DENVER (CN) – After months of testing the waters, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced a plunge into the already crowded pool for U.S. president Monday.
“We need dreamers in Washington, but we also need to get things done,” he said in a video announcing the run.
“I’m running for president because we’re facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for,” Hickenlooper said with a wry grin over images of Donald Trump baring his teeth. “As a skinny kid with Coke-bottle glasses and a funny last name, I’ve stood up to my fair share of bullies. Standing tall when it matters is one of the things that really drives me.”
Originally from Pennsylvania, Hickenlooper moved west in 1981. Within five years, he was laid off from his job as a geologist, taught himself business and opened a thriving brewery.
In 2003, Hickenlooper stepped into politics and was elected mayor of Denver and later served two terms as governor of Colorado. During his 2014 re-election, Hickenlooper boasted he ran “an entirely positive campaign,” a feat few politicians can attest to.
While pegging himself as a grass roots progressive, the lanky man with a wide grin and easy-going charisma succeeded in the purple state as a moderate Democrat.
“No one can predict what happens after you become governor. Historic drought, thousands of acres of flames, and then came the worst floods in years, a mass shooting in a movie theater once again tore the heart out of our community,” Hickenlooper said. “I promised Colorado families that we would rebuild our communities better than before and that just offering thoughts and prayers would never again be sufficient.”
Among his achievements in the Centennial State capital, 67-year-old Hickenlooper touts securing health care for 95 percent of the population, growing the number one economy in the country, and requiring background checks for gun licenses. While he never supported legalizing marijuana himself, he did the will of the voters by overseeing the rollout of the country’s first recreational market for the federally banned Schedule I substance.
Hickenlooper’s announcement Monday comes after months of tepidly testing the waters. He formed the “Giddy Up” political action committee this past September and increased campaign staff in December. Donors to the PAC include Denver Post publisher Dean Singleton, Liberty Media, and several ski resorts.
So far this year Hickenlooper has been spotted in Iowa and New Hampshire talking to potential voters and putting the question to himself, frequently telling inquisitive media that he wasn’t going to announce a run unless he was ready for the marathon.
Hickenlooper joins a dozen other Democrats in the hunt to replace President Donald Trump. A Feb. 22 Gallup poll showed Trump’s approval ratings vary drastically by state, hitting more than 60 percent in West Virginia and Wyoming and less than 28 percent in Vermont and Hawaii. Coast to coast, however Trump’s approval rating averages 44 percent, keeping him in the race.
Jake Viano, the former chair of the Denver Republican Party, doesn’t think Hickenlooper has much of a chance.
“I was disappointed but hopeful when Hickenlooper was elected governor. I would be shocked if he made it to the White House,” Viano said in a statement. “Hickenlooper has zero experience in foreign relations and with big business, bringing in jobs.”
A contractor, Viano said Hickenlooper lost touch with small business owners while “President Trump instilled a sense of faith in the U.S. economy which trickles down.”
Although Hickenlooper’s name does not ring a bell to most Americans, he hopes to change that. After a campaign kickoff party in Denver’s Civic Center Park, he heads first to Des Moines and then to Charles City, Iowa.