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Q&A: John Hickenlooper, candidate for U.S. Senate

The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length.
John Hickenlooper
John Hickenlooper, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. (Photo by Evan Semon Photography)
The Longmont Leader reached out to candidates of the races listed in our voter’s guide with a list of questions. Each response will be published as it is received and may be edited for clarity and/or length. The Longmont Leader does not endorse any candidate and is providing as much information as we can to help voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. If you have questions please contact info@longmontleader.com.

Candidate bio

John knows how to lead through crisis by putting people ahead of politics and solving problems — just as he did when Colorado was facing historic floods, wildfires, mass shootings, and the Great Recession. He will bring that same leadership to ending this pandemic and helping us build back better than before because he cares about Colorado families and small businesses. He is a geologist, brewer, and small business owner who served as Denver mayor and then governor of Colorado — where he helped lead the state out of the Great Recession and take Colorado from 40th in job creation to the No. 1 economy in the nation. John has a record of bringing people together to get things done, from expanding access to health care for half a million Coloradans to fighting climate change with “gold standard” air pollution regulations and signing gun safety measures into law. Now, he’s running for the U.S. Senate to solve problems and change Washington.

What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?

I’m running for Senate because we need to start getting things done in Washington. As mayor and governor, I worked with both parties to make sure we were delivering for the people of Colorado. That involves making compromises and working together with people who you may not always see eye to eye with. Instead of focusing on our differences, I want to come to the table and find the areas where we can agree.

When I was governor, we brought together industry and environmental groups to implement Colorado’s “gold-standard” methane regulations. We also worked on a bipartisan basis to expand Medicaid and get health care to 400,000 more people in our state. It’s this type of independent problem solving that is missing from Washington.

If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?

The first things we need to do are get a handle on COVID-19, lift up our small businesses and protect access to health care. As a brewer, I know the challenges our small businesses owners face on a good day — but what they are up against now is unimaginable. Yet, the Senate isn’t acting with the urgency we need; Senator Gardner has failed to deliver COVID relief for months. Not to mention, he supports a lawsuit that will be before the Supreme Court next month to overturn the Affordable Care Act and could end its protections for 2.4 million Coloradans with preexisting conditions.

First and foremost, we need to stop these attacks on our health care, pass additional COVID-19 relief, and make sure we are getting unemployment aid, small business loans, and funding to our families, small businesses, and state and local governments. Building back our economy and protecting public health are the most important things we can do as we weather this crisis.

What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?

The United States has a long history of racism, segregation, and legalized oppression based on skin color. The economic disadvantages associated with race are varied and persist to this day. Any form of discrimination, either overt or covert, has no place in our state or country. We must ensure all people have access to quality education, a strong social safety net, family sustaining jobs, and physical security. I am committed to working hand in hand with communities of color to design economically just reforms that make an impact on the legacy of inequality that has plagued our country for generations.

And we also need to be clear: Black Lives matter. Bills such as the Justice in Policing Act would help change the culture of law enforcement to build trust between police departments and the communities they serve and ensure we are taking a comprehensive approach to accountability. You can read my Equity for All plan at Hickenlooper.com/issues/equity-for-all

What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?

We need to get big money out of politics and overturn Citizens United. From climate change mitigation to gun violence prevention, we’ve seen big money donors block progress on the most important issues to Coloradans. The political system is rigged, and it is the American people paying the price.

I’m the first Senate nominee in Colorado history to reject all corporate PAC funds. By contrast, Senator Gardner is the top recipient of corporate PAC donations in Colorado history, taking nearly $6 million. And those donors have gotten quite the return on their investment in terms of his damaging votes to roll back efforts to fight climate change, eliminate protections for preexisting conditions, leave open loopholes that let guns fall into dangerous hands, and a whole lot more. Colorado deserves a senator who will work for them, not political donors and corporate special interests.

Are you satisfied with the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? 

Absolutely not. We recently found out that President Trump intentionally lied to the American people about the severity of the pandemic while Senator Gardner stood by silently, yet again putting loyalty to President Trump ahead of Coloradans. We need Washington to start listening to the scientists and put public health first.

Not only has Washington failed us on protecting public health, but it’s let down Colorado’s working families and small businesses. Over the last six months, I’ve heard from Colorado’s small businesses and the workers they employ, and they are hurting — some have had to close their doors for good. For our 630,000 small businesses and the 1.1 million Coloradans they employ, the stakes could not be higher. We must accelerate our efforts to enable small businesses to keep workers on payroll and give our smallest small businesses the tools they need to stay afloat during these tough times. But instead of fighting for much needed relief, Washington left them behind, going on recess while unemployment insurance ran dry. This summer, Senator Gardner said it was “unfathomable” to go on recess without passing additional COVID relief, yet that’s exactly what he did.

The Trump administration has rolled back or is rolling back a number of environmental regulations, causing concern among many activists that fear will only escalate issues associated with climate change. What do you think the federal government should be doing to address climate change?

Climate change is the defining issue of our time. While Coloradans face wildfires and droughts, the Trump administration — enabled by Senator Gardner — has rolled back crucial environmental protections and put former coal and oil lobbyists at the helm of environmental agencies. It's time to stop going backwards and look forward — we need to be investing in a job-creating clean energy plan for America and working towards 100% clean energy as soon as possible.

This is a challenge, but also an opportunity. Through investment, innovation, workforce training, and a science-based approach, America can lead the charge towards a sustainable future. Read my full plan for climate action here: https://hickenlooper.com/issues/climate/

Would your focus be improving the Affordable Care Act or replacing it with a single-payer system?

I support protecting and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. COVID-19 has made it clearer than ever: health care is a right, not a privilege. When I was governor, we brought Colorado closer to universal coverage by expanding Medicaid to cover 400,000 more people. In the Senate, I'll keep working to expand coverage by strengthening the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid. I'll also support establishing a national public insurance option, which could be transformative for the many Americans who remain uninsured.

But Senator Gardner has voted over a dozen times to destroy the ACA and supports a lawsuit to overturn the law and its protections for preexisting conditions even in the middle of a pandemic — a lawsuit which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear one week after the election. Even worse: he’s lying to Coloradans about where he stands by promoting an eight-line bill that independent fact checkers say would still allow insurance companies to deny coverage to the 2.4 million Coloradans with preexisting conditions. Colorado deserves a Senator who is committed to bringing down the cost of health care, fighting to protect people with preexisting conditions, and reducing the cost of prescription drugs.

Do you think undocumented immigration is a major problem in the United States that could be resolved in the next four years? What is your plan?

Our immigration system is broken, and comprehensive reform is long overdue. The majority of Americans agree on common-sense policies that treat asylum seekers fairly, provide pathways to citizenship for Dreamers, and maintain a safe border — but Congress has failed to get it done. If elected, I'll fight to protect Dreamers, provide refugee assistance, and fully fund our current immigration system so we can ensure due process. All Americans will be stronger and safer when we undo Trump's cruel immigration policies and restore humanity and fairness to the system.

What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Coloradans who may be voting for the first time?

In the past few years, we've seen young people in Colorado and around the country find their voice on climate change. This generation is growing up with worse wildfires, droughts, and extreme weather than ever before, and they know climate change is the fight of their lives. They're also coming of voting age at a pivotal moment for our democracy: our values of freedom, equality, fairness and justice hang in the balance this election. So this year, young Coloradans have a chance to weigh in on these two existential challenges. They need a champion for our planet and our democracy in the Senate — and that's what I'm committed to being.

Who is your hero, and why?

My mother Anne Morris. She taught me what it means to be a strong and empathetic person. She grew up during the Great Depression and was widowed twice before she was 40, yet never once complained about the hand she was dealt. She raised four kids on her own and got us through good times and bad. She taught me that you can't control what life throws at you, but you can control how you respond. Her example guides much of what I do in public service.