Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper won the Democratic nomination Tuesday to face Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in November, overcoming a series of stumbles and beating back a challenge from his left. Hickenlooper's defeat of former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff was the second win by a centrist Democrat in a Senate primary Tuesday, after a late vote count from last week's Kentucky Senate primary gave Amy McGrath the win over State Rep. Charles Booker. Romanoff is a former moderate who turned himself into a populist, running against the moderate favorite of the Democratic establishment and promising a Green New Deal and single-payer health care. But he could not overcome both Hickenlooper's immense financial edge—the former governor out-raised Romanoff by about 7-to-1—and his deep name ID and reservoir of goodwill among voters stemming from two terms in the governor's mansion, the AP reports.
That's why Senate Democrats recruited Hickenlooper, 68, to take on Gardner, widely seen as the most vulnerable Republican in the Senate. Democrats need to net three seats in November to win control of the chamber if they win the White House, and they see Colorado as their most promising opportunity. No Republican has won a statewide election in Colorado since 2014, when Gardner won by less than 2 percentage points in a strong year for Republicans. Hickenlooper was reelected as governor that year by a wider margin. Gardner called Hickenlooper “the most corrupt governor in the history of Colorado.” It was a reference to the state ethics commission finding in early June that Hickenlooper violated the state's ethics law by failing to reimburse for a private plane flight and limousine ride while he was governor. Hickenlooper had refused to testify during a virtual hearing, insisting on an in-person one, earning a contempt citation from the nonpartisan commission. (Read more John Hickenlooper stories.)