Former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperHickenlooper leads Colorado primary rival Romanoff by 30 points: poll Progressives riding high as votes tabulated in NY, Kentucky Democrats spend big to bolster struggling Hickenlooper MORE fended off a challenge from former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the Democratic Senate primary in Colorado on Tuesday, overcoming a series of stumbles and gaffes in his bid to take on Republican Sen. Cory GardnerCory Scott GardnerPolitical establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate Hickenlooper leads Colorado primary rival Romanoff by 30 points: poll MORE.
The primary contest ended quickly, with The Associated Press declaring Hickenlooper the winner just half an hour after voting ended. With nearly 70 percent of the vote reported, Hickenlooper led Romanoff 60 percent to 40 percent.
Hickenlooper, who was persuaded to run for Gardner’s Senate seat after an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination last year, was widely considered the favorite to win the primary. But verbal gaffes and a run-in with Colorado’s ethics commission put him on a rockier than expected path to the Senate nomination, giving a new opening to Romanoff.
Hickenlooper’s nearly universal name ID in Colorado, relative popularity and fundraising aptitude ultimately helped him overcome his recent stumbles. When Romanoff began airing an ad criticizing Hickenlooper over ethics violations earlier this month, Colorado’s Democratic establishment swiftly condemned the move and urged the former state House speaker to drop the line of attack.
In a lives-treamed address after his victory on Tuesday night, Hickenlooper appealed to Romanoff backers, saying that he needed “everyone of his supporters to bring the same passion and energy they brought to Andrew’s campaign to the fight ahead.”
“It’s going to take all of us together to beat Cory Gardner and bring about the change this country so desperately needs,” Hickenlooper said. I’ve never lost an election in this state and I don’t intend to lose this one. There’s far too much at stake.”
Still, Republicans are set to seize on Hickenlooper’s stumbles. Chief among them is an ethics complaint stemming from his tenure as Colorado governor. The complaint, filed in 2018, accused Hickenlooper of taking a private flight to Connecticut and a limousine ride in Italy in violation of the state’s ban on public officials accepting gifts.
Hickenlooper was held in contempt by the state ethics commission after he declined to appear at a scheduled hearing. The commission later ruled that the private flight and limousine ride violated the state’s ethics rules and moved to fine the former governor $2,750.
Romanoff, who sought to run in the progressive lane of the primary race, hoped to rally the political base that helped Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPolitical establishment takes a hit as chaos reigns supreme Twitch temporarily suspends Trump account over ‘hateful conduct’ Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden MORE (I-Vt.) win Colorado’s Democratic presidential primary in March. He argued that Hickenlooper would ultimately fail to excite liberal voters and that his ethics violations would weaken him against Gardner.
But Hickenlooper’s primary win on Tuesday suggests that Colorado’s growing bloc of Democratic voters was largely unbothered by the ethics violations. With the win under his belt, Hickenlooper will face off against Gardner in November in a race that both parties see as crucial to deciding control of the Senate.
Democrats need to flip either three or four Republican-held seats, depending on which party wins control of the White House in November, to take control of the chamber, and they see Gardner as one of their top targets.
Colorado has trended in Democrats’ favor in recent years, culminating in 2018, when the party won control of the state government for the first time since 1936. Democrats have also gained a roughly 80,000-person voter registration advantage over Republicans in the state.
Another factor that may work against Gardner is November is President TrumpDonald John TrumpTop intelligence officials release statements criticizing leaking of Russian bounties information Russian bounty intel was included in Trump’s daily briefing: reports Senators will have access to intelligence on Russian bounties on US troops MORE’s presence on the ballot. Trump lost Colorado to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFox’s Gasparino: GOP operatives raising possibility Trump ‘could drop out of race’ if polls don’t rebound Sacha Baron Cohen pranks right-wing event in Washington state Trump to tap senior HUD official to run Office of Personnel Management: report MORE in 2016 and remains deeply unpopular there. Democrats say that unpopularity is likely to trickle down ballot to Gardner in November.
“Once Coloradans learn more about Cory Gardner’s 100 percent loyalty to President Trump he’ll be looking for a new job in November,” said J.B. Poersch, the president of Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with Senate Democratic leadership.
Republicans went on the attack almost immediately after Hickenlooper’s victory on Tuesday, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) saying that the former governor was “in for a very bumpy ride” through the general election.
“Over the next few months, voters are going to learn what Hickenlooper has been hiding – about his disregard for the law, his misuse of taxpayer funds and all the illegal gifts and travel from his corporate sugar daddies,” Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the NRSC, said in a statement referencing Hickenlooper’s ethics violations.
Updated at 10:34 p.m.