DENVER | During a normal year, a Senate candidate in a contentious race dropping off their ballot is complete with cameras, reporters, supporters and an air of excitement, but in 2020 it’s a rather low key event in an effort to lessen the risk of spreading COVID-19.
John Hickenlooper, his wife, Robin, and their dog, Skye, hopped off a small, bright purple bus decked-out with Hickenlooper’s name at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science Saturday morning to drop off their ballots. The occasion took about 10 minutes in all.
“Good luck,” a man in a beanie and face covering told Hickenlooper, waving his ballot and dropping it in the box next.
The moment, in the middle of a worsening pandemic and under hazy skies due to the worst wildfires Colorado has ever seen, was different than Hickenlooper said he imagined it would be when he first started his campaign for U.S. Senate.
The biggest difference?
“The fact that I’m still wearing a mask, everywhere I go. I can’t be with people. I mean, we put that whole parade together, there had to be a car parade. We didn’t get to see each other and say thank you to everyone, and, you know, create that energy,” Hickenlooper said.
“So it’s, it’s a very different way to run a campaign. But it is what it is, right? We’re the middle of a pandemic. I mean, a big reason, a big part of what people are thinking about when they’re voting is that President Trump dismissed this and said, ‘There’s nothing you have to worry about’ last January and February. I would argue (he) was negligent in addressing the risk, and then they were incompetent when they finally did address it,” he said. “So a lot of what people are feeling, and the suffering that’s going on in this country, is a result of this pandemic, and how the White House and the governor of Washington responded to it.”
Just two reporters, a photojournalist and a few campaign staffers were present. A spokesperson for the Hickenlooper campaign previously said it was to keep any sort of crowd to a minimum as COVID-19 case rates are once again rising in Colorado and the Denver metro region.
Even without a crowd, Hickenlooper highlighted the urgency to get ballots returned.
“This is the most important election of our lifetimes,” Hickenlooper said.
As of Friday, 1,436,180 ballots have been returned in Colorado, according to the secretary of state’s office. For the people that haven’t voted yet, Hickenlooper said there’s a lot at stake this year.
“I think this is one of those years where your health care is on the line, our climate is on the line, women’s rights are on the line. Our public lands are on the line, our clean air, clean water is on the line,” he said. “There are an awful lot of issues where there’s a clear division of what we’re saying and what they’re saying.”
Asked specifically about climate priorities if elected, which has become a big question of the former geologist for an oil and gas company, Hickenlooper said defeating the pandemic is at the top of his to-do list.
“Over 220,000 Americans have died. We’ve got to address the public health issues, we’ve also got to discuss the economic issues that affect our economies have been turned upside down by COVID. So as we do that, as we rebuild the economy, we’re going to have to rebuild it toward a greener energy economy,” Hickenlooper said. “And make sure that we have universal health care, the pandemic has shown us that if you don’t make sure that everyone has some health care, we’re all vulnerable when the next virus that comes on board.”