Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is known for bipartisanship. At least that’s what he thinks.
And if his record while at the helm of one of America’s top economic engines is any indication, he might be right.
Hickenlooper, one of 25 Democratic presidential candidates, spoke to a crowd of about 35 area residents Thursday at Barley’s Bar and Grill in Council Bluffs, where he introduced himself and laid out some of his accomplishments as a politician and businessman.
A two-term mayor of Denver, Hickenlooper brought conflicting ideologies together to turn the city into an economic powerhouse, despite inheriting a $70 million deficit.
Not only did Hickenlooper wipe out the debt, he brought light rail to the growing city and headed up numerous other quality-of-life reforms that required cooperation from both sides of the aisle.
After his stint as mayor, Hickenlooper, a geologist-turned-businessman, was elected governor. Again, he was faced with a stagnant economy. Again, Hickenlooper went to work.
“We were 40th in job creation,” Hickenlooper said of Colorado when he became governor. “It’s now the best economy in the country. What we did differently than anyone before was bring together the entire state.”
Hickenlooper’s claims are backed up in a report released in May by U.S. News and World Report’s annual Best States Rankings.
It wasn’t just bridging the gap between Republicans and Democrats that helped transform the state, Hickenlooper said, but also between rural and urban communities.
“I ran on the notion of bringing people together,” Hickenlooper said.
And that’s what he is doing again, as he faces a crowded field of 25 Democratic contenders for the nomination. Hickenlooper, known colloquially as “Hick,” believes his tendency to unite, rather divide, is what the nation needs in a leader.
“I think I’m the one who’s done what everyone else is talking about,” Hickenlooper said.
During a question and answer period, the 67-year-old Hickenlooper — who is responsible for cannabis legalization in Colorado under his governorship —addressed immigration reform, how he would handle healthcare and how to stimulate the economy for the working class.
“I’ve always said healthcare is a right, not a privilege,” Hickenlooper said. A Medicare-for-all or single-payer system might, work, he said.
But, he said, only if Americans wanting to keep their private insurance can opt out.
“I believe in a public option,” Hickenlooper, a brewpub and microbrewery investor said. “I believe it should be on a sliding scale so it doesn’t undercut the market.”
On immigration, Hickenlooper said there is a “humanitarian crisis” at the border. He also said ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) shouldn’t expect local law enforcement agencies to do their bidding.
“In terms of ICE and what they’re doing now, it’s a disaster,” he said. He went on to proclaim that it’s “outrageous” for the federal agency to charge municipal law enforcement entities with arresting undocumented persons.
Hickenlooper also cast doubt on the efficacy of Trump’s tariffs, saying he has asked economists for examples of tariff wars being productive throughout history, but they came back without any.
“The answer is none,” Hickenlooper said. "Tariff wars are for losers.”