Gardner faces angry assembly with coal mine not on its mind
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine but which focused on anything but, as an unruly-at-times crowd pressed the Republican on health care.
“Why on earth did you vote for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?” one man asked Gardner to cheers.
“Seven years ago, when I ran for Congress, I said that I would vote to repeal and replace Obamacare, and I’m going to continue to live up to the promise that I made,” Gardner said, being yelled down. “The reason is: The Affordable Care Act isn’t working.”
Gardner has been chastised for months by liberal activists for failing to hold an in-person town hall with his constituents, and his first such appearance in more than a year was full of fireworks.
The first-term senator was joined by Democrats U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Gov. John Hickenlooper, as well as Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez, who together earlier in the day toured the Gold King site with Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt on the eve of the site’s massive wastewater spill two years ago.
But not one question at the filled town hall was about Gold King, and Gardner — and at times Tipton — were the main focus of everyone there.
“I take it there are a lot of Donald Trump supporters in the room here,” Gardner joked as one person in the audience booed and others jeered.
During a telephone town hall Wednesday night that drew about 6,000 people, Gardner also faced questions about health care. Last week, he cast votes in favor of every major Republican proposal to undo the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — from repeal-and-replace to repeal-and-delay.
Friday’s group of politicians took questions from people randomly picked from the crowd for about 45 minutes before the event broke. Gardner and Bennet stayed more than an hour after the scheduled end of the event to continue talking with constituents side by side.
One man used his floor time to ask Gardner and Tipton when they would return for a longer, individual town hall with voters. “This venue is entirely too small,” the man complained. “The amount of notice we were given was under 24 hours, and it’s in the middle of the workday.”
“It’s great to see you face to face!” Gardner said, laughing. “We’re here to answer questions,” adding that he didn’t have his schedule in front of him but that he would hold more constituent meetings.
Tipton said he has had other town halls in his district, which includes Durango, and that he is working through the 29 counties his constituents live in.
“We will have one,” he said. “That’s a promise.”