Dan Baer, who had hoped to become the first out gay man elected to the U.S. Senate, is suspending his campaign for the Democratic nomination from Colorado and endorsing former Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Hickenlooper is widely viewed as the Democrat most likely to defeat Cory Gardner, a Republican incumbent who is considered vulnerable in the 2020 election.
"I am suspending my campaign for the U.S. Senate and endorsing John Hickenlooper as the candidate who will beat Cory Gardner next November," Baer announced today in a YouTube video. "We must win this seat!"
Hickenlooper announced last month that he was entering the Senate race, having suspended his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Baer's exit leaves nine candidates seeking the Dems' nomination for senator from Colorado, with two others having left in the last few days. Hickenlooper is heavily favored to win the Senate nomination, and an Emerson College poll in August found voters supporting him over Gardner by 53 percent to 40 percent. Gardner was elected to the Senate in 2014, unseating Democratic incumbent Mark Udall.
Baer worked for the U.S. State Department when Hillary Clinton was secretary, and he helped craft her famous "gay rights are human rights" speech, delivered before the United Nations in Geneva in December 2011. He has also been U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, making him the nation's youngest-ever ambassador and only the fourth member of the LGBTQ community to serve in such a post. After Baer returned to Colorado, Hickenlooper, then governor, appointed him executive director of the state's Department of Higher Education.
Hickenlooper issued the following statement: "Robin [Hickenlooper's wife] and I are grateful for our friendship with Dan and Brian [Walsh, Baer's husband] and I'm glad to have his support. He is a genuine public servant. From working with Secretary Clinton on her famous LGBTQ human rights speech to working with me when I was governor to tackle equity challenges in education, Dan's career has been about making more things possible for more people. His history-making, record-breaking campaign won't be the last we hear from him."
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Catherine Cortez Masto also praised Baer's decision, releasing a statement saying, "Dan Baer made this decision for the good of Colorado and the country. He ran a strong campaign and has a great future."
Baer raised more than $1 million in the first quarter of his campaign, a record for any out candidate. When Hickenlooper entered the Senate race, Baer said he intended to stay in, but today he told Denver TV station KUSA that the odds have changed.
"I still believe that I had a strong candidacy and a strong case to make," Baer said in an interview with the station. "I now think it's clear that John will be our candidate."
"To stay in just to be a sparring partner is perhaps an act of service greater than I'm willing to make for the time being," he added. "I can also make a contribution from the outside."
He also joked that he might switch races with Hickenlooper. "I'm here to announce a Reverse Hickenlooper," Baer said. "There seems to be an opening in the presidential race."
More seriously, in his YouTube video, he concluded, "Breaking barriers is rarely achieved by one campaign. It's never only one person who rises to meet a moment. We are in this together, the fight for progress goes on, and I hope to continue to serve Colorado and our country on the road ahead."
Watch Baer's YouTube video and KUSA interview below.