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Hickenlooper banking on executive experience to become president

9NEWS political reporter Marshall Zelinger sat down with the former Colorado governor to talk about his upcoming campaign for the 2020 presidency.

DENVER — One day after announcing he's officially running for president, John Hickenlooper must be relaxed.

Colorado's former governor slept about six hours before appearing on 9NEWS for a live 6:45 a.m. interview.

RELATED: 'I'm running for President': Hickenlooper makes it official

In his debut campaign video, the new Democratic presidential candidate said he was running because "we're facing a crisis that threatens everything we stand for." During that section of the video, President Donald Trump appeared on screen when he said "crisis," but Hickenlooper never described the crisis.

"I think the crisis right now is a crisis of division ," Hickenlooper said. "This goes back way before President Trump was elected. I think we're facing the worst divided consciousness; the entire country is divided as bad as it's been since the Civil War.

"I think what we've done in Colorado, again and again, is been able to show people that we can take on the really challenging issues, bring people together and then actually get things done and get things accomplished."

That concept of being a doer who gets people in the same room is a trait Hickenlooper has brought up in multiple visits to Iowa and a trip to New Hampshire, two states that make the first decisions -- Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary -- in the 2020 race.

But is that what's missing from Washington, D.C.? Someone who hasn't yet come up with the idea to get people of opposing mindsets in the same room?

"That's part of it, but it's also that executive experience that I have. I ran restaurants for 15 years, and then I was a mayor for eight years and a governor for eight years," Hickenlooper said. "That executive experience really drives me towards assembling teams of people that are really talented. The truth be known, the one thing I'm really good at, the thing that I'm best at, is finding people from business, from academia, from non-profits, putting together talented teams."

In his campaign video, he highlighted getting compromise with the oil and gas industry in Colorado.

WATCH: Truth Testing Hickenlooper's presidential campaign announcement

"We brought environmentalists and oil and gas companies to the table to create the toughest emissions laws in the country," said Hickenlooper.

Later on Tuesday, state lawmakers will start debating SB19-181, which would reform how oil and gas operates and gets regulated in Colorado.

At a news conference announcing the bill on Thursday, Sen. Stephen Fenberg (D-Boulder) said: "It's been over 60 years since meaningful changes have been made to our oil and gas laws."

Have Colorado Democrats forgotten Hickenlooper's work, or is he overselling what he's done?

"Oh, I don't think we're overselling," Hickenlooper said. "When we were able to get the oil and gas industry to come together with the environmental community, and over 14 months, create the first comprehensive methane regulations in the United States, the equivalent of taking 320,000 automobiles a year off the road, that's being rolled out as national policy in Canada, California's now rolling it out. 

"When's the last time California followed another state in terms of environmental issues? They're looking at the things like flowlines, which we made a lot of progress on. Evidently, they don't think it was sufficiently sweeping. The level of success that we had, in terms of addressing climate change in a comprehensive and powerful way, I'd match it with any state in the country."

To stand out in a Democratic field of a dozen official candidates, Hickenlooper appears to be selling himself as a progressive, but does not want to be labeled.

"I resist all the categories, and I think all the voters resist all the categories as well. I look at it, I get stuff done," said Hickenlooper.

His emphasis on getting things done and being an executive sheds light on why he is full throttle on running for president and sidestepping an opportunity to run for U.S. Senate, to take on Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) in 2020.

Asked what scenario would say to him that running for president may not be for him anymore, he double downed on his candidacy.

"I've made a pretty strong commitment here, and I think that I am really focused on, 'How do we bring this country together?' And I can't imagine anything really that would slow me down," said Hickenlooper.

His official announcement came on Mar. 4. In Iowa on Feb. 23, he was telling voters he hadn’t decided. His campaign video was shot at Wynkoop Brewing Company and The Trading Post at Red Rocks on Feb. 19, including the line that said, "I'm running for President."

"To be very blunt, I hadn't made up my mind then," Hickenlooper said with a laugh. "I think we do start the clock, there's a legal clock, what point you can use this money or that money, I think the clock starts then. To be quite honest, even as we recorded it, I was in my mind, if I wasn't going to do this, there was an escape route."

Before he goes to campaign in Iowa for a fourth time on Friday and Saturday, he'll host an event at Civic Center Park on Thursday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. In the past, he's had The Fray and OneRepublic play at his political events, but this one will feature Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. 

Asked if there is a strategy of picking a specific band to attract a certain voter, Hickenlooper said no.

"We didn't focus group that," he said. "I've known Nathaniel, he's kind of a homegrown talent just like I am."

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