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).