Election 2018Hot Sheet

Hickenlooper endorses Weiser in Dem AG primary, draws rebuke from Joe Salazar

Author: Ernest Luning - June 19, 2018 - Updated: June 19, 2018

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A video ad released by Democrat Phil Weiser's attorney general campaign features former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Weiser, and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Screengrab via YouTube)A video ad released by Democrat Phil Weiser’s attorney general campaign features former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Weiser, and Gov. John Hickenlooper. (Screengrab via YouTube)

With just over a week to go before ballots are due, Gov. John Hickenlooper weighed in on the Democratic primary for attorney general Monday, throwing his support behind Phil Weiser, who is vying against state Rep. Joe Salazar for the nomination.

Weiser, a former University of Colorado Law School dean and Obama administration official, is the first statewide candidate the term-limited governor has endorsed this cycle. (In a sense, Hickenlooper is putting his mouth where his money is. He gave the maximum $1,150 donation to Weiser’s campaign in late April, after the primary ballot had been set.)

“At our best, we Coloradans are creative, collaborative, and inclusive. We don’t look for leaders who divide; we look for leaders who can bring us together. Phil Weiser is just this sort of leader,” Hickenlooper said in a written statement.

“He is also the only candidate in the race who took and stuck to the Clean Campaign Pledge,” Hickenlooper continued. “His values have shown through in the type of campaign he’s running — a positive, optimistic campaign about ideas aimed at building up all of Colorado. That’s the sort of leadership we need.”

The governor was referring to something the state Democrats concocted last year in an effort to head off infighting before the fall election.

Salazar, a Thornton Democrat, didn’t sign the document, and in its absence has lobbed regular criticism at Weiser.

Following word Hickenlooper had endorsed his primary rival, Salazar didn’t hold back.

“The Democratic establishment must be seriously concerned that this ‘People’s campaign’ has been ahead in every poll,” he told Colorado Politics in a text message. “This primary cycle has been about credibility and authenticity — we have the credibility and authenticity based on a long community activist and legislative record.”

Salazar added: “Governor Hickenlooper’s endorsement of my opponent is a concession that they see themselves losing. I won’t be controlled by a governor or by corporate interests and I certainly will not bow to an oil and gas industry that is beloved by Hickenlooper.”

Weiser has trailed Salazar by wide margins in the two publicly available polls released this year, and both were conducted before Weiser began spending heavily on TV advertising just as ballots went out earlier this month.

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salzar — no relation to Joe Salazar, he’s also the only Democrat elected attorney general by Colorado voters in nearly four decades — has been featured in Weiser’s TV commercial and joins Hickenlooper in a digital video campaign also unveiled Monday.

“A lot of people in Colorado share my name,” Ken Salazar says in a Weiser campaign video, adding: “Phil is running for attorney general to stand up for Colorado against the Trump administration.”

Joe Salazar, who won an endorsement from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, frames his campaign in similar terms but also vows to stand up to big-moneyed interests.

George Brauchler, the 18th Judicial District’s attorney, is the Republican nominee for the office. The incumbent, Republican Cynthia Coffman, mounted a failed bid for governor rather than seek a second term.

Primary ballots are due June 26.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. For nearly a decade, he was a senior political reporter and occasional editor at The Colorado Statesman before the 119-year-old publication merged with Colorado Politics in 2017.