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Gov. John Hickenlooper: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 Democrat

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By Roey Hadar

Gwen Ifill Fellow

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is one of more than a dozen candidates who have jumped into the Democratic presidential field for 2020.

The 67-year-old Hickenlooper is a relatively moderate Democrat who won two terms in a relatively purple state and has touted his ability to work with Republicans while still pushing through progressive priorities.

Here are seven things you need to know about him. 

  • Before entering politics, Hickenlooper had prior careers as a geologist and a brewer. After being laid off from his job as a geologist, Hickenlooper began brewing beer. He established Wynkoop Brewing Company, still in business today, in Denver’s Lower Downtown neighborhood, becoming an early leader in the push to revitalize the area.
  • Homelessness has been an issue Hickenlooper has long been passionate about fighting, both as Mayor of Denver and Governor of Colorado. After becoming mayor in 2003, he pushed for a 10-year plan to resolve homelessness in the city. Although the effort did not end homelessness in Denver, Hickenlooper continued to push for using funds from legal marijuana sales to combat homelessness.
  • After the 2012 Aurora shooting in a Colorado movie theater, Hickenlooper pushed for stronger gun control legislation. In 2013, Hickenlooper signed a series of bills that limited the capacity of magazine rounds sold in the state and expanded background checks for the sale and transfer of firearms.
  • Hickenlooper initially opposed the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, which voters legalized in 2012, but helped develop the state’s system by working with legislators. Hickenlooper expressed concerns about legalization but worked with the state legislature to create a regulatory system for marijuana sales and has since said that he believes the system is working.
  • Hickenlooper partnered with Ohio’s former Republican Gov. John Kasich to tout bipartisanship. The two did interviews together to promote moderation and pragmatism in politics, stirring rumors of the two running together on a “unity ticket” in 2020. Both have since downplayed the rumors, with Kasich joking to ABC in November that Hickenlooper’s name was too long. “You couldn’t fit it on a bumper sticker,” Kasich said.
  • He has a close tie to another potential presidential contender. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, also a presidential contender, was Hickenlooper’s chief of staff when Hickenlooper was Mayor of Denver.
  • He has been receptive to business and industry in his political career. Hickenlooper cut over 11,000 regulations as governor and grew employment by 23 percent according to numbers cited by the Denver Post, although he drew criticism for promoting oil and gas. Hickenlooper has been receptive to the controversial oil and gas extraction method of fracking, even going so far as to drink the fluid used in the process to prove that it is safe.