Cory Gardner was between a government meeting with local officials in Douglas County, a hailstorm and running for U.S. Senate on Friday afternoon. He has to return to Washington on Monday after time with his family and time making the case for why he, and Republicans, deserve more time in control of the country.
He also is on the cusp of passing perhaps his greatest achievement in Washington, as either a two-term U.S. House member or one term in the Senate, the Great American Outdoors Act.
The meeting included Castle Rock City Council members, Douglas County commissioners and parks and recreation leaders to talk about the guaranteed source of money Gardner’s bill would deliver.
The bill includes funding and safeguards for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the pool of money from oil and gas leases that supports national parks. The legislation puts $20 billion into a backlog of public lands needs across the country.
“I think a lot of people look at the Great American Outdoors Act and recognize the impact it’s going to have on our national parks and forests, but a significant chunk of Land and Water Conservation funding is going to go to parks in urban areas,” Gardner said in a phone call after the meeting.
Though he is one of the most targeted Republican senators in the country this year, his bill is applauded by Democrats and environmental groups that normally beat up on Republicans. Gardner expects it to clear the House in July. President Trump, at least now, appears ready to sign it.
Gardner waits to find out officially whether former Gov. John Hickenlooper or his more liberal counterpart Andrew Romanoff emerges from Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
Asked for a forecast, he hit stride quickly: “You’ve got the most radical nominee the Democratic Party has ever put forward no matter who it is.”
He said both want to ban oil and gas and support the Green New Deal. Romanoff does, but Hickenlooper has a history of compromising with the industry and has said in debates he opposes the Green New Deal, particularly its guarantee of government jobs for those displaced by the transition to renewable energy.
“They both want socialized medicine,” Gardner said, though Hickenlooper has said he opposes Medicare of All, which Romanoff supports. “No matter who it is, Colorado has never seen a more radical Democrat candidate than who they put forward.”
But Trump? Gardner will have to answer for the president’s policies and antics, which polling suggests aren’t popular in this blue-trending state Trump lost by 5 points in 2016. Colorado also is a state recovering from the pandemic that passed police reforms through the legislature nearly unanimously this month.
Gardner has to balance embracing his party and president with his need to look independent, especially after the president gave the Eastern Plains senator his “complete and total support and endorsement” during a February 20 appearance in Colorado Springs.
Gardner said his campaign won’t change, no matter what.
“Either way, we’re going to be talking about my accomplishments,” the incumbent said. “If it’s John Hickenlooper we’re going to be talking about how he’s lied to the people of Colorado, that his actions broke the law of Colorado, and he’s got more to answer for with the people.”
“I’m going to fight for Colorado,” he said in response to the question asked a second time. “That’s exactly what I have done. That’s exactly what I’ll continue to do. I was in Colorado Springs last night talking about Space Command, and that’s good for Colorado. I was on the floor of the Senate talking about more enforcement on North Korea.
“I’m going to be talking about what’s good for Colorado and voting for Colorado no matter who’s in the White House.”
The key issue in this election is going to be the economy, Gardner predicted.
“People are concerned about the economy, they’re concerned about their jobs, they’re concerned about the pandemic," he said. "You look at where we were before the pandemic; how do we get back to it? Low unemployment, wage growth, jobs being created. And they're going to look at the ideas the candidates have to get back to that."
Gardner said Friday evening he had Zoom meetings all over the state, and the campaign is adjusting to how to hit the road and the meet the voters in the age of COVID-19, starting with studying up on local laws and guidelines for COVID-19, he said.
He said he wore a mask Friday night when he was in proximity of others, and he'll do that out campaigning as well.
“We’ll be getting out and about all of the state,” he said. “We’re following the law and campaigning.”
Gardner is expected to speak to the Colorado Business Roundtable in a Zoom conference Thursday at 9 a.m.
Besides the federal response to COVID-19, Gardner is expected to address the Great American Outdoors Act, the 9-8-8 Suicide Hotline he worked on and other issues the business organization is interested in.
Register for the online talk by clicking here.
This story is from Colorado Politics, a statewide political and public policy news journal. Used by permission. For more, visit coloradopolitics.com.
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