There are political realities that come with a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic during an election year. In an alternate universe, free of global pandemic, campaigning would have continued like normal.
Andrew Romanoff would have been able to take a victory lap on his sizable wins at the Democrat county caucuses last month and the state assembly last weekend. John Hickenlooper might have had to defend his record to his base and start participating in public forums, or at least answering questions from the media.
But here we are in reality, where traditional campaigning isn’t happening for the foreseeable future, and Hickenlooper has both the statewide name recognition and the national backing that will most likely push him through the finish line for the Democrats in the primary.
He’ll likely win the primary because he’s a well-known entity and because he had the money to hire signature gatherers to ensure his place on the ballot. But this doesn’t make him a good candidate, and you can bet that his opponents won’t let him sail through November.
During his time as governor, Hickenlooper oversaw the response to several statewide emergencies and natural disasters. Yet despite his experience, left the state unprepared for the pandemic we currently face.
As a full-time candidate, Hickenlooper is even trying to raise funds off of the virus when tens of thousands of Coloradans are losing their jobs. Hickenlooper also has a national super political action committee spending millions of dollars in Colorado attacking U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner.
Meanwhile, when the COVID-19 crisis hit, Sen. Gardner said “politics be darned” and moved his focus solely to getting Coloradans the help they need and bringing emergency supplies into the state. Among other successes, he’s secured 100 ventilators from the federal stockpile, 200,000 masks from Taiwan through partnership with Lowes and 100,000 additional COVID-19 testing kits from South Korea.
These wins don’t happen without the initiative and perseverance of a leader like Sen. Gardner. So, to say that John Hickenlooper will have a lot to prove if he wins the primary is an understatement.
It would go a long way with Coloradans if their former governor showed a little leadership during this crisis by calling on his friends leading the Democrats in Congress to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program. While U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer allowed the fund to dry up, small businesses in Colorado have shuttered and our state’s unemployment rate has doubled.
Not only is Hickenlooper lacking leadership, but he’s also facing an ongoing ethics investigation into several instances where he accepted travel and accommodations from friends and political supporters while governor, in violation of Colorado’s gift laws for elected officials.
Hickenlooper has been a lucky politician. He’s had relatively easy races and hasn’t had to defend his record in the way that he will this year. His record is flawed. He won’t have an easy ride this November.
Lindsey Singer is the communications director for the Colorado Rising political action committee.