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Former Governor John Hickenlooper will face GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in Colorado 2020 US Senate’s race. 

The candidates: 

Gardner, who was elected to the US Senate in the Republican wave midterm year of 2014, is now one of the most vulnerable incumbent GOP Senators due to the state’s Democratic shift and his own strong alliance with President Donald Trump.

A former member of the Colorado House and US House of Representatives, Gardner has heavily focused on energy policy and public lands — two key issues in Colorado — during his time in the US Senate. In 2019, Gardner was rated as the third most bipartisan member of the US Senate by the Lugar Center at Georgetown University.

Hickenlooper, a former two-term mayor of Denver from 2004 to 2010, served two terms as the state’s governor from 2011 to 2019. He was elected as a statewide Democrat in 2010 and 2014, two GOP wave years, and was highly regarded by the public as an effective, pragmatic governor. 

Hickenlooper ran an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, and announced his campaign for US Senate shortly after dropping out of the presidential contest in August 2019. 

Hickenlooper has faced some setbacks during his campaign as the state’s Independent Ethics Commission found him in contempt for defying a subpoena to appear before the panel. After he did appear to testify, the Commission fined him for violating state ethics laws by accepting private flights and limousine trips as governor. 

Despite some negative headlines, he easily defeated his main opponent in the Democratic primary, Andrew Romanoff, by nearly 20 points on June 30.

The stakes: 

In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats and would be a major accomplishment towards either delivering on a future president Joe Biden’s policy goals or thwarting President Donald Trump’s second-term agenda.

Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents that caucus with Democrats, winning that Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote). 

Since 2014, Colorado has rapidly transformed from a swing state to a much more reliably Democratic one at the federal and state levels.

The Democratic presidential candidate has carried Colorado in every presidential election since 2004, with Clinton winning the state by nearly five percentage points in 2016. In the electoral college, the state is rated as likely Democratic by the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics and safe Democratic by Inside Elections.

Colorado’s shift towards Democrats and Hickenlooper’s particularly strong track record winning statewide elections as Democrat makes this seat the most promising pick-up opportunity for Democrats, and a must-win seat in the party’s quest to take back the Senate. 

The money race: In 2020’s second fundraising quarter, Hickenlooper brought in $5.2 million compared to $3.62 million for Gardner. So far, Hickenlooper has spent nearly $9.5 million in the race compared to $6.5 million for Gardner, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Gardner has over twice the cash on hand, $10.6 million, as Hickenlooper, who has $4.5 million. 

What the polling says: The few polls conducted of the race have all shown Hickenlooper leading Gardner by comfortable margins.

The most recent poll, conducted by the Global Strategy Group, a Democratic firm, from August 28 to September 1, showed Hickenlooper ahead by 10 points over Gardner, 52% to 42%. Another survey conducted by Fabrizio Ward and Hart Research Associates for the AARP from August 30 to September 5 found Hickenlooper ahead by five points, 51% to 46%. 

What experts say: The Cook Political Report rates the race a toss-up, Inside Elections rates it tilt Democratic, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rates it lean Democratic. 

According to FiveThirtyEight, Hickenlooper has a 68% chance of defeating Gardner in November. The former governor of Colorado is expected to receive 50% of the popular vote, enough to defeat Gardner and the third party candidate in the race.

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