Cory Gardner’s 1st Senate Campaign Attack Ad Piles On Hickenlooper

Updated 12:40 p.m.

Weeks after a six-figure ad buy that highlighted his pandemic recovery efforts, the campaign of Sen. Cory Gardner has run its first attack ad. Democrat John Hickenlooper’s own words are used against him in the ad simply titled “Delight.”

The new six-figure ad buy will run on television stations across Colorado for the next two weeks. It features the Republican sitting in what looks like a therapist's chair looking at a TV screen which shows a series of news clips from Hickenlooper, the former governor and presidential candidate discussing a possible Senate bid. 

“Being a Senator would be meaningful, but I’d hate it.”

“I don’t think I’m cut out for that.”

“It would be a huge sacrifice.” 

“The Senate doesn’t attract me at this point, it just doesn’t attract me.” 

“It wouldn’t bring me any kind of satisfaction or delight.”

In the ad, Gardner at times shakes his head and then speaks directly to the camera, “This guy has a lot to work through here. He thinks it’s all about him. I’m Cory Gardner, I work hard to be effective with both parties. To do this job, you probably need to want this job.”

The political jab comes weeks before the June 30 primary election where voters will choose between Hickenlooper and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff as the Democratic opponent to Gardner in November.

Democrats were quick to denounce the ad. State Sen. Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, who supports and endorses Hickenlooper’s campaign, tweeted, “Mental health care isn’t a joke. Your ad is.”

Hickenlooper’s campaign said Republicans are running “misleading ads” because Hickenlooper is the strongest candidate to defeat Gardner in November.

“Every public poll taken since John Hickenlooper entered the race shows he holds a double-digit lead over Sen. Cory Gardner,” said campaign manager M.E. Smith.

Hickenlooper is running his own television ad touting how he helped turn around the state’s economy from 40th in the country to the “number one economy in America.”

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also released a different attack ad Tuesday that will run on television stations in Denver. It highlights news clips of Hickenlooper’s violation of the state’s gift laws when he was governor in 2018. The Independent Ethics Commission determined that he should not have accepted rides on a private jet and, separately, in a Maserati limousine. The ad also references when the Commission unanimously voted to hold Hickenlooper in contempt after he skipped an ethics hearing and ignored a subpoena to testify remotely. 

Neither ad mentions the former governor’s latest campaign misstep when a 2014 video surfaced that shows that he compared politicians to slaves. He has since apologized. 

Hickenlooper briefly ran for U.S. President and throughout his final years as governor, his political ambitions were a universal source of speculation in the halls of the state Capitol.

As his presidential campaign faltered, pressure began to mount for Hickenlooper to switch his attention to the Senate race. It was an idea the former governor had dismissed even before joining the presidential race — something the Gardner campaign is now using against him. 

Editor's Note: Sen. Brittany Pettersen has clarified her endorsement of the Hickenlooper campaign and this story was updated to reflect that position.

Colorado Public Radio, The Denver Post and Denver 7 will host a debate between Democratic candidates John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff on June 16 at 6 p.m. The debate will air live on CPR News.