By Ben Warwick

DENVER (CBS4) – It’s official. Colorado’s race for the United States Senate will feature two heavyweights in 2020. Former governor and former presidential candidate John Hickenlooper announced overnight that he is joining the pool of Democrats vying for Colorado’s Senate seat in 2020, a seat currently held by Republican Sen. Cory Gardner.

Hickenlooper announced his intentions in a campaign video released on YouTube late Wednesday night.

“Look, I’m a straight shooter. I’ve always said Washington is a lousy place for a guy like me who wants to get things done. But this is no time to walk away from the table. I know changing Washington is hard, but I want to give it a shot,” Hickenlooper said in the video.

Hickenlooper’s is outlining his three major campaign topics: lowering prescription drug prices, issues with public lands and confronting climate change.

“Coloradans care about climate change. Our skiing industry is at risk and yet Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump basically don’t believe in it, right? They’ll bottle everything up and Cory Gardner is their yes man.”

“I believe that healthcare is an essential right and not a privilege. Does Donald Trump? Or Mitch McConnell think that or Cory Gardner think that? We don’t know because they’re certainly not working for more coverage. They’re not doing anything to make sure there’s not inflation of drug costs or insurance premiums. I think it’s time to address why aren’t things that benefit Coloradans getting done.”

During his bid for the White House, Hickenlooper said that he wasn’t cut out for the Senate. But when he addressed the press Thursday, he said he had a change of heart.

“When you take a long look at yourself and where can you be useful, for me right now I think I can have a much bigger difference in Washington than I can staying in Colorado,” he told CBS4. “If I’m not 1000% into this, I’m not going to be any good.”

“I have said for a long time that Washington is broken. I’ve said Washington is a lousy place for someone like me that likes to get stuff done. But, at a certain point you have to make a decision of whether you’re going to sit on the sidelines and be a critic, or whether you’re going to turn around and actually do something. I spent a lot of time thinking about it. I want to be part of the solution. I don’t want to sit on the sidelines.”

“My absolute commitment is I’m going to go to Washington and not just be someone who sits around. I’m going to start building relationships and do everything I can, not just with other Senators but with the community.”

Hickenlooper’s path to the Democratic nomination is not a simple one. At least 11 other people have declared their candidacy for the seat as well.

  • Daniel Baer, a former diplomat under President Barack Obama and more recently the head of Colorado’s Department of Higher Education.
  • Mike Johnston, a former state senator and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, who served as principal of Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts and an education advisor to President Barack Obama.
  • Alice Madden, a former state House majority leader and 2016 candidate for the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents.
  • Andrew Romanoff, former speaker of the state House and 2010 Senate candidate against Michael Bennet and 2014 House candidate against Mike Coffman.
  • John Walsh, Colorado’s former U.S. attorney appointed by President Barack Obama.
  • Angela Williams, a state senator representing Denver known for her work on business issues.
  • Diana Bray, a clinical psychologist and climate activist from Englewood.
  • Lorena Garcia, Executive Director of Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition, a nonprofit group.
  • Stephany Rose Spaulding, 2018 candidate for U.S. House against Doug Lamborn, pastor, teacher, and community activist.
  • Michelle Ferrigno Warren, an author and a member of the Christian Community Development Association.
  • Trish Zornio, a scientist from Superior.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A recent Emerson poll found in a hypothetical matchup between Gardner and Hickenlooper, Hickenlooper holds a strong 53%-40% lead. Of those polled, 8% are undecided.

(credit: CBS)

RELATED: Poll Shows Three-Way Race Between Democratic Presidential Candidates In Colorado

In a hypothetical Senate matchup between Sen. Cory Gardner and former Governor John Hickenlooper, Hickenlooper holds a strong lead with 53% to 40% for Gardner. 8% are undecided. The key to Hickenlooper’s lead is his strong performance among Independents, among whom he leads Gardner 55% to 34%.

The state Democratic primary will take place next summer.

Ben Warwick