Gov. Hickenlooper’s second term priorities: economy, managing ‘from the middle’

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Photo: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper gives victory speech 2 (AP Photo)
Newly re-elected Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper smiles to applauding supporters as he arrives to deliver his victory speech at the Capitol in Denver, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Hickenlooper, Democrat, won a second term in office, narrowly defeating Republican challenger Bob Beauprez.

Newly re-elected Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says expanding the state’s economic growth to all corners and citizens will be one of his top priorities in his second term.

Hickenlooper was re-elected this week after a contentious campaign that went down to the wire. His opponent, Republican Bob Beauprez, didn’t concede until late Wednesday afternoon.

“He left me a message,” Hickenlooper says. “He just said, ‘There’s still a lot of votes out, but we recognize that things aren’t going to change. And we wish you all the best and we wish all the best for Colorado.’ He could not have been more gracious.”

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In an interview with CPR’s “Colorado Matters,” Hickenlooper says the close nature of the race won’t change his plans for the next four years.

“We knew that this was going to be a tough race and it was a tough race,” Hickenlooper says. “I think the challenge for us, as it always has been, is to really try to manage from the middle. And to make sure both sides of each issue, they don’t just listen to each other, but make sure that they hear each other.”

That promise may be put to the test shortly. Control of the Colorado Legislature could swing to the Republicans after being in Democrats’ hands for the last two years. With tens of thousands of ballots still uncounted in Adams and Jefferson counties, an outcome may not be known until later this week.

The governor noted throughout the campaign that the state’s economy had improved greatly in his first term. But, as CPR News reported earlier this fall, not all of the state’s regions are benefiting equally. Grand Junction, Pueblo, and Colorado Springs are lagging behind the northern Front Range in job growth.

“It hasn’t gotten to all parts of the state, and it hasn’t helped all of our citizens,” Hickenlooper acknowledges. “But I think if we keep working at it, we will continue to make progress and more and more people will benefit from the improving economy.”

Hickenlooper also says he would tackle long-term and veteran unemployment.

Most of his cabinet staff will return for his second term, Hickenlooper says. A “half-dozen folks” are either leaving or considering a move to the private sector, he says.

The governor says he learned “valuable” lessons on the campaign trail from his opponent, including the gift of clarity.

“I think too often, I like to think about an idea, talk about it out loud, enjoy the different nuances of it,” Hickenlooper says. “A lot of people … they want to hear, ‘Here’s the problem. Here’s what I’m going to do. Here’s who’s going to help me do it. And here’s when it’s going to get done.’ "

Money played a big role in the race, with the incumbent outspending his challenger. Hickenlooper spent $5 million to Beauprez’s $2.4 million through Oct. 22. Outside groups poured more money into the race as well, with the Democratic Governor’s Association spending $6 million in attack ads. The Republican Governor’s Association spent more than $5.4 million to attack Hickenlooper on TV, radio and through mailers.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this interview incorrectly stated that less than half of voters didn't vote for Gov. John Hickenlooper. More than half of voters didn't vote for the governor.