Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that he has no interest in seeking higher political office in 2016.
Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has been mentioned in political circles and on social-media websites as a possible presidential or vice-presidential contender. He was speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual conference of economic, social, political and environmental topics.
“I’m amazed I got elected governor,” said the 61-year-old. “We’ll see what happens in the (2014) re-election. I have no interest in running in 2016, just so we’re absolutely clear.”
Earlier this year, the Huffington Post published stories about gossip surrounding the moderate Colorado governor’s qualifications for president or vice president despite his earlier attempts to dispel the notion that he is interested in pursuing those offices.
Also, there is a “Clinton/Hickenlooper 2016” Facebook site that promotes the possibility of former Secretary of StateHillary Clinton being paired with Hickenlooper on a national ticket, with Clinton on top of it.
Hickenlooper, a former geologist, beer brewer and mayor of Denver, was elected governor in November 2010 and began serving his term in January 2011. He has been listed by the Washington Post as one of the nation’s 10 most popular governors. In 2011, the survey firm Public Policy Polling identified him as the third-most popular sitting governor in the nation.
But a lot has happened since then, as Hickenlooper has taken shots from environmentalists for his support of the practice of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, a method of drilling for natural gas. He also has been criticized as a less-than-smooth public speaker.
During his luncheon interview Thursday at the Aspen Meadows restaurant with Derek Thompson, senior editor for The Atlantic magazine, Hickenlooper said that as a kid he was always been the target of cruel nicknames, like “Poopen-scooper,” and joked that now as an adult he’s been dubbed “Fracken-looper.”
Hickenlooper said that while he understands the state tourism industry’s desire for clean air and water, he’s also sensitive to the nation’s energy needs. He suggested that the key to solving the debate is finding balance between energy production and environmentalism and ensuring that fracking is handled safely.
“In our state constitution, it guarantees the right of access to those people that own mineral rights,” he said. “I don’t blame communities for being upset, … but our constitution guarantees people the right to accesses.”
In other remarks, Hickenlooper said he always has tried to be apolitical. As a businessman and entrepreneur, he always was “repulsed” by government red tape and “cynical” about elected officials, he said.
Hickenlooper said he has hired just as many Republicans as Democrats and that he tries to make decisions “based on facts and evidence,” not political considerations.
He said he recently got into an argument with his young son, Teddy, who asked Hickenlooper why he thinks his job is so difficult.
“You make decisions?” Hickenlooper quoted his son as saying. “Daddy, get the facts, make a decision, check, next.”
“What we try to do,” the governor said, “is get the facts but facts that everybody agrees to. Then you try to make decisions based on those facts and not on the politics, and you get hammered.”
Hickenlooper also addressed the recreational marijuana legislation he recently signed into law. He did not support Amendment 64, the successful statewide referendum on pot legalization last year but agreed to adhere to the will of the people, he said.
“I recognize that the War on Drugs was a disaster,” he said. “But legalizing marijuana is going to have its own set of problems, which we are now realizing.”
Hickenlooper said polls are showing that young teens believe it’s fine to smoke pot, which is much more potent today than it was when he was a youth. He said medical research shows that marijuana can have harmful and lasting effects on teens and their memory.
The former brewpub owner noted that he was in support of legislation that allows law enforcement to take a blood sample from those they suspect of driving under the influence of marijuana.
“We will be every bit as restrictive (as we are on alcohol),” Hickenlooper said. “I don’t see any other way to do it.”
Thompson asked Hickenlooper if he saw marijuana as a business opportunity.
“I’m happy being governor,” Hickenlooper quipped.