Hickenlooper joins Democratic candidates at meet-and-greet in Dillon

Former Colorado Gov. and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper gestures while speaking during a Democratic Party meet-and-greet at the Dillon Amphitheater in Dillon on Thursday, Sept. 3. The U.S. general election is Nov. 3.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

DILLON — Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper wants you to know that he is not Sen. Cory Gardner’s friend. 

“Cory Gardner is no friend of mine,” Hickenlooper said while speaking at the Dillon Amphitheater on Thursday, Sept. 3. “It’s almost like he’s been studying at the lab of Donald Trump. He says a lie long enough, people begin to believe it.”

Hickenlooper was speaking at a meet-and-greet event for Democratic Party candidates that will appear on Summit County’s November ballot. He was joined by State Rep. Julie McCluskie; Summit County Commissioner candidates Josh Blanchard, Elisabeth Lawrence and Tamara Pogue; and state Senate candidate Karl Hanlon. 

The main message from all the candidates at the event: get out and vote. In his speech, Hickenlooper urged longtime voters to help get others connected in the race. 

“I’m running for the Senate, and I’m running as hard as I’ve ever run for anything in my life,” he said. “This is that moment — for all of us — what we’ve taken for granted is now at risk.”

The event also served as an opportunity for community members to ask the candidates about how they are going to help Summit County. When asked about plans to help the Spanish-speaking and immigrant communities, Pogue said she will be informed by her work as the former executive director of the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. 

“I’m passionate about making sure that these folks have a voice in the conversations and the ability to tell us what their experience is like here,” she said. “I think that starts in a lot of different ways. It starts from all of us taking responsibility to engage, have conversations, to understand the differences between our lived experiences should not be barriers; they should be opportunities for us to come together.”

Hickenlooper pointed to the diversity of his staff during his term as mayor of Denver. He said there should be more focus on bringing diversity into government. 

“We want to make people appreciate the different languages,” Hickenlooper said in an interview after the event. “It makes us stronger. It makes us better. It increases the chances that we’re going to come up with great ideas.”

State Rep. Julie McCluskie speaks during a Democratic Party meet-and-greet at the Dillon Amphitheater in Dillon on Thursday, Sept. 3. McCluskie urged everyone to get out and vote in the Nov. 3 election.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

The candidates also touched on how they will respond to the current novel coronavirus pandemic.

“The reality is right now that we need to be focused on the health and welfare of every single person in (Senate District 8),” Hanlon said. “What has really, for me, come out of the COVID crisis — that started as a public health crisis and is now a financial crisis, a personal crisis for so many people — is how many cracks there are in the system and how many people are on the edge of falling through those cracks.”

Lawrence touched on her work as one of the current county commissioners in mitigating the spread of the virus.

“As a commissioner, I gathered other commissioners from mountain resort communities across the state and said, ‘Hey, we need to figure out a plan for this upcoming winter,’” she said. “We don’t need to wait for the state. We need to come up with a plan and present it. … In Summit County, our economy is on the line, and it’s up to us to be a leader.”

Former Colorado Gov. and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Hickenlooper speaks during a Democratic Party meet-and-greet at the Dillon Amphitheater in Dillon on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Photo by Jason Connolly / Jason Connolly Photography

Blanchard spoke about maintaining a sense of hope in the community as Summit County moves through the pandemic crisis. 

“There seems to be a sense of concern, a sense of fear — for many people a sense of anger,” he said. “Yet at the same time, there is a vision of hope and excitement that we can tackle this. … If anyone can do it, Summit County can do it.”

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McCluskie said that while she continues to focus on climate change, health care and education, the pandemic is a top priority for her as a representative. 

“In this moment, we have to focus on dealing with COVID, supporting working families so they can get through this economic crisis and then dealing with the challenges of a budget that now is $3.3 billion short,” she said. “We’ve protected our social safety net services as best we can. When I go back as a Joint Budget Committee member, I will keep fighting to do that so that the state is doing what it should for the people in Colorado during such a difficult time.”

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