical politics.
Republicans have focused on Hickenlooper’s ethics violations, running advertisements vilifying the former governor in the Democratic primary. The state’s independent ethics commission first found Hickenlooper outraged for challenging a subpoena for a remote hearing. Then, after having testified virtually, the commission fined him earlier this month for twice breaking the rule against accepting gifts when he was governor, even though he rejected most of the allegations made. against him.
“Chuck Schumer’s top rookie needed a last-minute bailout to cross his own primary finish line, but no dark sum of money will wipe out the fact that Hickenlooper repeatedly betrayed the taxpayer confidence and continues to hide the truth “from voters about his corporate paid trip as governor,” said National Republican Senate Committee spokesperson Joanna Rodriguez.
Romanoff has piled on GOP attacks, posting an announcement that says “We cannot take this kind of risk if we are going to beat Cory Gardner” and calling for “a fresh and progressive voice in the Senate”. But national progressive icons like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and the 2018 Georgia Democratic government candidate Stacey Abrams, as well as New Jersey Senator Cory Booker have all recently endorsed Hickenlooper.
“John Hickenlooper is one of Colorado’s most popular public servants after his two successful terms as governor, he has a record of tough wins across the state, and it’s clear that Republicans are attacking him now because ‘They know he is the strongest candidate to beat Cory Gardner,’ said the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee spokesman Stewart Boss.
Hickenlooper’s allies attacked Romanoff for his support of the 2006 immigration bills, trying to prove that he was not always as progressive as he claims now.
“Whatever momentum existed for Romanoff, about a week ago, 10 days ago,” Colorado Democratic strategist Rick Ridder, who does not work for any of the candidates, said on Monday.
Gardner is one of the most vulnerable incumbents of 2020. Clinton won the state by five points in 2016, the first round of elections when each state voted for the same party in the presidential and senatorial elections. The Democrats must win at least three seats to take control of the Senate and consider Colorado as a privileged relay.
Hickenlooper had spent approximately $ 6.7 million at the end of the pre-primary reporting period on June 10 – more than three times what Romanoff had spent – and this is independent of the millions of dollars national democratic groups spent on him . Hickenlooper ended the period with nearly $ 6 million in the bank, compared to $ 792,000 for Romanoff, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.
If Hickenlooper wins the nomination, he will be the second failed 2020 presidential candidate who has declared that he does not want to be in the Senate, but is now trying to overthrow a red seat in the Senate. He and Montana governor Steve Bullock were pressured by the national party to use their statewide name recognition to confront the Republican incumbents. Gardner has already used this initial lack of enthusiasm for the Senate against Hickenlooper in an ad saying, “To do this job, you probably have to want this job. ”
But Hickenlooper supporters say the former governor will beat Gardner despite his latest struggles, in part because of President Donald Trump’s unpopularity in the state.
“No amount of fumbles or buzzing, or faux pas, or feet in the mouth that John has had, and he has had many, but none of them will represent the heavy deadweight that Donald Trump has around Cory Gardner, “Alan Salazar, a former senior strategist for Hickenlooper, told CNN last week.
CNN’s Fredreka Schouten contributed to this report.