Salazar nods to Hickenlooper

...But will Denver's popular mayor say yes?

By Scot Kersgaard
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper said Wednesday that he would consider a run for governor, but only if Interior Secretary Ken Salazar chooses not to run. A few hours later, Salazar announced he would not run and endorsed Hickenlooper.

Mayor John Hickenlooper was surrounded by “Yes” signs during the 2007 election, but the political world awaits his answer on this year’s gov’s race.

“Colorado needs a strong, experienced leader with optimism and new ideas for carrying our state forward. That is why I am endorsing John Hickenlooper for governor of Colorado,” Salazar said.

“John Hickenlooper is a uniter. He transcends political and geographic divides to bring people together to develop solutions. If he decides to run, he will make an excellent governor for the state of Colorado,” Salazar said.

“I know John and Helen will seriously consider this historic opportunity that will define the future of the state of Colorado and her people.

“This is a personal decision they must make, and I will fully respect that decision. As for me, I have a job to do as secretary of the Interior to implement President Obama’s vision for a clean energy economy and to better protect America’s great outdoors.”

Upon learning of Salazar’s decision and endorsement, Hickenlooper issued a short statement.

“We are very grateful and honored for Secretary Salazar’s support. That doesn’t change our course. My family and I will take appropriate time to consider whether a run for governor is the right thing to do.”

Hickenlooper said when he first heard the rumors that Ritter wasn’t running again Tuesday evening, his first thought was that he hoped everything was all right.

“Then he called me, and he described the process he used to make the decision. Hearing how he made his decision just increased my admiration for him as someone who tries to do the right thing.”

He said Ritter told him that by not running, he would be able to make decisions with as little concern for political fallout as possible.

“You have to admire that,” Hickenlooper said.

Hickenlooper also said that he and his family need a few days to think about the personal ramifications of a gubernatorial campaign.

“I have to think about what is the greatest good for Colorado and what is the greatest good for my family. What are the variables in that equation? How do you make that calculus work? I don’t think it will take a lot of time. I’m talking to you today just to make sure you don’t hound me for the next week.

“I love being mayor. I never anticipated how rewarding that job would be. The governor’s office has it own attractions and challenges. It is a very different job. I want to make the right decision not just for us, but for the state.”

Hickenlooper said the possibility of entering the race didn’t cross his mind when he spoke with Ritter Tuesday and Wednesday.

“I just wanted to make sure he was good with his decision,” Hickenlooper said. “And when I talked to him earlier today, he said ‘You know you’ve made the right decision by how you feel — and I feel great.’”

Scot@coloradostatesman.com