Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper easily dispatched a challenge from the left and will take on Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in one of Democrats’ best Senate pickup opportunities this year.
Hickenlooper was leading former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff 59 percent to 41 percent in Tuesday’s Democratic primary when The Associated Press called the race at 9:21 p.m.
Hickenlooper jumped into the Senate race after unsuccessfully running for president, and was quickly endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Some of the top candidates then dropped out of the Democratic primary and endorsed the former governor, but Romanoff stayed and took more liberal positions.
During his presidential campaign, Hickenlooper said repeatedly he did not want to be a senator, but in announcing his Senate campaign in August, he said that “this is no time to walk away from the table.”
Gardner featured Hickenlooper’s comments in a recent TV ad. The National Republican Senatorial Committee also launched TV ads ahead of Tuesday’s primary, highlighting a recent finding by Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission that Hickenlooper violated the state’s ban on gifts for public officials while he was in office. Hickenlooper’s campaign has called the allegations “political smears,” noting that the vast majority of complaints were dismissed.
As one of two Republicans running for reelection in a state Hillary Clinton won in 2016, Gardner is one of the most vulnerable senators. Colorado has also been trending toward Democrats in recent years, making unseating Gardner a top priority as the party looks to win back the Senate.
Gardner starts the race with a financial advantage, but Hickenlooper outraised the incumbent in the first fundraising quarter of the year. Gardner’s campaign had $9.3 million on hand as of June 10 to $5.9 million for Hickenlooper.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the general election Tilt Democratic.