At Civic Center Park on Thursday, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper gave his first speech to a crowd of supporters on his path to win the White House.
While a line of people spoke before him, including Denver mayors past and present, describing how they worked with Colorado’s former governor, a few thousand people waved their Hickenlooper 2020 and “Stand Tall” signs, waiting for the first major presidential candidate from the Centennial State.
“It’s your turn, John!” shouted one supporter as Hickenlooper took the stage.
The usually mild-mannered Hickenlooper brought an emphatic tone to the stage. Whether that is a new tone for the campaign trail or his strategy to drown out the crowd of protestors a couple hundred feet outside the venue, only Hickenlooper will know.
“The reason I don’t support Hickenlooper is because it would be sort of like voting for a wet mattress,” said Bridget Walsh, one of the protestors Thursday, “He doesn’t do anything for the people of Colorado. He only does anything for the oil industry. He’s got our state filled with fracking, oil wells, and it’s creating fires and pollution.”
Hickenlooper came to Colorado as a geologist for the oil and gas industry. For some in the crowd, it was a recognition of their livelihood.
David Heider said he was one of the people to donate to the campaign’s first $1 million raised.
“I like the fact that he’s a geologist,” Heider said. “I work in the oil and gas industry and I think it’s important for people to have a good perspective on that.”
Hickenlooper has referred to his oil and gas regulations on methane as a way to bring environmentalists and industry representatives together to work on changes. Hickenlooper sees his campaign as a way to do that in a time of division.
“Defeating Trump is absolutely essential,” Hickenlooper said. “But it’s not sufficient. We need to walk out of this canyon of division to a higher plane of progress. America is ready.”
“This isn’t about unity for unity’s sake,” he said. “America stops working when we work against each other. Our country stops making progress when we hunker down on opposite sides of continental divides – blue and red, rich and poor, urban and rural.”
For some in the crowd, the moderate attitude is why they are choosing to support him.
“We both were born and raised here and we both love what he’s done both as mayor and governor,” said Melinda, a supporter at the rally with her husband, Eric.
Eric believes it’s easy to go too far to the left or the right.
“I met Hickenlooper before, and he is who he is,” Eric said. “He’s not pretentious, and he’s a real person.”
The campaign rally comes 606 days before election day. Hickenlooper is already the 14th candidate to declare for the White House. Between now and then are caucuses in states like Iowa (where Hickenlooper will be Friday), primary votes in states like New Hampshire, debates with other Democratic candidates, and the Democratic convention. That leaves a lot of time for people to make up their minds and for more candidates to enter the race.
“I’m keeping an open mind,” Christina de Barros said. “I’m open to hearing what everyone has to say and go from there.”
de Barros said she’s liked his work both as mayor and as governor,and the executive experience will help him.
“I think Hickenlooper will be refreshing,” she said.
Hickenlooper will be in Des Moines, Iowa Friday night.