Hickenlooper: 'I Want to Be The Next Governor Of Colorado'

Denver Mayor Says He Will Focus On Creating Jobs

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper announced Tuesday afternoon that he will run for governor and said his mission will be to create more jobs.

"So, we've waited long enough for this, let's get to it," Hickenlooper said on the west steps of the Capitol. "My name is John Hickenlooper, and I want to be the next governor of Colorado."

Speaking to applause, Hickenlooper said, "Sometimes fate has a way of delivering opportunity when the hill is the steepest."

The mayor said with the country in the worst recession since the Great Depression, some would argue this is the "worst time" to run for governor. But Hickenlooper said as a geologist-turned-brewmaster and restaurateur, he has the right experience to generate jobs for recession-ravaged Colorado.

"That's going to be my mission as the governor of Colorado," he said.

Well aware of the long losing streak of Denver mayors running for governor, Hickenlooper deftly cast himself has a hard-working man who toiled across Colorado doing oil and gas exploration before he was laid off during the 1980s energy bust.

"Various jobs in the oil fields kept me moving through out rural Colorado," he said. "From the Eastern Plains through the Rockies and to the West Slope, Colorado is filled with spectacular and unsurpassed beauty and remarkable people who are working hard to make sure that there's a future for their children and their families."

Hickenlooper acknowledged his decision to run for governor was not one to be taken lightly. It was made after consulting with his wife, Helen, and son, Teddy.

Hickenlooper, one of the more popular politicians in the state, has been meeting with key advisors since Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter announced last week that he would not run for re-election. Ritter attended Tuesday's announcement and hugged Hickenlooper right before the mayor began his speech.

Later, Ritter released a statement, supporting Hickenlooper’s gubernatorial candidacy.

"John Hickenlooper is a great mayor and he's going to be a great governor," Ritter said. "His strong leadership skills, collaborative problem-solving approach, and his innovative ideas will set him apart. As someone who comes out of the private sector, Mayor Hickenlooper's commitment to fiscal responsibility and job creation will keep moving Colorado toward a strong, stable and sustainable recovery. His dedication to Colorado's New Energy Economy, education reform and economic development are rallying cries that every Coloradan can answer. I'm proud to support John Hickenlooper for governor.”

In announcing his decision Tuesday, Hickenlooper said he loves Colorado "every bit as much as I love Denver."

"We're getting into this race because it is a privilege to live in Colorado," Hickenlooper said.

Last Friday, President Barack Obama called Hickenlooper, urging him to run.

Hickenlooper said he intends to keep his job as mayor of Denver if he runs for governor, and said he would not saddle the city with the cost of a special election if he stepped down. Even if he loses the race for governor in November, he could still run for a third term as mayor in 2011.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, a former U.S. senator from Colorado, has already endorsed Hickenlooper for governor, calling him a "uniter" who can transcend party and geographic lines. Salazar declined to run for governor, saying he wanted to stay in Washington to work with Obama.

Tension Between Hickenlooper, Romanoff?

The other potential Democratic contender for governor is former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. Romanoff is currently challenging first-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who was appointed by Ritter to fill the rest of Salazar's Senate term.

Hickenlooper decided to run for governor on Sunday, and met with Romanoff Monday night, sources told 7NEWS. During the meeting Romanoff pressed for a Romanoff-Cary Kennedy ticket for governor and lieutenant governor. Kennedy is the state treasurer.

They met again Tuesday morning.

"He never tried to dissuade me from running," Hickenlooper said. However, he refused to discuss the details of their conversation, saying they have been friends for a long time.

Hickenlooper decided to make the announcement Tuesday to pre-empt any announcement by Romanoff that he would enter the race for Colorado governor, sources said.

Hickenlooper's timing may have also been dictated in part by this week's state government schedule. The 2010 Colorado Legislative Session convenes on Wednesday and Gov. Ritter delivers his final State of the State address on Thursday.

Republican Scott McInnis, a former congressman, had already announced he would run for governor. A recent Rasmussen poll had Hickenlooper trailing McInnis by 45 percent to 42 percent.

McInnis said Tuesday it doesn't matter who he runs against, he's focusing on family and jobs.

It's "not the pluses or minuses of a particular individual but the pluses or minuses of policy that'll guide this state into a future that gives families hope," McInnis said.

McInnis also said, "Our message is not the face or the opponent we're dealing with. Our message is, in a bipartisan fashion, focusing on families and that safety net of a job."

Also in the Republican race is Dan Maes, a businessman from the foothills town of Evergreen. He's considered a long shot.

Hickenlooper is a moderate Democrat, but has never had to run as a Democrat because the mayor's race is not partisan. McInnis is a moderate Republican and has been criticized for not being conservative enough.

Denver's mayor is already behind in terms of fundraising. He will have to raise $1 million a month until Election Day.

No mayor of Denver has ever been governor of Colorado.

The key to the race will be voter turnout.

Even though Hickenlooper may not be as popular outside of Denver, especially on the Western slope and in rural areas, 62 percent of all voters are from the Front Range, where he is well-known. Republican Party spokesman Dick Wadhams has called Hickenlooper a "quirky version of Ritter."

Ritter said he was dropping out of the race because it would take too much time away from his family.

Hickenlooper's History

A geologist-turned brewpub pioneer who had never run for political office, Hickenlooper was elected mayor of Denver in 2003 and re-elected in 2007. In April 2005, Time Magazine named the political newcomer one of the top five "big-city" mayors in America.

Hickenlooper toyed for several weeks with running for governor in 2006, when he had been mayor for just two years, before deciding against challenging Bill Ritter, who ultimately won the post.

Hickenlooper has strong support among business leaders as an experienced entrepreneur who launched the Wynkoop Brewing Company, the first brewpub in the Rocky Mountains, in 1988. Hickenlooper was an urban pioneer in the rebirth of the now popular Lower Downtown entertainment district.

His first taste of politics was a successful 2000 campaign to preserve the "Mile High Stadium" name for the city's new football stadium. The rookie candidate beat a half-dozen seasoned political veterans, winning the mayoral race by a nearly two-to-one margin of victory.

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