Former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in Colorado’s highly anticipated U.S. Senate race on Tuesday.
Colorado has turned increasingly blue since Gardner first claimed the seat in 2014. The race has been in the national spotlight as Democrats try to flip the Republican held U.S. Senate.
Twenty minutes after polls closed in Colorado, with 47% of votes counted, Hickenlooper had established a considerable lead with 59.8% of the votes compared to Gardner with 38.4%. Hickenlooper remained ahead until the race was called by the Associated Press around 7:45 p.m., with 55.6% of the votes counted.
During a live Facebook event celebrating his win, Hickenlooper thanked Gardner for his service and pledged to be a senator who represents “all Coloradans.”
“Regardless of which party controls the Senate, I want you to know that I will work with anyone and everyone to help Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said. “We’ve had enough of leaders in Washington thinking it was their job to only represent blue America or red America.”
Hickenlooper, who pitched himself throughout his campaign as a bipartisan problem-solver, said that his approach is what it will take for the Senate to act on issues like the coronavirus pandemic, health care, climate change and more.
“There’s a lot to do, and lord knows the system in Washington is a broken mess,” he said. “But I’m an optimist. I know this country is ready to begin a new chapter.”
During a Colorado Democratic Party Facebook live earlier in the day, Hickenlooper criticized President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers for their inaction to address the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts of climate change.
“We know that our country is in crisis and the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse has cost too many Coloradans too much,” Hickenlooper said during the live event. “And for the wildfires we’ve seen this summer and fall, there’s a climate catastrophe on our doorstep,” he added. “Digging out of this mess is going to be a tall order. President Trump and his rubber stamp Republicans in the Congress really aren’t up to the challenge.”
Hickenlooper, a former geologist and brewpub pioneer, was mayor of Denver from 2003 to 2011 and governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019. He dropped out of the 2020 presidential race in August 2019 and announced his U.S. Senate candidacy.
The two-term Colorado governor campaigned on a platform that included building on the Affordable Care Act, creating a national public option for health care, transitioning to a 100% renewable energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050, and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord. He also supports comprehensive immigration reform and the Equality Act, or H.R. 5, which would protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination in employment, education, housing and other areas.
Gardner was a state representative from 2005 to 2010 and a U.S. representative from Colorado’s 4th District from 2011 to 2015, when he started his first term as a senator.
During Gardner concession speech streamed on his campaign website and facebook page, he touted his bipartisan work in Congress, including job creation, solar tax credits and moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters to Colorado.
“A moment ago, I spoke to Senator-elect John Hickenlooper to congratulate him on the victory tonight and to welcome him to the United States Senate,” Gardner said during his speech. “And to make sure he knows I will support him in this transition any way that I can to make sure that it’s as smooth as possible.”
“And please understand, to all the people who supported our efforts tonight, that his success is Colorado’s success and our nation and our state need him to succeed,” he added. “We need to be united together.”
Colorado Newsline reporter Chase Woodruff contributed to this report.