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As election nears, Hickenlooper seeks return to centrist image, focuses on jobs

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John Hickenlooper was elected as a moderate Democrat in 2010. In 2012 his popularity rating plummeted as he supported unpopular gun control bills and postponed the execution of Chuck E Cheese killer Nathan Dunlap. With the election less than nine months away, however, he seeks to return to his “moderate” label and to emphasize the economy, though the economic growth since his election was largely due to fracking and had little to do with his leadership.

Hickenlooper was elected in a unique three-way race in 2010. He remained one of the more popular governors in America through the end of 2012, governing with a mixed legislature and staying out of controversial arguments, even in the wake of the Aurora theater shooting that year. That November, though, thanks to a corrupt redistricting plan, Colorado’s State Legislature went from mixed to blue. By March, Hickenlooper’s ratings had dropped by 20 points, his “moderate” image was gone, and the state was bitterly divided.

The gun control bills which he signed into law – after rejecting a gun control debate just months before – led to the recalls of two State Senators (the first in Colorado history) and the resignation of another. Five counties voted to secede in the last election, with an additional six putting the issue on the ballot. Derogatory statements about Colorado’s rural population – one comparing them to Matthew Shepard's killers – lingered, and even the expensive new state logo drew criticism.

As the midterm elections approach, though, Hickenlooper’s poll numbers have begun to creep up again. His attention has shifted back to less controversial issues, such as the economy, a subject on which he polls well.

Colorado’s economy is, indeed, growing, but this is not due to Hickenlooper’s leadership. Fracking has been drawing thousands of jobs and billions in revenue to the state, and the industry really started to take off in 2009. This, added to an already booming tech industry, ensures that the economy will remain strong regardless of who wins the governor race.

Lots of things can change in the next governor’s term. The state can become more united or more divided. The state can continue to trend left on social, second amendment, and other issues of rights and freedoms. Taxes, regulation, education – these are crucial years for the controversial Common Core program – all can change drastically due to government leadership. The one thing that’s not going to change because of the actions of a governor is the economy, and tellingly, that is what John Hickenlooper is basing his reelection campaign on.

For more articles by Sarah Tanksalvala, click here. For continuing notifications of Boulder County political news, subscribe to email alerts, or follow STanksalvala on Twitter.

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