by Peter Mertz
DENVER, the United States, March 9 (Xinhua) -- After serving as Governor of Colorado for eight years, John Hickenlooper aims higher. He on Thursday night attracted some 2,000 supporters to support his official announcement into the 2020 U.S. presidential race.
"It's time to end this American crisis of division, it's time to bring all Americans together," said Hickenlooper, who was a former mayor of Denvor for nearly eight years before governorship. "America stops working when we work against each other."
The 67-year-old political veteran, however, has to face a crowded Democratic field, with about two dozen expected challengers, and it "will feature a record number of women and non-white candidates," said political analyst David Richardson.
HANGING IN BALANCE
Hickenlooper's announcement came as a little surprise, as an army of Democrats suggested long ago they would fight for change in Washington.
Days ago, Bernie Sanders, the popular 2016 Democratic runner-up to Hillary Clinton, just announced his return. The socialist-leaning Vermont Senator became an immediate front runner.
Julie Johnson, a Denver nurse, told Xinhua that "the governor knows what he's doing, if you follow politics."
Hickenlooper became the second Democratic governor to announce a bid against President Donald Trump, joining renewable energy and climate-focused Jay Inslee of Washington.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock and former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe are also expected to run for the top Democratic spot.
The 2020 primaries, which will decide a single presidential candidate in each party, will begin in Iowa next year. "Our former governor will do well there with his folksy style, pro agriculture, business, and free trade philosophy," Jill Snow, a teacher in Colorado's Fort Collins, told Xinhua.
In 24 hours after his announcement, the term-limited governor raised over 1 million U.S. dollars in contributions, according to his office.
Hickenlooper is "smart, a successful businessman, and good politician," said Jim Warner, who traveled from southern Colorado to watch the announcement.
Hickenlooper has been criticized by liberals for promoting fossil fuel extraction in Colorado's mineral rich Rocky Mountains, especially the controversial Fracking process, whereby gas and oil is extracted from holes drilled 5 miles down into the Earth.
"Frackenlooper," Colorado Green Party candidate Arn Menconi told Xinhua. "I can't support him because of his energy policies."
However, as an erstwhile petroleum engineer, Hickenlooper is also a proponent of renewable energy, and has worked to accelerate electric car use in Denver.
"He seems to have adopted an Obama-style energy position -- pursue renewables, but keep options open, and don't turn your back to fossil fuels -- yet," said Longmont insurance agent Sue Harper.
In 1988, Hickenlooper founded a brewery in LoDo, which was once in a run-down area of Denver but now has become vibrant.
"I think he has good shot. He's moderate and America needs to move back to the center," said Jessie Watkins, a bank teller.
Watkins, who graduated in 2014 with a degree in business, represents a growing number of Colorado millennials who swept Democrats into power in the 2016 and 2018 elections, and are expected to carry weight in 2020.
Hickenlooper is seen as a consummate deal maker, who brought big companies like Arrow Electronics, DaVita, and VF Corp to Colorado when the state ranked 40th in job creation. In 2018, Colorado boasted the 7th fastest employment growth in the country.
Hickenlooper is known for taking time to develop positions on certain issues.
Perceived as non-committal on gun control, he championed the passage of a landmark, modest gun control measure in 2013, after a mass shooting at a local movie theater in 2012.
Initially opposed to marijuana legalization, the then governor eventually supported the regulated sale of the drug, which brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue.
"Hickenlooper has been at the right place at the right time. That's for sure," said Ben Thompson, a local millennial.