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Colorado Senate race between Hickenlooper, Romanoff a choice between moderate, progressive

Jacy Marmaduke
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Published 6:59 PM EDT Jun 11, 2020
Andrew Romanoff, left, and John Hickenlooper will face each other in the June 30 primary.
Hand-in photo (left) and Coloradoan library

Coloradans voting in the June 30 Democratic primary will choose between former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former statehouse speaker Andrew Romanoff to challenge U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in a highly anticipated general election.

Libertarian voters will also pick their U.S. Senate candidate for the general election. The candidates on the ballot are Gaylon Kent, a hotel night auditor embarking on his fifth congressional run, and Raymon Anthony Doane, a Colorado Department of Revenue analyst who previously ran for the U.S. House of Representatives and the Colorado Senate.

Hickenlooper served as governor of Colorado from 2011 and 2019 and was formerly mayor of Denver. He launched his Senate bid after failing to gain traction as a candidate in the crowded Democratic presidential race, during which he sought to set himself apart from other candidates with his moderate approach and warnings that Democrats will lose the presidential race if they “embrace socialism.”

Romanoff, a former college government instructor, served on the Colorado House of Representatives from 2000 to 2008 and previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 and U.S. House of Representatives in 2014.

Romanoff and Hickenlooper had their first head-on debate June 9 on 9News, which came the week after Hickenlooper was held in contempt for failing to appear in the first day of a state ethics review board hearing. The independent board found he violated the state’s gift ban when he accepted a corporate jet flight from a political donor and a limousine ride from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles during his tenure as governor. The state gift ban bars officials from accepting lobbyist gifts or travel valued over a set amount. The cap was $59 when Hickenlooper was governor.

Colorado primary: Q&A with U.S. Senate candidate for Colorado Andrew Romanoff

Despite heavy press coverage of the ethics saga, politicos and pollsters still consider Hickenlooper the favorite for the Democratic nomination, judging by backing from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and numerous polls pitting the former governor against Gardner without mention of Romanoff. His moderate reputation may also appeal to many unaffiliated voters, who will be able to cast ballots in a Colorado Senate primary for the first time this month.

“We tested Hickenlooper, as he is the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic nomination,” Curtis Hubbard of OnSight Public Affairs told The Denver Post, speaking about a poll where Hickenlooper led Gardner 54% to 36% among likely voters in a sample of 600 Coloradans. Left-leaning polling firms conducted the poll.

Though Hickenlooper has name recognition and high expectations on his side, Romanoff has the enthusiastic support of the more progressive faction of Colorado’s Democratic Party. Romanoff has a more progressive platform than Hickenlooper’s, supporting proposals like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal in contrast to Hickenlooper’s more moderate vision.

He won 86% of votes in the state assembly after Hickenlooper opted against participating, going the signature route instead to qualify for the ballot. That was after Romanoff defeated Hickenlooper in the caucus preference polls held throughout the state on March 7, with 55% support to Hickenlooper’s 30%.

Colorado primary: Q&A with U.S. Senate candidate for Colorado John Hickenlooper

Hickenlooper has picked up many high-profile endorsements, including the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s Win Big Project, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee.

Romanoff’s endorsements include former U.S. Rep John Salazar, environmental organization 350 Colorado and a slate of state senators and representatives, including two of Fort Collins’ state legislators (Sen. Joan Ginal and Rep. Cathy Kipp). Endorsements closer to home include Larimer County Commissioner John Kefalas, Fort Collins City Council members Susan Gutowsky and Ross Cuniff and former Mayor pro-tem Gerry Horak.

Here’s where Romanoff and Hickenlooper stand on several key issues, drawing on information from their online campaign platforms.

Health care


“I support Medicare for All, including coverage for mental health and substance use treatment, prescription drugs, vision, dental, hearing, maternity, and long-term care. Such a system, as other countries have shown, saves money and saves lives. ….

“Instead of undermining Americans’ health care, we should find ways to improve it. I’ll work with health-care providers, consumers, and other stakeholders to encourage innovation and cooperation, reduce medical errors, improve the use of information technology, minimize administrative expenses, and make prices more transparent.”

FILE – In this Oct. 30, 2014, file photo, Andrew Romanoff, who was the Democratic challenger for Colorado’s 6th congressional district seat, makes a point against Republican incumbent Mike Coffman as they debate in Spanish in the studio of a television station in Denver. Romanoff, the former Colorado house speaker, is entering the race for the Democratic nomination to run against Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)
David Zalubowski, AP

Calls the Affordable Care Act “a strong foundation on which to build” but says “we have a long way to go.”

“We must tackle the staggeringly high cost of prescription drugs by requiring drug companies to be more transparent about drug pricing, allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices, and ending the prohibition of the importation of safe drugs from Canada and Mexico. As a small businessman, I find it outrageous that Medicare is legally barred from negotiating the prices of prescription drugs, even though the VA and other countries around the world do exactly that. 

“We should also scale up Colorado’s best practices to curb the opioid epidemic by expanding naloxone access, researching alternative pain management therapies, and updating prescribing guidelines to reinvigorate federal efforts to address this crisis. And, in all sectors of our health-care system, we must accelerate our investment in innovation and cutting-edge research.”

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper poses for a portrait during a visit to the Coloradoan newsroom on Monday, October 15, 2018.
Austin Humphreys/The Coloradoan

Gun laws



“Schools aren’t factories, and students aren’t widgets. We’ll continue to lose effective teachers if we force them simply to teach to a test. The real task of improving student achievement can be time-consuming and difficult, but it’s worth it. Above all, it requires us to use evidence, rather than ideology, to determine what works.”

He proposes to:

“As senator, I will work to ensure every student can benefit from the foundation for future success that education provides. 

“This includes closing the achievement gap by expanding literacy opportunities, promoting STEM learning for students of color, funding Head Start and full-day kindergarten, supporting the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), recruiting and retaining teachers of color, and so much more. We must also end the ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’ in which students — sometimes as young as three — are disciplined under ‘zero tolerance policies’ and suspended or expelled. Our public education system needs adequate funding to provide the type of enriching academic environment that is so vital to eliminate this practice.

“College affordability is another major hurdle for students. Expanded loan repayment and forgiveness programs, tuition-free community college, and investment in minority-serving scholarship programs such as TRIO and Gear Up are a big step in the right direction. For students who go to college but are unable to complete their degree, we must collect quality data on racial disparities in graduation rates as well as policy interventions that work best to address these gaps. Historically black colleges and universities and native, tribal and indigenous educational institutions do important work to address discrimination in education, and I am committed to making sure they have the funding they need to continue their vital missions.”

How to vote in Colorado’s June 30 primary election: Don’t cast 2 ballots, find dropoff boxes

“America can and should lead the way by enacting a Green New Deal. That entails an ambitious set of national goals: cut in half the total greenhouse gas emissions from all sectors, including transportation, industry and buildings by 2030; replace fracked gas, coal, and other fossil fuels with enough clean energy to meet all of our electricity needs by 2035; and reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040.

“To get from here to there, we need to:

“First and foremost, we are calling for a transition to a 100% renewable energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050, with an interim goal of a 43% reduction below 2005 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 — exactly where many of the world’s leading scientists tell us we need to go.”

Hickenlooper’s proposals include:

Police violence

“It’s not enough to say Black Lives Matter when, day after painful day, we act as if they don’t. Where do we go from here? We can start by recognizing the disproportionate impact police violence has taken on African Americans and implement meaningful reforms.

“Among other actions, I will push to:

“As mayor of Denver, police reform was one of our central priorities. Ten years before Ferguson, we initiated efforts to reduce lethal force in policing, requiring all officers to go through crisis de-escalation training. For the first time in the history of the Denver Police Department, we hired a minority recruiter and established the Office of Independent Monitor to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

“We created the Civilian Oversight Commission to give communities direct input on how their own neighborhoods are policed, and we made it easier to discipline officers who use excessive force. What we did wasn’t perfect and there is so much more work to be done, locally and nationally, but we listened to communities of color. We tried to gain a greater understanding of the challenges they face, and we worked together towards a common goal.

“All of this needs to be done on a much larger scale today as the use of deadly force against black and brown Americans by police continues to be an epidemic in our country. There are tangible steps Congress can and must take to stop the violence, including requiring body cameras for all police officers, swiftly disciplining officers who use excessive force, increasing transparency in policing data, and funding programs to heal the trauma of communities living in fear. As senator, I am committed to working with communities of color to address the fear and mistrust of law enforcement, to fiercely advocate for proper police training, and to increase accountability and oversight.”

“Building an economy that works for all of us is one of America’s most urgent priorities. We need leaders in Washington who value our jobs — not simply their own.

“Corporate profits are rising, but they’re not lifting all boats,” Romanoff contends. He would: 


“In addition to matching the needs of employers with the skills of the workforce, I will work hard to make sure no one is left behind in our economy. This means leveling the playing field by raising the minimum wage, closing the gender pay gap, offering tuition-free community college, growing minority-owned small businesses, and strengthening unions. Furthermore, we must invest in the most dynamic and value-generating sectors of our future economy. Expanding Internet access and helping workers transition to clean energy jobs will make it easier for Coloradans to earn a living wage and develop the skills needed for their families to succeed.”

Editor’s note: Gun reform organization Moms Demand Action named Romanoff a”gun sense candidate” but did not endorse him. An earlier version of this story did not note the distinction.

Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support stories like this one by purchasing a digital subscription to the Coloradoan.​​​​​​​

This content was originally published here.