- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

DENVER | Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s downhill coast to the Democratic Senate nomination may have just hit a mogul.

Two young but influential progressive-activist groups — Sunrise Movement and Indivisible Colorado — this week endorsed former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, who has emerged as the left’s choice to challenge the Democratic establishment’s support for Mr. Hickenlooper.

“Andrew Romanoff has made the #GreenNewDeal the centerpiece of his campaign. We’re all in to win,” tweeted Sunrise Colorado.

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Filmmaker Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking documentary “Gasland,” also threw his support behind Mr. Romanoff, tweeting that Colorado had been “#fracked to hell and betrayed by pro-oil ‘moderate’ Democrats over and over.”

“Hopefully Romanoff can bring a fighting chance to the Colorado Climate and anti-fracking movement!” Mr. Fox tweeted.

Analysts have long predicted that the left would present the biggest threat to the Senate chances of Mr. Hickenlooper, a staunch supporter of Colorado’s oil-and-gas industry and a former geologist who once drank fracking fluid to prove its safety.

The two-term ex-governor has led in the polls since dropping out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary in September and entering the crowded Senate race a week later, despite insisting previously that he wasn’t “cut out to be a senator.”

Most of the Democratic competition is running to Mr. Hickenlooper’s left, but Mr. Romanoff enjoys the highest name recognition, thanks to his years in the state legislature and high-profile but unsuccessful bids against Sen. Michael Bennet in 2010 and then-Rep. Mike Coffman in 2014.

Mr. Romanoff alone “has the polling, name recognition, online reach, experience and funding necessary to build a grassroots movement to defeat John Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner,” Sunrise Movement’s Michelle Weindling told Colorado Public Radio.

Indeed, the tension between the left and Mr. Hickenlooper is so palpable that he skipped a climate forum last month in Colorado Springs, citing a scheduling conflict. At the event, an activist dressed up as a chicken named “Chickenlooper” and protesters chanted, “Where’s Hick?”

Mr. Hickenlooper has the support of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, but Republican political analyst Dick Wadhams said that Mr. Romanoff, who backs left-wing priorities like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, has a chance to unify the left.

“I think there’s every potential for Andrew Romanoff to put together a real campaign against Hickenlooper,” Mr. Wadhams said. “If it becomes a de facto one-on-one race, I don’t know that he can win, but he can sure do some damage to Hickenlooper.”

While Mr. Hickenlooper has won statewide twice, the only candidate in the race to do so, Mr. Wadhams said he also had benefited from a “free ride” from the press in those campaigns, which probably won’t be the case in 2020.

Last week, Mr. Hickenlooper took a beating in the media when he told KUSA’s Kyle Clark that “you guys should be protecting me,” referring to the media, on an ethics complaint filed over flights paid for by private interests in 2018, his last year as governor.

“It’s not so much the ideological attacks that are going to be harmful to Hickenlooper, it’s going to be his inability to deal with those attacks,” Mr. Wadhams said. “He’s not going to handle this very well, and that’s why I think Cory Gardner is going to be a much better candidate against him than people think, because Cory knows the drill. But Hickenlooper doesn’t.”

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