Former Governor of Colorado John Hickenlooper was back in Iowa, and now it’s official – he’s a candidate for president. He joins 11 others who have filed, including other moderate candidates like Senator Amy Klobuchar and former Representative John Delaney.
Dividing and conquering is Trump’s schtick, and Hickenlooper is hoping Iowans come away from his visits viewing him as the antithesis to that method of governing.
“Well, my top priority is to get people to work together,” Hickenlooper said in Des Moines on Friday to a crowd of about 100. “I don’t think we’re going to get any of these things done if we’re not willing to put down the weapons and roll up our sleeves.”
He addressed his plan to work with Mitch McConnell if elected, defending the idea to reach out to the other side and develop relationships.
Despite some of the topographical differences between Colorado and Iowa, Hickenlooper called attention to a few parallel issues that could appeal to Iowans as well. He covered how he brought broadband to rural areas by using government to incentivize internet service providers to build infrastructure, and taxing urban and suburban regions to pay for it.
The issue is certainly pertinent to Iowans – Governor Reynolds recently proposed $20 million for building out internet infrastructure. Hickenlooper also signaled interest in continuing to focus on rural expansion, especially bringing high-paying jobs to places that aren’t San Francisco, Los Angeles or New York City.
Cassie Rehling, a junior at Drake University majoring in actuarial science, attended the event at Des Moines’ Confluence Brewing. Hailing from Colorado Springs, Colarado, she was familiar with Hickenlooper’s time leading their state. But she questioned how Hickenlooper could solve the problem of bringing jobs to places that aren’t just major cities. She said she aspires to move back home to Colorado to be close to family, but says the job prospects aren’t as strong as cities such as San Francisco.
Hickenlooper used those places as examples, calling them “all out of whack” with respect to building affordable housing. Although Friday’s event took place less than four miles from Des Moines International Airport, the urban-rural divide resonated with the audience.
One attendee asked Hickenlooper if he would join fellow 2020 hopeful Jay Inslee in making climate change his number one issue.
Hickenlooper disputed the notion that there has to be a ‘top’ issue for his campaign.
“As soon as I say that climate is the single most important thing, there’s going to be 20 people here that feel that healthcare is the most important thing, and there’s going to be some other people here that feel that the existential challenge of people not being able to work and whether we have enough jobs,” Hickenlooper said. “Again, I’m trying not to divide people.”
Jeremy Miller – who sported a Denver Broncos t-shirt – and Jill Caradec, a Republican in town visiting Miller from Colorado, visited Confluence Brewery Friday with no idea that Hickenlooper would be speaking. It was a pleasant surprise for them, and they’re both committed to supporting Hickenlooper in the primary election.
“I’ve wanted him to run for 3 or 4 years … I was out in Colorado while he was governor. He’s my guy,” Miller said.
They said the appeal of Hickenlooper for them was his rural appeal and that he is a moderate.
“I just know that’s something he’s going to be stronger on than any of them, because he’s not from the East coast or the West coast, he’s a middle America guy,” Miller said.
Caradec said the appeal to her as a Republican is similar.
“He’s business-minded but liberal on more social issues, which is what basically I am, what I think most Republicans are and honestly, what most Democrats are,” Caradec said.
Hickenlooper said he differs from the competition by wanting to skip past the traditional political games.
“I look at almost everyone else who’s running, they’re great at…people in Washington, they spend their lives talking about stuff and debating and pointing fingers and blaming the other side. It’s about time we get people together and get stuff done,” Hickenlooper said.
“I saw him interviewed on Fox News,” Miller said. “He didn’t cave to them, he carried out a really good conversation, he did not get animated, he didn’t get emotional or anything like that, and that was powerful to me.”
That appeal could be what it takes to win over not just moderate Democrats, but independents and Republicans in the general election. But first – there’s the Iowa Caucus.
by Jake Bullington