Congressional Democrats have looked to the Colorado Senate race as one of their best opportunities to flip the red seat in an attempt to gain the majority in the Senate.
Here’s what to know about Hickenlooper:
Why he has been able to keep a lead in the polls
Campaign analysts have largely attributed Hickenlooper’s lead in the polls to one key campaign issue that changed the political landscape in the general election – the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
Her appointment affected nearly all candidates in the 2020 election, but in particular – vulnerable conservative senators.
It wasn’t until late September that Hickenlooper really gained his edge when the widely respected Cook Political Report altered its Nov. 3 forecast based on “qualitative and quantitative analysis” from “toss up” to “leans Democrat.”
Gardner’s decision to align with President Trump and support a third Supreme Court appointment just one week before Election Day, was a contributing factor to bolstering Hickenlooper’s campaign in the Centennial State. Trump is currently trailing Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden by 9.5 points according to Real Clear Politics.
He faced a political scandal earlier this year
Hickenlooper, a former two-term mayor of Denver turned two-term governor, hit his share of snags in his race for the Senate. His Republican opponent reminded voters of an “ethics violation” Hickenlooper ran a fowl of during his governorship.
Gardner has claimed that Hickenlooper was “convicted” of a crime this past summer, but that’s not quite accurate.
Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission found that Hickenlooper had in fact broken state laws by accepting “gifts” in the form or travel transportation, and forced him to pay a fine of $2,750 in June.
The law stated that officials can only accept gifts with the monetary value of $59 or less at the time, according to Colorado Public Radio.
But the former governor had accepted transport on a private jet numerous times, including a trip to Italy for the Bilderberg Meetings conference.
While Hickenlooper reportedly paid for the airfare and the cost of the conference, he did not account for meals or transport while on the ground which was paid for by a corporate sponsor of the conference.
The one-time brewpub owner who sought the presidential nomination in 2019, also angered Republicans by not showing up for the first day of the ethics hearings on the matter, despite having been summoned by subpoena.
Hickenlooper paid the fine in June, 2020.
How he differentiates himself from his challenger
As a former geologist, Hickenlooper has prided himself on being environmentally conscientious but he has not said if he supports Democratic initiatives like the Green New Deal, and instead has a history of being pro-fracking.
With a background working for an oil and gas company, he rejects the calls to outright ban fracking and has frustrated members of his own base, who have referred to him as “Frackenlooper.”
But Hickenlooper has allegedly changed his tune a bit in his run for Senate, and now says he wants to work to encourage policies that would make fracking “obsolete” rather than ban it.
Hickenlooper was an ardent critic of appointing the latest Supreme Court Justice Barrett, but frustrated Republicans and Democrats alike by not outright saying whether or not he supports “packing the court.”
He has instead chosen to follow in the footsteps of presidential candidate Joe Biden and remain mum on taking a direct stance that could alienate him amongst voters.
Healthcare has been a leading policy of his
Hickenlooper has also shown his differences as a Democratic candidate from the party by acknowledging that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is not perfect and calls for an approach that would fall in between the ACA and Medicare for All, the Denver Post reported.
He has called for a “national public option” similar to Medicaid that people could voluntarily enroll in, separating it from the ACA standard.
But his challenger has said this option would “decimate” rural hospitals.
“He wants government-run health care. A public option will decimate our rural hospitals. A public option will result in government-run healthcare,” Gardner said of Hickenlooper at a recent debate. “It will lead to Medicare for All.”
Gardner believes his Hickenlooper’s plan would destroy the private market, an argument Republicans have claimed since the ACA was enacted.
“It’s not going to cost a fortune, it’s not going to break any bank, and we can be like all the other industrialized countries in the world that have universal coverage,” Hickenlooper said.
He has been highly critical of Republicans attempting to remove the ACA without a backup plan for people reliant on the government healthcare system.