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Politics and Government

John Hickenlooper nears decision on presidential bid, campaign has permit for March 7 event

The two-term Colorado governor is seeking a middle path in a Democratic primary dominated by partisan noise

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addresses the crowd from the main stage at the Blue Sneaker Ball to celebrate the inauguration of Gov. Jared Polis at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on January 8, 2019. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)
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John Hickenlooper is close to a decision about a 2020 presidential bid, with the campaign eyeing an announcement in Denver as soon as next week.

The former Colorado governor received a permit to hold an event March 7 in the amphitheater at Civic Center park, according to records obtained by The Colorado Sun. The disclosure comes a day after The Sun cited several sources close to the Democrat who said that he would announce a bid the first week of March.

The location, in front of city hall and a block from the state Capitol, would allow the former Denver mayor and two-term governor to tell his story as the laid-off geologist turned brewpub owner who became the accidental politician.

The city issued a permit Wednesday to Sarah Feldmann, who is listed as the special projects director at Hickenlooper’s federal leadership PAC, for an event expected to start at 5 p.m. The application anticipates as many as 2,000 people will attend what is billed as a “celebration.” The campaign has considered a number of locations for the event and a spokeswoman declined Friday to confirm the details.

Hickenlooper is considered a long-shot for the Democratic nomination but sees a path as a moderate pragmatist in a race filled with partisan noise.

The decision to run comes after the 67-year-old Hickenlooper has spent months traveling the country to gauge support for his candidacy and created a federal political committee called Giddy Up PAC to raise money to boost his national profile.

A campaign spokeswoman said earlier this week that Hickenlooper has not yet made a final decision about whether to run, but she added “it’s not a secret the governor has been thinking about running for president.”

MORE: John Hickenlooper searches for his liberal voice as he preaches a new brand of politics ahead of 2020

On the campaign trail, Hickenlooper sounds more certain about his political future. He has made clear he is beyond considering a bid and even told a woman at a diner in New Hampshire that he is “running for president” only to backtrack on his comments moments later.

In visits to early presidential states, the two-term governor touts his role in expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, implementing tougher gun regulations and elevating the state’s economy to top ranking. He pitches himself as a politician who can bring both sides together, as he did to create tougher methane emission rules in Colorado.

This record of accomplishments and reputation for reaching across the political aisle stands, Hickenlooper argues, in contrast to higher-profile Democratic candidates, such as Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders.

But Hickenlooper starts his campaign at a distinct disadvantage. He’s a relative unknown on the national level with no money in the bank and a limited fundraising network. The $600,000 he raised for his Giddy Up PAC in the first four months came mostly from Colorado, and none of it can go toward his presidential bid. So far, Hickenlooper is barely registering in national and early-state polling.

Moreover, his centrist brand chaffes some party activists, who want diversity at the top of the ticket and a stronger leftist ideology. Hickenlooper does not support the “Medicare for All” health care proposal and he has allied himself in the past with corporate interests, including the oil and gas industry.

In a recent campaign visit to New Hampshire, he pushed back against a litmus test like the Green New Deal proposal — which calls for 100 percent renewable energy, as well as other environmental, labor and health-related reforms — but later said he would probably support most of it.

His middle lane in the Democratic presidential primary could become crowded in coming months. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced her candidacy in February, and a handful of others — including Colorado U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet — still are contemplating the race.

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