DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado’s U.S. Senate race is one of the most highly anticipated in the nation as it could play a key role in the balance of power. Incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is fighting to keep his seat against Democrat John Hickenlooper, the state’s former governor.
Gardner is the only statewide elected official from rural Colorado. He was born and raised in Yuma where his family has owned the tractor dealership for more than a century. Before becoming a senator he served in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.
The non-partisan Lugar Center ranked Gardner the third most bipartisan senator. He has passed more bills than the entire Colorado Congressional delegation combined. President Barack Obama signed half of those bills. Among them was the biggest public lands conservation bill in 50 years, as well as the biggest tax overhaul in more than three decades.
Gardner also helped convince President Donald Trump to put Space Command in Colorado Springs and the Bureau of Land Management Headquarters in Grand Junction. He also pushed through a bill to authorize 811, a national suicide prevention hotline, and called for hearings on coronvirus in January.
During the pandemic, he’s worked to expand teleheatlh, help child care providers, for the payroll protection program and plays to help re-hire laid off workers.
Gardner has bucked the Republican party at times, supporting wind and solar tax credits as well as joining Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet to cosponsor the DREAM Act in 2017.
He has voted for every repeal of the Affordable Care Act but says he supports protection for people with pre-existing conditions.
While Gardner was at first critical of President Trump, he does support the president.
His opponent, John Hickenlooper, spent eight years as the governor of Colorado after first bursting onto the political scene as Denver’s mayor.
During his tenure as governor, he oversaw 13 federally declared disasters for wildfires and historic floods, the Great Recession and the Aurora Theater Shooting.
The Democrat has a reputation of being a consensus builder who is credited with helping rebuild the Colorado economy from one of the worst in the nation to one of the best for job creation when he left.
He used that style to bring the fracking factions to the table, negotiating the first methane capture rule in the country. Hickenlooper also created a task force to help build regulations in an effort to avoid ballot measures.
But he has also filed lawsuits against cities that banned fracking and has also fought for tax increases for education and transportation.
Hickenlooper’s list of achievements in Colorado includes in-state tuition for DREAMers, civil unions for same sex couples and an expansion of Medicaid.
He first ran for the Democratic presidential nomination but turned to the Senate after dropping out.
Geology brought Hickenlooper to Colorado but when that didn’t work out, he joined the group that opened one of the first craft breweries in the state, Wynkoop Brewing.