Denver7’s Oscar Contreras reports from Friday night’s “town hall” for Sen. Cory Gardner at Byers Middle School in Denver–an event that Sen. Gardner declined to attend, but was nonetheless headlined by…we’ll let Denver7 explain:
Hundreds of Coloradans have wanted to speak with Sen. Cory Gardner since the beginning of the year. Friday night, he finally granted them that wish – sort of – as a cutout of the Republican senator made an appearance at a local middle school.
About 1,500 people showed up to an “in absentia” town hall meeting at Byers Middle School, where constituents hoped to talk about pressing issues currently affecting them.
“Over 14,000 people have signed a petition requesting a meeting; hundreds of people have either called or protested outside his office requesting the same. But so far, Senator Gardner has said no,” said Katie Farnan, a lead organizer with Indivisible Front Range Resistance, a progressive group.
That’s right–over 1,500 people showed up on a Friday evening at an urban Denver public school with horrible parking (Washington Park, after all) to share their concerns with a cardboard cutout of Sen. Cory Gardner. And as the Denver Post’s Hayley Sanchez reports, the crowd knew it all along:
“I am not a paid protester,” [Christine Robinson of Parker] said while waiting in line, which wrapped around the block of the middle school. “We’re here to send a loud message — to listen to us. He does not want to.” [Pols emphasis]
Robinson said she thinks many Coloradans oppose some of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet selections — including Betsy DeVos, for secretary of Education, and Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency — but Gardner is voting against his constituents’ wishes.
Here’s the two-hour “town hall” in its entirety, with the main event starting just about 20 minutes in:
Gardner did issue a statement about this event Friday, in which he studiously ignored its existence and praised himself for the generally nonpublic appearances he has made in the past week of congressional recess. It was something for the media to print, but nobody who attended this event, or several other Gardner-less “town halls” held this week will find it very satisfying.
What can we add about the bizarre spectacle of over 1,500 people who turned out to talk to a cardboard cutout? Well, it’s a clever way to point out Gardner’s very deliberate lack of accessibility to his Colorado constituents–a point that has been driven home by huge protests outside his offices, and a dramatic confrontation on video this week as Gardner tried and failed to slip into an office building in Interlocken to meet with somebody “more important” than the constituents waiting for him in the lobby.
There’s no question at this point that Gardner has become the local face of developments in GOP-owned Washington, D.C., and the perception that he doesn’t want to answer for what’s happening to the constituents who elected him is politically very damaging. It has begun to stand out among national political observers that Gardner is well out of step with the desires of Colorado voters. It’s true that Gardner will not be up for election until 2020, the same year President Donald Trump will be up for election again. That extra padding of time for Gardner may give him, even after a difficult week like this one, hope that he can triangulate his way through.
But if thousands of people are willing to show up to put “Cardboard Cory” on notice, that’s a bad sign.