GovernorHot SheetTrump

Hickenlooper says moderation is best path for Democrats

Author: Joey Bunch - July 23, 2018 - Updated: July 23, 2018

HickenlooperGov.John Hickenlooper speaks at a press conference after being briefed on the Lake Christine fire in El Jebel on July 6 with U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, back left and Sen. Cory Gardner, right. (Photo by Anna Stonehouse/The Aspen Times via AP)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper was in the New York Times Sunday talking about how out-of-power Democrats could take advantage of the national mood.

They do it by being moderate, he said. (And that describes Hickenlooper, too.)

If Democrats do pick up seats in red states, they’re certain to face hostile Republicans they’ll have to negotiate with. That’s something Hickenlooper can relate to. The Colorado Senate is led by Republicans.

Democrats controlled both chambers for only two of Hickenlooper’s eight years in office. And they nearly cost him re-election, passing gun control bills and other legislation he had to answer for in conservative enclaves on the campaign trail.

“I don’t think they’ll swing way far to the left,” Hickenlooper said of potential Democratic candidates in red states this year.

He cited as an example Stacey Abrams, who is running strong as a moderate in Georgia, a reliably Republican state.

He didn’t cite the Democrat running to succeed him, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis of Boulder, but Colorado wouldn’t be pickup for Democrats. Colorado hasn’t elected a Republican governor since Bill Owens won a second term in 2002 against a liberal Democrat from Boulder, Rollie Heath.

Hickenlooper, who some say could be a candidate for president after he leaves the governor’s office in January, is definitely a moderate for his business views, especially even-keeled on energy, as well as his measured approach to marijuana regulation and uneasiness with both supporting and abolishing the death penalty.

Polis has taken positions to the left of the current governor. Republican nominee Walker Stapleton and his supporters are anxious to paint Polis as too liberal for Colorado. Polis has a history of fighting the oil and gas industry, and in Congress he’s sought to repeal the tax cuts passed by Republicans this year. As governor he would move the state to renewable energy and toward a universal health care program.

Stapleton, once viewed as a moderate, angled right in the primaries, embracing President Trump and Tom Tancredo, the former congressman and immigration firebrand who entered the race for governor (and later dropped out) because a group tied to white supremacists lost its venue for a conference in Colorado Springs. Tancredo was to be a featured guest at that event.

The Times’ Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, reporting from the National Governors Association conference in Santa Fe, N.M., set the stakes for Democrats in the lead of their piece talking to current governors:

A polarizing president electrifies the opposition party going into his first midterm election, raising the party’s hopes that it can reclaim governorships, ram through major policy change at the state level and redraw legislative lines in its favor for a decade to come.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.