On Aug. 15, John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) announced he was ending his run for president. However, exactly one week later, Hickenlooper made another pressing announcement. In a billiards-themed video, he declared his run for the 2020 Colorado U.S. Senate seat against incumbent Cory Gardner (R-Colorado).
However, the assumption that Hickenlooper’s candidacy is a godsend to scrape away at the 53-47 Republican majority is very misguided. The Democratic Party simply does not need Hickenlooper to win Colorado, and his potential victory might even give the party growing challenges in the future.
With a well-known figure in Colorado, a seat described as the most vulnerable one held by a Republican, and an undeniably strong starting poll for Hickenlooper, he may seem like a dream come true in the Democrats’ fight to recapture the Senate. Even the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has already endorsed him.
One positive trait that Hickenlooper has is his experience. With a near 8-year stint as Denver mayor and a full 8 years as Colorado Governor, the state is familiar with him. While this experience is beneficial, it also comes with a cost: his age.
To put things in perspective, political veteran Mitt Romney (R-Utah) was 71 years old when he was sworn in for his first term as a senator in 2019. This made him the oldest ever elected freshman U.S. senator.
Hickenlooper will be almost 69 years old by the time he would start his term in 2021, nipping at the heels of Romney’s record. Yet unlike ruby-red Republican Utah, swing state Colorado does not have the guarantee of being a safe seat once Hickenlooper retires or worse, dies while in office.
This could spell disaster for Democrats, much like how Ted Kennedy’s (D-Massachusetts) death in deep blue Massachusetts led to an upset victory as Republican Scott Brown picked up the seat in the 2010 special election. A case where Hickenlooper vacates the office leads to unpredictability in the future of the party and eliminates the possibility of a fresher face representing the state for a long time. Should the party really sacrifice the potential longevity of a new, vibrant candidate for a candidate who almost certainly would retire after one or two terms?
Looking at the other major contenders for the Democratic nomination, they offer a wide array of options with amazing policies and stories. The list includes former U.S. ambassador to the OSCE Dan Baer (age 42), former Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston (age 44), biomedical scientist Trish Zornio (age 33) and former Colorado House of Representative leader Andrew Romanoff (age 52).
In a party that boasts fresh new ideas and a Senate leader who refuses to even bring most bipartisan bills to the floor, Hickenlooper’s over-reliance on bipartisanship is flawed. The people running have their own experiences to offer and the ability to implement their fresh new ideas. From a former educator like Johnston to an openly gay man like Baer, a scientist like Zornio to a progressive stalwart like Romanoff, the stories of these candidates represent the underrepresented in America.
In reality, the Democrats don’t need Hickenlooper to win. Colorado was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Denver is poised to decriminalize Psilocybin Mushrooms in the coming few months. The state elected a largely liberal Democrat as governor last year by a whopping 10.6% difference.
Democrats can choose a fresh new national face from anyone across the political spectrum, center to left. With polls showing pretty much anybody beating Cory Gardner by healthy margins, why should they have to settle?