ANGELA WILLIAMS: This is a race for the US Senate, not a coronation

This week, my friend and Colorado’s former governor John Hickenlooper decided to return from the cornfields of Iowa to the Rocky Mountains to enter the next race of his long political career. During his short-lived presidential campaign, Governor Hickenlooper ran hard against the strong progressive energy in our party right now, and away from the big, bold, progressive solutions that our state and our country need. After spending the first half of this year campaigning against progressive ideas, he has some serious explaining to do to Colorado voters.

First of all, Governor Hickenlooper needs to answer for his record and his refusal to fully embrace and support progressive solutions not just as a presidential candidate, but as governor of Colorado. Many of us who are already in this race have tried to advance progressive legislation that Governor Hickenlooper failed to champion, and had to be pressured to sign. As for me, I sent Governor Hickenlooper a bill to expand the collective bargaining rights of Colorado’s firefighters, and he refused to sign it unless we watered it down. I also had to fight against his dubious efforts to expand funding for private prisons. I also watched with dismay as he worked from the shadows to kill my bill to study the state procurement contracting process for women, minorities, LGBTQ and disabled small business owners.  Rather than embrace these solutions, the governor time and time again watered down good progressive bills and often times still had to be pressured to sign them into law. His small, “baby steps” approach to governing will not achieve the fundamental change we need to support working families in this country Colorado deserves better.

Second, Governor Hickenlooper needs to answer for his decision, as a presidential candidate, to play right into the hands of Republicans and criticize progressive solutions as socialism. It is not socialism to want to expand health care access and reduce costs for every citizen in this state, with the federal government’s help. It is not socialist to propose sweeping changes to our fossil fuel economy, preserving our land and water for ranchers, farmers, and future generations. When we Democrats label and attack progressive solutions as “socialist,” we adopt the tired scare tactics that conservatives have used to decrease the appeal of otherwise popular ideas in an effort to win elections, or defeat Democratic policy proposals.

Third, Governor Hickenlooper has to answer for his failure to propose any real way of actually getting bills passed and things done in Washington. Republicans have bottled up progressive solutions for far too long, using arcane rules to block our ideas, but then skirting them to try to take health care away from Americans, or make deep cuts to programs that millions of families rely on. Enough is enough. On the campaign trail, Governor Hickenlooper didn’t offer a single idea to get his ideas actually passed into law. If I’m elected, I’ll work with anyone on the other side who is willing to work with me and, if gridlock, I’ll proudly vote to change the rules to make sure the senate works.

Finally, it’s clear that Governor Hickenlooper is considering running for the senate only because his presidential ambitions didn’t work out, not because he actually wants the job. When CNN asked him about running for the senate he said, “the Senate doesn’t attract me. It just doesn’t attract me.” Governor Hickenlooper needs to explain why the senate is suddenly good enough for him now, if it wasn’t before.

I’m running for the United States Senate because I believe it would be an incredible honor to serve the people of Colorado from that chamber, not because it’s a consolation prize. I’m running because it’s long past time that Colorado’s women and people of color have a senator who knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Governor Hickenlooper has spent the first half of this year running around the country demeaning and attacking the progressive values that I and so many Democrats in Colorado hold dear. Now that he’s coming back to Colorado to run for the senate, he has to answer for that.

Democratic State Sen. Angela Williams from Denver is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate.