“Vetting” is a series of essays that will provide in-depth analysis of the records of the more overlooked 2020 Democratic candidates.
John Hickenlooper announced his presidential run on March 4th of this year. This prompted a lot of Democrats to ask, “John Hicken-who?”
John Hickenlooper, former governor of Colorado, was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia on February 7, 1952. A geologist by trade, Hickenlooper worked for Buckhorn Petroleum, an oil drilling company. After the business went belly-up in the 1980’s, Hickenlooper was laid off. After an unsuccessful search for work, Hickenlooper opened the first brewpub in Colorado, the Wynkoop Brewing Company.
Because the Wynkoop Brewing Company was located in the LoDo neighborhood (a section of Denver that had become rundown in the late 1980’s), the business initially struggled. After forming an alliance with the owners of nearby restaurants and businesses, Hickenlooper and his partners were able make Wynkoop profitable and the neighborhood eventually recovered. It was at this time that Hickenlooper became interested in politics, sitting on local boards. Dissatisfied with the attitude of local politicians, Hickenlooper ran for office, becoming the mayor of Denver in 2003.
As mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper closed a massive budget deficit and came up with the funds for a light rail system with a bipartisan tax hike. The light rail has met with mixed success, however; ridership is low and the number of people driving in the Mile High City has gone up. He also focused on reducing homelessness, creating a commission on homelessness and adding available housing for the homeless. Despite his 10 Year Plan and Denver Road Home project which launched in 2005, homelessness in Denver increased by 61% and critics allege that the programs were ineffective.
As governor, Hickenlooper, who was a member of Mayors Against Illegal Guns in 2006, pushed for and eventually signed legislation that expanded background checks for all gun sales and limited magazine capacity. However, after facing intense backlash (backlash that resulted in the successful recalls of two state legislators), Governor Hickenlooper walked back his support of gun control legislation. Later, Hickenlooper supported “red flag” legislation, laws that would allow law enforcement officials to temporarily take guns away from people known to be a threat to themselves or others. The bill failed to pass the state legislature.
As governor of Colorado, Hickenlooper supported the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Colorado but insisted on “stringent” verification. He agreed to respect the will of the people in regards to Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana, despite his personal opposition to it.
Hickenlooper also expressed opposition to the death penalty saying, “[i]f the State of Colorado is going to undertake the responsibility of executing a human being, the system must operate flawlessly. Colorado’s system for capital punishment is not flawless.” He made these remarks after granting an indefinite stay of execution to Nathan Dunlap who, at age nineteen committed a quadruple homicide at a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant where he used to work.
Hickenlooper received the 2009 Mayors’ Climate Protection Award (partially sponsored by Wal-Mart). However, Hickenlooper apparently never cut ties with the energy industry that first employed him. By his own admission, Hickenlooper spoke to a Colorado Oil and Gas Association approximately twenty times while he served as governor. In 2014, Hickenlooper expressed opposition to the Initiative 88 and Initiative 89 (aka the Polis Initiatives) which would have amended the state constitution to require a two-thousand foot setback between dwellings and oil and gas operations and an environmental Bill of Rights. He supported the controversial Jordan Cove Energy Project, even crossing swords with the Obama administation to get the project off the ground in 2016. And Hickenlooper is also a proponent of fracking; he believes in the safety of the energy extraction process so completely that he drank fracking fluid in a meeting with a representative of the oil and gas industry. And he recently wrote a Washington Post op-ed opposing the Green New Deal.
John Hickenlooper’s record clearly indicates that he is a moderate Democrat with a history of working across the aisle. But it remains to be seen if Hickenlooper “can bring people together to produce the progressive change Washington has failed to deliver.”
Did I leave anything out? Did I get something wrong? Please get back to me in the comments section!
Kirsten Gillibrand will be featured in the next installment of “Vetting.”