In a few weeks, Gov. John Hickenlooper will be out of a job.
But he’s made it mostly clear he has other aspirations. And even if he decided to run for president, Hickenlooper plans on sticking around Denver.
It was among the topics Hickenlooper, 66, discussed during an interview with Denverite on Wednesday. He also spoke about governor-elect Jare Polis and his policies and how Denver has developed into a national model in more than one arena.
Hickenlooper has already made stops in Iowa and New Hampshire. It’s the blueprint path for presidential hopefuls. Yet he said it won’t stop him from continuing to call Denver home. He currently lives in the city’s Park Hill neighborhood.
“I live here,” Hickenlooper said. “If — I haven’t made up my mind — but if I run for president, I’m going to have my campaign office here.”
“I would be a fool to go out and run for president and run it out of Washington or New York,” he added. “The whole point that I would consider — the whole point that I am considering running is that Colorado (has) a different way of addressing these issues and we are outside Washington. And I want to make sure that I stay true to those values as much as I can.”
One of his selling points to a national audience will be bringing the compromise methods he used in Colorado to Washington. He wants this idea to gain traction in the early primary states, which he hopes to do by meeting with people there and talking to people in Colorado as well for support.
That last part will be especially crucial for fundraising.
“One of the big arguments from somebody from Colorado is, it’s a much smaller state, you’re not going to have access to the millions of dollars that people in California and the Beltway (have).”
The decision won’t come until after he has a final okay from his family, including his wife, Robin, and their teenage son, Teddy.
“Whenever I’m in Iowa or New Hampshire, I’m always talking about Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “I’ll be a walking billboard for why Colorado is different.”
Hickenlooper believes he’s leaving the state of Colorado in capable hands.
And despite the overwhelming blue victory, one that saw Democrats take the General Assembly and the state’s executive offices, he still believes Colorado is a purple state. He points to the defeat of Proposition 112 and Colorado Amendment 74 as proof.
You won’t be surprised to learn he opposed both initiatives.
“There’s a really green, liberal thing and there’s a really conservative thing,” Hickenlooper said. “They both fail. I think Colorado is basically a moderate, purple state in the end. It’s got loud voices at the extreme on both sides, which I think is a good thing.”
Hickenlooper has chatted with Polis about five times since he was elected on Nov. 6. While Hickenlooper said Polis hasn’t told him all his plans, from what’s he’s heard, he believes Polis is a “very good listener” who’s “very comfortable with who he is.”
“He doesn’t feel the need to please me or need to please any segment, he’s trying to figure out what’s best for Colorado,” Hickenlooper said. “And in each one of these issues, each issue area, he’s smart and he’s curious and he keeps asking interesting questions.”
Expanding and reducing healthcare costs in Colorado, a big campaign promise for Polis, is something the state tried to address every year under his administration, Hickenlooper said.
“He’s going to take some of the stuff we’ve done and make it better,” he said. “He’s a smart guy. He’s going to be a good governor.”
He said there might be a few things Polis will do differently.
A potential difference lies in Polis’ aggressive plan for renewable energy. He wants the state to be run by 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
“I think he feels that we should move to cleaner energy even more rapidly than we have,” Hickenlooper said, adding that he’s tried to keep public sentiment in mind when considering this topic. “Could we go faster? Maybe. I think he’s going to push that. He’s going to accelerate an effort, or perhaps he’s going to accelerate an effort, that I support.”
Denver could be a national model in several areas, though there’s one major area he said the city needs to improve.
The former Mayor of Denver said affordable housing is a big issue in the Mile High City.
“I think Mayor Hancock knows that and he’s on it,” Hickenlooper said. “I think the new revenues they’re collecting are going to be a big deal.”
As far as some of the ways Denver can continue being a national model, Hickenlooper said Hancock — who he at one point accidentally referred to as Governor Hancock — has continued the work Hickenlooper started to make Denver a desirable place for young people.
“When you look at the transformation that’s happened in the last 15 years to Denver, I mean, the number one airport — Millennials love to travel and they don’t like hassle,” Hickenlooper said.
He cited a 2014 story suggesting Denver has more live music venues than Austin, another big up-and-coming city, as well as the 1,000 miles of bike trails in the metro area as things attracting young people to the city.
The area’s transit system is another positive in Hickenlooper’s eyes. Denver residents also passed Initiated Ordinance 300, which raises taxes slightly to create a scholarship fund for vocational schools and two- and four-year colleges for local students.
That’s in addition to the Denver Preschool Program, which provides money to help young kids pay for preschool, which Hickenlooper said means gives children in Denver a path to higher education.
“We have a program that’s cradle to (career) to make sure everybody has equal opportunity to achieve their vision of the American Dream,” Hickenlooper said. “No other city has ever done that. And I think it’s amazing that we did it.”
So Denver is still growing. Is it growing too fast?
Hickenlooper said “maybe.”
Ultimately, Hickenlooper said he wants Denver to become the kind of place where people raise kids who go out and see the world, only to return here to raise their own children.
“I think that’s every parent’s legitimate dream,” he said. “If you don’t have more jobs and more different kinds of jobs, the chances of your children coming back home are diminished.”
He’s not sure pumping the brakes on growth would be beneficial.
“We are only now back that kind of strong (growth) where people are saying, ‘We’re growing too fast,'” Hickenlooper said. “We’ll slow down anyway. We’re not going to keep growing this fast.”