Wednesday afternoon, the Denver Post reported that GOP Rep. Cory Gardner was jumping into the Republican primary field challenging Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall. Weld County DA Ken Buck, who lost to Michael Bennet in 2010, subsequently announced he was dropping out to run for Gardner’s Fourth District Congressional seat.
Which begs the question: Now that Gardner has decided he wants to be senator from Colorado, has he also decided he doesn’t want to secede from it? Or as the Denver Post asked last fall, does he love Colorado enough to stay a part of it?
The secession question was on the ballot in Gardner’s home county of Weld in November 2013, and he refuses to answer how he voted on it. This would seem somewhat relevant to whether he wants to represent the entire Centennial State in Washington.
As Kyle Clark of 9News cheekily observed on Twitter, “What an eventful day for two of the men who could have been the first Governor of the State of Northern Colorado.”
The secession vote question also bring up a larger set of issues for Gardner, indicative of the problems Republicans have had in Colorado for a decade. If he answers no, he alienates his hard-right Republican base during a Republican primary. If he answers yes, he’ll be explaining himself to the moderate statewide electorate throughout the campaign.
And make no mistake, Gardner’s tea party affiliation puts him at odds with most voters in this state, particularly women voters. If you’re looking for an affable, less gaffe-prone version of Ken Buck, Gardner’s your man.
Like Buck, Gardner has been an enthusiastic supporter of the ballot measures that would give full legal rights to fertilized eggs in the Colorado Constitution, also known as “Personhood.” This proposal would ban abortion in all cases, even for victims of rape and incest, potentially criminalize doctors who terminate life-threatening ectopic pregnancies, and ban many forms of birth control, including the IUD and some types of the Pill. There’s another Personhood measure on the ballot this year, even though the last one lost 70-30 in 2010.
Gardner supported the 2010 Personhood measure, stating in a 9News debate, “I have signed the personhood petition. I’ve taken the petitions to my church, circulating it in my church and have a legislative record that backs up my support for life.” Colorado Right to Life also put Gardner on their list of candidates backing Personhood.
Gardner’s anti-women’s rights record in Congress includes voting multiple times to defund Planned Parenthood including a 2011 Republican amendment that would bar all funding for Planned Parenthood Federation of America or its affiliates. This encompassed Planned Parenthood’s medical programs that provide family planning assistance, contraception, HIV counseling, STD and cancer screenings and other medical care.
Furthermore, Gardner was an original cosponsor of the infamous Republican bill that would have redefined rape. In 2011, Gardner co-sponsored the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortions Act, which would redefine a ban on federal funding for abortions to exempt only “forcible rape” and not “rape” generally - which would exclude statutory rape or instances where the victim was too incapacitated to consent.
So while the players have changed a bit, the problems for Republicans in Colorado remain the same: They can’t find a moderate to win in a primary and they can’t get a hard-right conservative to win in a general.
And Cory Gardner still won’t answer how he voted on secession and which Colorado he wants to represent.