John Hickenlooper meets with the Outdoor Recreation Coalition at Ramblebine Brewery on Saturday.

From discussing his Senate campaign to addressing ethics violations to sampling beer at Ramblebine Brewing Co., John Hickenlooper had a full schedule during his Saturday visit to Grand Junction.

The former governor, challenging incumbent Republican Cory Gardner for a U.S. Senate seat, spoke with The Daily Sentinel about his campaign, his aims in Washington, D.C., and his advertising strategy.

“We told my staff the other day about the ironies that are all through the Trump years,” Hickenlooper said. “We’re facing the worst hard times, and while you’re in the worst hard times, you’ve got to reboot the economy in a way that’s better. A big irony of the Trump administration was that he sold himself as a supporter of rural America, and yet, if you look at corn futures, they are below where they were at in 2017. This year, if you look at total farming… the total farm revenue for 2020 they’re projecting, 35% of total farm revenue will be covered in subsidies. Those, generally, are much more oriented toward the large ag businesses.”

Hickenlooper criticized Gardner and the Trump administration for not expanding broadband access in rural areas. He also painted the picture of a struggling cheese industry under the current administration’s policies.

“The ironies of the rural economy, the fact is that rural America and rural Colorado are significantly worse off now than they were in 2016,” he said. “It should’ve been the opposite. The huge tax break, the huge tax giveaway of 2017, really did very little for working farms.”

Hickenlooper clarified his stance on health care, emphasizing that he prefers a public health insurance option.

He touted that, during his time as Colorado governor, 400,000 residents enrolled in Medicaid and the percentage of those in the state with health insurance rose from 85% to nearly 95%.

“My vision of the future is a public option, hopefully with some sort of sliding scale,” he said. “What a public option does is it allows the American consumer to decide what kind of health care they want. If they want to stay with their private insurance, they can stay with their private insurance. If they can’t find coverage they can afford, they can go into the public option. It can’t be free. The goal is not to be an unfair competitor for insurances.”

Hickenlooper also talked about his ethics violations and the ensuing advertisements that have been aired attacking him. In June, Colorado’s Independent Ethics Commission ordered him to pay $2,750 for two illegal gifts he accepted during his time in office, one a ride on a private jet and the other for a Maserati limousine ride in Italy.

Hickenlooper called the violations “inadvertent, unintentional mistakes.” He also criticized the Colorado Republican Committee for spending $20 million on what he called “attack ads” that he believes misrepresent the situation.

He said he won’t run any such advertisements against Gardner out of principle, saying that such advertisements from either side of the political spectrum harm democracy.

“The attack ads are like Coke and Pepsi,” Hickenlooper said. “Coke hates Pepsi. Pepsi hates Coke. It’s as bad as the environmentalists and the oil and gas industry, which is another story. If Coke attacks Pepsi, Pepsi’s sales are coming down, absolutely. Then Pepsi would have no choice but to attack Coke. Coke sales would go down. You’d end up depressing the sales in the entire product category of soft drinks. We’re depressing the product category of democracy, and what happens when you do this many attack ads is, after the election, it’s hard for people to come together.”

Hickenlooper’s visit to Ramblebine came a day after he hosted a virtual conversation with breweries around Colorado to discuss economic recovery efforts for small businesses such as them. He spoke with brewery owners from Denver, Colorado Springs, Durango and Greeley.

He gave himself the in-person opportunity to add Grand Junction to that list this weekend.

“Just like I did when I was governor, I try to be a fair witness for quick results, someone who doesn’t have a horse in the race, someone who’s going to go and listen to both sides and craft a fair compromise,” Hickenlooper said. “That’s what Washington should be doing. That’s why I want to go to Washington and change it.”

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