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Hickenlooper Defeats Gardner In Heated U.S. Senate Race

Gage Skidmore
CC BY-SA 2.0

Boosted by the state’s deep disapproval of President Donald Trump, former Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner and flipped a U.S. Senate seat in Colorado.

Hickenlooper, a two-term governor who led the state through floods, wildfires and the mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, ran a campaign largely focused on criticizing Gardner for supporting Trump and attempting to overturn the Affordable Care Act.

Hickenlooper also overcame several self-inflicted wounds during the campaign. Gardner hammered him for being fined this summer by an independent state ethics board for accepting free flights and gifts as governor. He also faced concerns that he didn’t want the job after he was filmed several times last year questioning whether he would make a good senator.

“Being a senator would be meaningful, but I’d hate it,” Hickenlooper said.

But after his presidential campaign never gained traction, Hickenlooper turned his attention to the Senate seat. During the primary race against former House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, Hickenlooper easily won the support of national Democrats who viewed Colorado as one of the most likely places they could prevail over Republicans.

He largely focused on tying Gardner to President Donald Trump, whose approval rating in the state dropped significantly over the years.

Gardner tried to deflect the attacks by claiming he has been rated as the third most bipartisan senator in the country. He also touted his recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, which will inject millions of dollars into national parks and public lands in Colorado and beyond.

But Hickenlooper countered that “one bill does not an environmentalist make.”

And Gardner was not able to win over enough independent voters in a state that only elected Democrats to statewide offices just two years ago.

"It has been such an honor serving the people of Colorado in the Senate for the past 6 years," Gardner posted to Twitter Tuesday evening.

Scott Franz is an Investigative Reporter with KUNC.