SAN FRANCISCO, April 26 (Reuters) - Democratic presidential hopeful John Hickenlooper, a two-time former governor of Colorado, called on Friday for beefing up U.S. anti-trust laws, part of a business-friendly yet progressive agenda he hopes will set him apart among 20 candidates seeking the party's presidential nomination.
His plan, first reported by Reuters, could challenge the dominance of such companies as Amazon.com and Google .
"Capitalism is based upon competition," Hickenlooper, who made his fortune as a small-business owner, said in a wide-ranging interview. "I think we should be aggressively looking at everything we can do to make sure we have more competitive landscapes."
Citing the dominance not only of the big tech companies but of hardware store chains and heavy-handed franchisers, Hickenlooper in his first detailed economic policy proposal said as president he would push for laws limiting such practices as non-compete agreements for employees, and would increase enforcement of laws meant to rein in monopolistic practices.
He called for better data on corporate dominance, and said his administration would more closely examine proposed mergers, possibly unwinding mergers that had already taken place.
Hickenlooper is not the first Democratic candidate to make the dominance of the big tech companies a campaign issue. Senator Elizabeth Warren last month vowed to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook if she is elected president.
Hickenlooper announced his proposal amid a sweep of fundraisers and speeches in Western states, as he seeks to survive in a field dominated by better-known candidates including former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
On Friday, he attended a fundraising breakfast in Silicon Valley before driving to nearby San Francisco for an appearance before a lunchtime crowd at the city's Commonwealth Club.
Hickenlooper blasted the Trump campaign's interactions with Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign, but stopped short of calling for Democrats, who hold a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, to impeach him.
On healthcare, Hickenlooper called for universal coverage and a so-called public option, under which Americans could opt to receive care from a government program or maintain private coverage, rather than moving immediately to the "Medicare-for-All" system that many progressives, including Sanders, have embraced. Medicare-for-All would shift all Americans into a Medicare-based, single-payer healthcare plan.
Eventually, Hickenlooper said, consumers might all move to Medicare, but a plan would be more likely to pass in Congress offering the more incremental step first.
A former entrepreneur who reinvented himself as a bar and restaurant owner after a job layoff, Hickenlooper styles himself as an outsider to Washington politics who brought environmentalists and oil company executives to the table to craft energy policy, and presided over his state's pioneering but complicated transition to legalized marijuana.
In a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Wednesday, Hickenlooper was among several Democratic hopefuls who fell near the bottom of the pack in terms of name recognition. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who had not yet declared his run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination when the poll was conducted, led all other candidates. (Reporting by Sharon Bernstein Editing by Leslie Adler)