Gov. John Hickenlooper Forms Political Action Committee To Raise National Profile

<p>Hart Van Denburg/CPR News</p>
<p>Gov. John Hickenlooper in his office Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017.</p>
Photo: Governor John Hickenlooper 9-20-17 CM 2
Gov. John Hickenlooper in his office Wednesday Sept. 20, 2017.

Gov. John Hickenlooper has formed a political action committee, called Giddy Up, to get more involved in national politics as he contemplates a run for president in 2020.

Despite the announcement, Hickenlooper said his decision on a possible presidential run won’t come until after he leaves office in January. He's term limited and cannot run again in Colorado. Hickenlooper confirmed the move to CPR News during his monthly interview with CPR's Colorado Matters.

Asked about why he's still making up his mind, Hickenlooper said, "it really is something that once you do it, it's full time, seven days a week, 70 hours, 80 hours a week for, quite possibly, two years. And I think when you make that kind of commitment you better have thought of all the ramifications... not just for myself, but for my family."

In the meantime, today's announcement is a significant step in Hickenlooper's long-running flirtation with a presidential bid.

"The leadership PAC allows me to develop policy, it helps me travel. It allows me to support other candidates," he said.

Hickenlooper named Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor in Georgia, as a candidate who has impressed him as being socially progressive and business-friendly. Campaign finance law bars Hickenlooper's PAC from participating in Colorado races.

"I think there's still a lot of stuff we've done in Colorado that is good for a national model," Hickenlooper said. And he thinks there's a need for a national change in tone. "It seems the conversations that are taking place aren't the right ones. We're not talking about how to bring people together, we're still attacking and dividing people. What Colorado's done is about working togethercollaborating at the speed of trust, as we've said."

Hickenlooper has staked out positions on some high profile national issues already.

In this year's Masterpiece Cake Shop case that went before the U.S. Supreme Court, he came down squarely on the side of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which found that cake shop owner Jack Phillips discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to bake them a wedding cake. Phillips cited his religious beliefs.

The Supreme Court found in favor of Phillips. The justices' deliberations focused on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's handling of the case, said University of Denver law professor Nancy Leong, not the conflict between religious freedom and gay rights.

Hickenlooper said he believes in religious freedom and freedom of expression, but "just because you don't agree with someone's religion, I don't think means that you should be able to deny them service, or deny them goods. That doesn't seem American. It doesn't seem Coloradan."

"If you're making someone a cake or you're making a bicycle, it's something that you do every day for a broad cross-section of people and it's open to the public, I don't think there should be bias involved in who you choose to serve and who you don't."

In another contentious issue, Hickenlooper said earlier this year he would not send Colorado National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border if asked by President Trump, because of his concerns about the administration’s practices of separating families.

“It is deeply troubling the U.S. government would participate in such inhumane actions,” the governor said in the executive order. “The state of Colorado is a safe and welcoming place for all its residents.”