Update, 3/16/20: The Colorado Secretary of State’s office confirmed that Hickenlooper qualified for the June 30 ballot by turning in enough signatures. He’s the first candidate to make the primary ballot. 

Resume: Former two-term Colorado governor; former two-term Denver mayor; founder of Wynkoop Brewing Company; geologist; former candidate for U.S. president  

Party: Democrat

Give me your 30-second elevator pitch: Why are you running?
John Hickenlooper: I’ve said for a long time that Washington is broken and a lousy place for someone like me, who has tried to get stuff done. And I still believe that, but I had to make a decision: Do I sit in the cheap seats and criticize or do I go out and try to fix it? I spent some time thinking about that and decided, you know, we want to go out there and make sure that Colorado has an independent senator who’s reflecting the primary issues of Colorado; to help bring the country together. 

What sets you apart from the other Democratic Party candidates?
It is a crowded field, but boy is there a lot of talent. I think each of us is going to make our own case to the voters. We’re going to go out there and give the reasons why we believe we’re the right person to be the U.S. senator from Colorado. I think I have a unique experience as a small business owner, as an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are, in many ways, problem-solvers. That’s not that dissimilar from what a mayor or a governor does. And I think it’s not that dissimilar from what a U.S. senator does. I also think that I probably have the strongest chance of beating Cory Gardner. I’ve won statewide twice. But like all the candidates, I’m going to go to all 64 counties and work as hard as I can to earn the support of all Coloradans. 

What is your top policy priority?
Probably the number one issue I hear about, and this has been true for years, is health care. I’ve always believed that health care is a right and not a privilege. I think we need to make sure there’s an option for people who can’t get health care, that they’re able to buy into Medicare. But we also have to address the skyrocketing cost of prescription drugs and insurance premiums. Working families are having a harder time keeping up. Mitch McConnell and Cory Gardner have been doing absolutely nothing to address the problem. Worse than that, their lawsuit would end up getting rid of the protections for preexisting conditions. There are over 750,000 people in our state that have preexisting conditions and potentially could lose their health-care coverage. How can our senator be working directly against the interests of so many Coloradans? 

How would you ensure Colorado’s interests are met in Washington, D.C.?
I’ve spent the last eight years fighting for Colorado families, fighting for small businesses. I’m not going to take any money from corporate PACs. Cory Gardner took $4 million just from the NRA alone. I have a track record of being an independent thinker. I’ve worked with people from nonprofits, business, government, academia, Republicans, Democrats. When I was elected as governor, we were 40th in job creation. And according to U.S. News and World Report, for the last three years, we’re the number one economy in the country. We did that by getting everyone to work together. I’m the kind of person who wakes up every day and has a list of things I’m gonna do, and I’m going to fight for Colorado and the interests of our state. 

How would you work with an increasingly divided Senate?
I’ll do everything I can to make sure Mitch McConnell is not the majority leader in 2021. I don’t think he’s shown any willingness to compromise. They won’t even let universal background checks come to the floor for a vote. That’s outrageous. That’s blocking progress. But I think you can cut through some of the partisan noise, and you can reach out to some of the Republicans. When I was mayor, we got Republican and Democratic mayors to help create FasTracks, one of the most sustainable investments in infrastructure that we’ve ever made. We got scientists from the environmental communities to work with the scientists from the energy industry to create the first methane regulations in America. Those are examples of what we need to do in Washington. 

What is something voters might not know about you?
When I was an undergraduate [at Wesleyan College] in 1973, I met this guy, [Mark Maselli], who was starting Community Health Center, basically a free clinic, in Middletown, Connecticut, which was a town of about 35,000 people. He had a dentist for one afternoon a week. He was trying to renovate the back half of this old, decrepit building on Main Street so he could have a doctor’s office as well, and have a doctor there for one afternoon per week. So I helped him do that, came in on weekends. And we got to be friends. So over the next few years, in 1975 or 1976, myself, Maselli, and another guy, Matt Vinikas, each chipped in $3,300 to provide the $10,000 to buy the building—a three-story brick building on Main Street—and began the process of expanding the Community Health Center. Forty years later…it’s expanded to more than 200 locations in Connecticut. It’s one of the largest federally sanctioned community health networks in the country. 

Now for the lightning round….Pick one: 

Broncos or Rockies?

I-25 or I-70?

National Western Stock Show or a show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre?
Red Rocks 

Coors Banquet beer or a Colorado craft brew?
Colorado craft brew

Hike a fourteener or raft the Arkansas River?
Hike a fourteener 

Fall foliage or wildflower season?
Wildflower season

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve or Rocky Mountain National Park?
Rocky Mountain National Park 

Wyoming or Utah?

Editor’s note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity. This interview was conducted on August 31, 2019, after the initial publication of this package.

Erin Skarda
Erin Skarda
Erin is a Denver-based writer and the former digital editor for 5280.