Eighth Avenue Freeze-Out

February 2006

For weeks, readers and friends have been asking for my take on what's become the biggest question in Colorado politics: Will John Hickenlooper run for governor? Because 5280 was one of the first media outlets to endorse Hickenlooper when he ran for mayor in 2003, there's a feeling that we ought to have some inside line on what he's thinking now. It's even been suggested that I should use this space to encourage him to run or to formally endorse his candidacy.

The short answer is that I honestly have no idea what Hickenlooper will do. He hasn't told me, and those around him are being extremely tight-lipped. (Of course, sometime between when this issue goes to press and when you actually read it, Denver's mayor is likely to have answered the question himself.)

But, really, the question of whether he'll run is a lot less interesting than the more important question: Should John Hickenlooper run for governor? On that question I do have a clear view. I think it's a lousy idea.

Yes, I've seen the polls that show Hickenlooper easily defeating all of the declared candidates, including Republican frontrunner Bob Beauprez (for more on Beauprez, see page 104 of the February issue). And I get all the reasons why taking back the big house on Eighth Avenue is important to Democrats. But a run for governor in 2006 would negate almost everything that's made John Hickenlooper the most inspiring politician in Colorado.

Three years ago, Hickenlooper captured Denver's imagination by positioning himself as a regular guy who'd endured what he called the "fundamental nonsense of government" and wanted to do something about it. As mayor, he's been a remarkable success, even being named to Time magazine's list of the nation's five best big-city mayors in 2005. But the job is far from done.

By leaving now, without even having completed his first term in any elected office, Hickenlooper would reduce himself to the status of opportunistic job hopper—in short, no different than any other politician on the scene. And thus diminished, what's left? An inexperienced, scooter-riding liberal who had a cop killer on his restaurant's payroll? You may think that characterization is unfair, but it's exactly what his opponents will throw at him. And how well is that gonna play outside of Denver?

There are those who argue that Hickenlooper's success promoting regional and statewide measures like FasTracks and Referendum C demonstrates his appeal outside the city. But that misses the point.

Sure, you can't help but listen to a guy who is willing to literally jump out of an airplane to get you to pay attention to a complicated ballot initiative. But when that same guy jumps out of an airplane for no reason other than his own personal advancement, well, then he's no different from Dealin' Doug, Jake Jabs, or any other hokey pitchman.

Politics has no shortage of those kind of guys. We don't need one more.

Daniel Brogan is 5280's editor and publisher.