John Hickenlooper booed for saying 'socialism is not the answer'

Crowd jeers over health care, climate change views

By Jasmine Wright and Kyung Lah, CNN
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidate Gov. John Hickenlooper speaks during the California Democrats 2019 State Convention on June 01, 2019, in San Francisco, California.

(CNN) - The welcoming cheers 2020 presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper received when he first graced the stage at California's Democratic Convention quickly crumbled into boos and jeers after he rejected socialism as the answer to Democrats' problems.

"If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer," Hickenlooper said to a crowd of more than 4,500 delegates and observers on Saturday.

Before he could get finish his next sentence, a chorus of boos along with a sea of waving "Bernie" signs overtook his speech, lasting for more than 30 seconds. The moment prompted Hickenlooper to attempt a smile and eventually break from his remarks to add, "You know, if we're not careful, we're going to end up helping to re-elect the worst president in history."

The former Colorado governor is one of 15 Democratic candidates to address the San Francisco crowd, which is known to be home to some of the party's furthest left progressives.

The moment seemed to pass until Hickenlooper started to speak about "pragmatism."

"We shouldn't try to achieve universal coverage by removing private insurance from over 150 million Americans," he said to growing boos. "We should not try to tackle climate change by guaranteeing every American a government job."

"Hold on, hold on," Hickenlooper pleaded with the crowd in an attempt to finish his speech. "I want to give Americans a reason to look forward tomorrow. As president, I will make healthcare a right, not a privilege with a real public option."

At the end of his seven minutes, "Good Life" by the band OneRepublic played Hickenlooper off as Sanders supporters once again held up their "Bernie" signs and waved him goodbye.

The latest polls have Hickenlooper floating around 1%, among the lowest in the 23-person Democratic field.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee then took the stage at the Moscone Center next and proudly said, "I am a governor who doesn't think we should be ashamed of our progressive values" to roaring applause.

In an interview with CNN after his remarks, Hickenlooper said, "We had no illusions that everyone was going to embrace the message. We thought it was important to say, right? Not everyone in the party is going to rally to that perception but I feel that it needed to be said."

Still, the moderate candidate referenced the progress Colorado has made under his leadership toward universal healthcare, more strict gun laws and becoming the number one economy in America.

"This is all through collaboration," he told CNN. "Business and nonprofits. It's Republicans and Democrats. Getting everybody to work. And I think that message that we can achieve progressive goals without this very ideological purity, I think that's a message that people have to hear."

CNN's Paul LeBlanc contributed to this report.

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