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Gov. John Hickenlooper speaking during a press conference in the west foyer of the Colorado State Capitol on Sept. 18, 2018. (Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun)

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper took a significant step Monday toward a potential presidential run in 2020 by forming a political committee that will allow him to boost his national profile.

The term-limited Democrat created a federal leadership PAC called Giddy Up that can collect as much as $5,000 a year from donors — money that he can use to cover his political travel, develop policy proposals and donate to other candidates.

The move — first reported by The Colorado Sun — is a traditional step for candidates with ambitions for higher office and comes after Hickenlooper spent the summer talking to party strategists, major donors and his family about whether to pursue a White House bid.

In an interview with Colorado Public Radio that took place at the same time as the filing, Hickenlooper said he wouldn’t make a decision about whether to enter the presidential race until a few months after he leaves office in January.

But earlier this month, Hickenlooper expressed optimism at what he heard in his listening tour. “The one thing that did surprise me in places where I didn’t have a presence, hadn’t really been politically active — there was a lot of awareness of some of the things we’ve done in Colorado,” Hickenlooper told Politico. “I think that was encouraging. It’s been encouraging throughout the summer.”

The Center for Responsive Politics says leadership PACs are “designed for two things — to make money and to make friends, both of which are crucial to ambitious politicians looking to advance their careers.”

The effort is a degree short of an official presidential exploratory committee and the money donated will not count toward his limits if he enters the wide-open 2020 Democratic race to challenge President Donald Trump.

Hickenlooper, 66, began to get serious about his political future in late 2017 when he began to meet with veteran political players and Democratic heavyweights on the national level. It came after he made Hillary Clinton’s shortlist for vice president in 2016.

His political travel continues later this week when he is scheduled to attend events in Florida for Andrew Gillum and Georgia for Stacey Abrams, both Democratic gubernatorial candidates. And Hickenlooper’s national image received a boost in an opinion column from The Washington Post under the headline: “The opposite of Trump isn’t Bernie Sanders. It’s this guy.”

Hickenlooper’s name is also mentioned as a possible U.S. Senate candidate against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in 2020.

The Giddy Up PAC’s name is derived from one of Hickenlooper’s favorite stories and the punchline to his autobiography, “Opposite of Woe.”

Brad Komar, a top Democratic operative and Hickenlooper’s 2014 campaign manager, will serve as the organization’s president.

The directors include other long-time allies, including Stephanie Donner, his former chief legal counsel; Rick Palacio, the former state Democratic Party chairman; and Mark Turnage, the chief executive of a cybersecurity company. His former chief of staff, Roxane White, will lead the team’s policy development.

John Frank is a former Colorado Sun staff writer. He left the publication in January 2021.