The Corner

Ritter Out, Hickenlooper In?

It looks like Denver mayor John Hickenlooper will be the Democratic nominee for governor in Colorado.

Incumbent Democratic governor Bill Ritter’s announcement yesterday that he would not run for re-election set off a firestorm of speculation that culminated this afternoon in Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s formally endorsing Hickenlooper. “[My] sense is that he will run,” the Denver Post reported Salazar as saying.

Hickenlooper is a popular mayor, and GOP frontrunner Scott McInnis should not take him lightly.

When Hickenlooper first ran for office in 2003, the geologist-turned-restaurateur was dismissed by some as a political neophyte. But his humor, approachability, and business savvy helped him dominate in a field of seasoned, longtime Denver politicians — he cruised to victory without breaking a sweat. Since then, he’s enjoyed perhaps the longest honeymoon in Colorado political history.

Whether or not Hickenlooper’s longstanding popularity in a one-party city will translate into success in a competitive state race remains to be seen. But one thing’s for sure: If Hickenlooper is indeed the Democratic candidate this November, Colorado Republicans underestimate him at their peril.

– Rob Witwer is a former member of the Colorado house of representatives and co-author of the upcoming book The Blueprint: How the Democrats Won Colorado (and Why Republicans Everywhere Should Care).

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