Gov. John Hickenlooper and his wife, Helen Thorpe, announced Tuesday they are separating after 10 years of marriage, but plan to remain a family that spends a "great deal of time together."
In a joint statement, they stressed there was no affair and that they had tried "extended counseling." They also said the decision to separate is "unrelated to the difficult events Colorado has faced this summer," referring to wildfires and the shooting at an Aurora theater where 12 people died and 58 were wounded.
Hickenlooper plans to live in the Governor's Mansion, but will continue to spend time with their 10-year-old son, Teddy, at their home in east Denver.
Longtime political observers noted that Thorpe has never been one to embrace the "first lady" title, whether it was during Hickenlooper's tenure as Denver mayor or as governor. They also said her husband's political career likely stifled her endeavors as a journalist and author.
Hickenlooper and Thorpe said in their statement that they intend to "continue functioning as a family that spends a great deal of time together."
"In fact, we will embark on our annual family vacation together this week, share meals often, and plan to spend holidays together," they said. "You can continue to expect to see both of us out in the community - sometimes together, sometimes solo. Please feel free to include both of us in social gatherings as we will not find it awkward."
Hickenlooper for months has been talked about as a potential Democratic nominee for president in 2016.
Former Colorado Republican Party chairman Dick Wadhams said "short of some scandal," a separation or divorce isn't likely to change rumors about Hickenlooper's political future.
"When you look at the field, John Hickenlooper would have as much a shot as any Democrat in the country," Wadhams said.
Wadhams served as the campaign manager for Republican Bill Owens, who became Colorado governor in 1999. Owens
Gov. John Hickenlooper, First Lady Helen Thorpe and their son, Teddy, in their 2011 Christmas card. (Denver Post file photo)
and his wife, Frances, separated in 2003, reunited in 2005 and divorced after he left office in 2007.
At the time, the separation was viewed as dooming any plans Owens had for higher office - he had been talked about as a potential running mate after an influential conservative publication in 2002 picked Owens as "America's best governor."
Democratic political consultant Steve Welchert of Denver agreed with Wadhams that a separation probably won't hurt Hickenlooper.
"I don't think people's personal lives matter as much any more," Welchert said.
Hickenlooper owned Wynkoop Brewery and other restaurants when he met Thorpe, a journalist from Austin, Texas, in 2001. They married in 2002.
The next year, the
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political neophyte ran for Denver mayor, winning in a landslide. He announced in January 2010 he was running for governor after Democrat Bill Ritter unexpectedly announced he would not seek a second term.
Several times during Hickenlooper's announcement speech, he embraced his wife and talked about how they wrestled with the decision of whether he run for governor. Ritter had talked about the impact on his four children.
Thorpe has been the behind-the-scenes player, helping write the script for Hickenlooper's funky mayoral campaign commercials and the intro his first "state of the state" speech.
Hickenlooper and Thorpe today issued the following statement:
"After years of marriage that have added tremendous love and depth to both of our lives, we have decided to separate. This decision is mutual and amicable.
"We continue to have the utmost respect for each other, and we remain close friends. We intend to continue functioning as a family that spends a great deal of time together. In fact, we will embark on our annual family vacation together this week, share meals often, and plan to spend holidays together.
" You can continue to expect to see both of us out in the community - sometimes together, sometimes solo. Please feel free to include both of us in social gatherings as we will not find it awkward.
"Our chief concern right now is the well-being of our son, so we ask everyone to respect our privacy as we make this transition. While public office made this announcement necessary, it will be the only statement we make on this private matter. We want to thank our friends, family, and community for all of the support you have shown us as a couple and as individuals, and for the support we know you will provide as we move forward."
"Both the Governor and Ms. Thorpe want the public to know that neither has had an affair, that they did seek extended counseling, and that this decision is unrelated to the difficult events Colorado has faced this summer. While the Governor will be moving into the Governor's Mansion, he will also continue to spend time with his son at their private home."