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Hickenlooper day-old Senate bid faces pushback from progressives
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper's nascent Senate bid is facing early pushback from progressive candidates and outside groups.
Hickenlooper announced on Thursday that he would jump into the state's crowded Democratic primary field, where the party is hoping to unseat Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) next year, after dropping out of the presidential race last week.
But the decision has sparked backlash from progressives nationally and in the state. Several of the Democratic Senate candidates warned they wouldn't step aside for Hickenlooper and knocked the former governor as too moderate.
Angela Williams, a state senator who is running for the party's nomination, wrote in an op-ed for The Sentinel on Friday that Hickenlooper "needs to answer for his record and his refusal to fully embrace and support progressive solutions."
"During his short-lived presidential campaign, Governor Hickenlooper ran hard against the strong progressive energy in our party right now, and away from the big, bold, progressive solutions that our state and our country need. After spending the first half of this year campaigning against progressive ideas, he has some serious explaining to do to Colorado voters," she added.
Dan Baer, a former U.S. ambassador who is also in the race, said in a speech on Thursday that he has a "genuine personal regard" for Hickenlooper but indicated that Colorado needs "progressive leadership" in its next senator.
"We need leaders who are not conditioned by a lifetime in politics to be afraid of anything more than incremental change. That means we need different types of leaders. ... We can mend the country and win our future. We need ethical, bold, progressive leadership in Washington," he said.
Meanwhile, Justice Democrats spokesman Waleed Shahid said in a tweet that Hickenlooper would "join the Senate as a conservative Democrat who has already pledged to block most progressive priorities."
And Keith Barnish, a spokesman for the Colorado State Senate Democratic Caucus, tweeted that "running for US Senate isn't a consolation prize. ... Colorado is ready for a new generation of progressive leadership."
After Barnish's comments gained attention from national Republicans, he added that he was speaking only for himself and that he thought Hickenlooper would be a "100 percent better option" than Gardner.
Hickenlooper is viewed as the front-runner in the race with strong name ID advantage after serving as the state's governor from 2011 until January 2019. The momentum is a clear distinction from his failed presidential primary bid, where he struggled to break through the party's crowded primary pack.
But the pushback from progressives all but guarantees he won't be able to clear the field and will face lingering criticism from the left.
Hickenlooper's campaign didn't immediately respond to a request for comment about the criticism. Asked by a Colorado TV station on Thursday if he was progressive enough to win the party's Senate primary, Hickenlooper countered that "there is a lot of moderate energy."
Hickenlooper got an establishment boost on Friday when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), as well as several Democratic senators, came out in support of him.
But the DSCC's decision only sparked further angst from progressives, who viewed the move as the national party trying to influence the outcome of the state's primary.
Andrew Romanoff, another candidate, said in a tweet that the DSCC had recruited a candidate "to fight the #GreenNewDeal & #MedicareForAll, and now they're doubling down on their investment. We can bend to Washington's will-or break them."
"Democrats: This is a moment of decision. Do we want DC to dictate our choice and buy this election before any ballots are even cast-or do we believe voters still matter?" he said in a subsequent tweet.
David Sirota, a staffer for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), added that "the DSCC is now officially trying to block a contested Democratic primary in the state of Colorado - and is trying to create a coronation for the candidate who opposes a Green New Deal and Medicare for All."
"John Hickenlooper is far and away the strongest candidate to beat Cory Gardner, and we're proud to support him in his run for Senate," said DSCC spokesperson Stewart Boss.
Updated: 6:40 p.m.