Will he or won’t he?
That was the question hanging over Thursday night’s unveiling of Governor John Hickenlooper’s memoir, The Opposite of Woe, at the brewery where he launched his improbable political career.
Now that he’s ascended from entrepreneur to wildly popular mayor of Denver to the governor of a very purple swing state who still has solid approval ratings—no small feat in these deeply polarized times—the obvious follow-up to the book’s release is, does Hickenlooper have his sights set on a national office? He’s rumored to be on the short list for Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential choice if and when she finally dispatches Bernie Sanders, although the characteristically self-deprecating “Gov” has said in interviews that if he’s on that short list, it must be a long one. But the timing of the book’s release, fewer than six months before a presidential election, isn’t accidental.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get the answer to that question Thursday night. The event in the Wynkoop Brewery’s upstairs pool hall was brief, honoring the bar’s agreement with its upstairs neighbors to limit such noisy events to 15 minutes. Hickenlooper made some remarks and offered thank-yous, he read an excerpt from the memoir (which he co-authored with his former speechwriter and erstwhile 5280 executive editor Max Potter), before adjourning to the back to sign books for a long line of colleagues, friends, and citizens.
The passage he chose was a somewhat graphic recounting of how he and his Wynkoop co-founders scavenged and cleaned a set of vintage, heavily used toilets to use in the brewery’s bathrooms, and it showcased what makes Hickenlooper such a unique political figure: His folksy wit; his willingness to be the butt of the joke, because he’s in on it; and his eschewal of the formal stodginess that’s so common among politicians of his generation.
As governor, Hickenlooper has rankled far more people than he did while he was mayor, but that’s no surprise given the way our state’s demographics compare to our city’s, and given the acrimony that’s infected our domed institutions nationwide. Whatever his next act might be—if he doesn’t get the VP nod he’ll still be a strong candidate for a cabinet position in Clinton’s administration, should she win—he’ll be finished running Colorado one way or the other after 2018. And the one thing Thursday’s reception made abundantly clear is that once he’s gone, we’re unlikely to see another chief executive like him any time soon—no matter how much these times and our governing bodies might be crying out for more savvy, pragmatic, and genuinely likeable politicians like him.