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Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper gives a final address just before governor-elect Jarod Polis is sworn in as the state's new leader. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday morning officially announced a bid for U.S. Senate, one week after the Democrat abandoned his presidential ambitions.

Hickenlooper, 67, repeatedly said on the presidential campaign trail that he wasn’t interested in running for U.S. Senate or cut out for the job, but changed his mind after his White House hopes were spoiled by a campaign that failed to gain traction.

“Look, I’m a straight shooter,” Hickenlooper said in a video announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. “I’ve always said Washington was a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done. But this is no time to walk away from the table. I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot.”

He added: “I’m not done fighting for the people of Colorado.”

YouTube video

In leaving the crowded contest to challenge President Donald Trump, Hickenlooper said last week that he intended to give the Senate race “serious thought.” He had been pressured by leading Democrats and even staffers on his presidential campaign to make a bid for the Senate.

Polls have shown Hickenlooper with a significant advantage both in the primary field and over Republican incumbent Cory Gardner.

In the video announcing his candidacy, Hickenlooper attacked Gardner as playing games with the people of Colorado through his allegiances with Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. The message focused on protecting the environment, lowering health care costs and jobs.

MORE: “This won’t be a coronation.” If Hickenlooper wants to be a U.S. senator, he needs to clear many hurdles

Republicans in Colorado and in Washington were quick to attack Hickenlooper’s candidacy.

“John Hickenlooper is desperate to redeem himself after flopping on the national stage, but we think he said it best just a few months ago: he is ‘not cut out’ for the Senate,'” Joanna Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a written statement. “This crowded Senate field has been in a race to the left and Hickenlooper’s quixotic presidential bid did not do him any favors in proving he can compete in any race in 2020.”

Hickenlooper joins more than 10 other Democrats already in the primary race to unseat Gardner next year, many of whom have vowed to stay in the contest despite the former governor’s campaign.

Before even announcing his bid, Hickenlooper’s mere presence as a candidate began to reshape the race.

Two other big-name Democrats — U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold — opted against running and some in the primary slate began to defend their chances at winning the nomination and beating Gardner.

Hickenlooper can roll the money he raised for his presidential campaign over into the Senate contest.

MORE: John Hickenlooper hasn’t announced a U.S. Senate bid yet, but he’s already reshaping the 2020 race

Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is considered among the nation’s most competitive congressional contests next year.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....