Departing advisers urged John Hickenlooper to quit White House race: source

(Reuters) - Five senior advisers are leaving the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign of Democrat John Hickenlooper after staff urged the former Colorado governor to quit the race as his fundraising flounders, a source with knowledge of the situation said.

FILE PHOTO: Author Marianne Williamson and former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper debate during the second night of the first U.S. Democratic presidential candidates 2020 election debate in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 27, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Hickenlooper’s campaign confirmed the departures on Tuesday. On Monday, the candidate announced he was hiring M.E. Smith to succeed former campaign manager Bradley Komar.

The centrist former governor, one of 25 Democrats seeking the party’s nomination to run against incumbent Republican Donald Trump, would not quit, the source said.

Asked whether his staff were let go or quit, Hickenlooper, 67, told MSNBC on Tuesday that it was “a combination of the two - we felt that it was time to make a change.”

“I used to be in the restaurant business and it’s a little bit like putting a restaurant together. Sometimes you don’t quite get the right team in at the right time,” he said.

Staff members discussed the state of the campaign with Hickenlooper at a June meeting, advising him to find a graceful way to bow out of the November 2020 White House contest, said the source, who asked not to be named in order to speak freely.

The campaign has not commented on the June meeting or the fundraising figure, and did not make Smith immediately available to respond.

Hickenlooper brought in donations of $1.1 million the last three months, half of his haul in the first quarter of 2019, the source said. Rivals U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, announced $18 million and $24.8 million in donations, respectively.

Hickenlooper, who also served as mayor of Denver and made his fortune as a brew-pub owner, has sought to distinguish himself in the crowded Democratic field as a moderate who opposes what he calls the socialist policies backed by Sanders.

Hickenlooper’s campaign has yet to announce his fundraising for the second quarter, which ended on Sunday. Campaigns must submit reports for the quarter by July 15.

He positions himself as someone who as Colorado governor enacted progressive policies with a bipartisan approach.

Others leaving his campaign include finance director Dan Sorenson, who is going to work for the presidential campaign of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke; communications director Lauren Hitt; digital director John Schueler and New Hampshire political director Nolan Varee.

Reporting by Sharon Bernstein; editing by Colleen Jenkins and Howard Goller