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Democrat John Hickenlooper touches down in Lebanon on 2020 campaign trip

  • With not enough room inside, voters stand outside while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks to a crowd in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper talks with Ryan Sempf, of Manchester, N.H., during a campaign event in Lebanon, N.H., on Saturday, March 23, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Chuck Townsend, of Canaan, N.H., and Anne Chamberlin, of Lebanon, N.H., carry chairs in to a full room to hear former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper speak on Saturday, March 23, 2019, in Lebanon. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, March 23, 2019

LEBANON — John Hickenlooper spoke to America’s current crisis of division as part of a presidential campaign pitch Saturday afternoon in Lebanon.

Division hasn’t been this palpable since Civil War times, said the former Colorado governor, a Democrat, who addressed a crowd of more than 100 people at Gusanoz Restaurant. The issue is preventing us from addressing pressing challenges as a nation, said Hickenlooper, in town as part of a weekend campaign visit to the Twin States as he angles for the nomination to challenge President Donald Trump.

“My experience in government and business has allowed me to bring people together to lay down their weapons and achieve progressive goals,” he said.

Hickenlooper made headlines last week when, during a town hall in Atlanta, he was asked whether he was willing to choose a woman as his running mate — what has become a common question after fellow Democratic candidate Sen. Cory Booker declared that he would prioritize a female VP pick last month.

Hickenlooper replied, “Of course,” but then followed with his own question: “How come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’ ”

The Pennsylvania native’s comment sparked outcry from town hall attendees and from online critics, with many perceiving it as tone-deaf. On Twitter, the statement was termed a “hickenblooper.”

When asked about gender equity on Saturday, he made a point of highlighting the qualifications of his fellow candidates — a likely pool of potential running mates — while also talking up his own aptitude for the Oval Office.

The 67-year-old said he’d studied the sizable field of Democrats closely to decide if he could set himself apart enough to throw his hat in the ring. He said the pool of candidates includes several people he respects, including dreamers and visionaries.

“I’m a dreamer, too,” Hickenlooper said. “But I’m also a doer. It’s my genetic inclination to get people together and get stuff done. ... Not to be the alpha dog and take credit for everything.”

Although he was in the Granite State aiming to challenge Trump in 2020, Hickenlooper made a point of saying the election is about more than defeating the polarizing incumbent; it’s about executing the Democratic vision once in office.

Addressing rising costs in health care, training citizens to participate in emerging industries and responding to climate change are all planks in his platform, he said.

A Pennsylvania native who went from geologist to brewpub owner to politician, Hickenlooper didn’t go into government until age 49, when he ran for mayor of Denver and won. He served from 2003-11 before running for governor, serving another eight years in that post.

During the question-and-answer portion of his Lebanon appearance, one voter asked the candidate to identify his role models.

“You mean besides my mother?” Hickenlooper said, adding that she was a strong woman who raised four children despite being widowed twice by the age of 40. “My mother was flat-out amazing.”

He went on to cite Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as historical role models, the former for his ability to bring people together and the latter for making sure the system of capitalism had a way to work for everybody.

When another attendee asked about foreign policy priorities, Hickenlooper spoke of the importance of ensuring the country’s safety. One crucial way to do that, he said, is to establish and modernize protocols for the nation’s cyber security and make it a security priority.

He also circled back to his theme of unity, comparing the NATO alliance to a family.

“We’ve never been transactional with NATO,” he said. “We work together.”

Diane Root, one of Saturday’s attendees, seemed to appreciate Hickenlooper’s campaign tenet of unity.

“I’m very pleased by the emphasis on bringing people together and that he’s got an actual track record on it, not just a lot of wishful thinking,” Root said. “Everybody talks about unity, but not everybody really has a track record on achieving it.

“Not that I think that’s easy, she said. “(Barack) Obama wanted to do it in Washington, and he didn’t get any help.”

Adam Boffey can be reached at boffeyadam@gmail.com.