UPDATE: Littleton City Council member Kyle Schlachter was caught unawares:
I was not aware of the visit until after the fact…
— Kyle Schlachter (@Kyle4Littleton) June 24, 2019
Apparently, you’ve got to be very lucky.
A story from yesterday’s Englewood Herald, one of the many small newspapers published by Colorado Community Media, offers a fascinating look at a recent unannounced–or at least under-announced–visit by Sen. Cory Gardner to the south Denver metro suburb of Littleton. Reporting on a visit that nobody we’ve spoken to seems to have even known took place last Monday, reporter David Gilbert documents a tough tour for Gardner, hit with hard unscripted questions from Coloradans who needed no prodding from the “paid protesters” Gardner insists are shadowing his every step:
Gardner’s tour in downtown Littleton on June 17 started at Dirt Coffee, where founder Lauren Burgess told the senator that Medicaid is vital for the shop’s employees, who are primarily on the autism spectrum or have other intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“Disability is the only minority group that any of us can join,” Burgess told Gardner. “Our world is all about Medicaid.”
Gardner did not respond at length to Burgess, but thanked her for her support for people with disabilities. [Pols emphasis]
Back in 2014 during Gardner’s run for the U.S. Senate, Politico profiled the race and accompanied Gardner on a trip to visit Meals of Wheels patients. Confronted with a patient who warned Gardner that her life depended on Medicaid, Gardner responded confidently “we got to protect Medicaid.” The problem is that Gardner had voted before in the House and many times in the Senate after 2014 to gut Medicaid funding. We’ve often thought a follow-up with that Medicaid patient, assuming she’s still with us, would be newsworthy–but at least Gardner learned enough from that experience to not make any promises this time.
On the issue of climate change, Gardner trotted out what we assume will be his go-to line for 2020:
[Bradford Auto Body owner Mickey] Kempf said nearly two-thirds of his shop’s business is repairing hail damage, which he said is getting worse in recent years — a problem he said may be partly the result of climate change.
“Climate change is real, and we have to address it without destroying the economy,” Gardner said when asked about Kempf’s observation. [Pols emphasis]
It’s a textbook Cory Gardner response: to the left of wholesale denialism of climate change, which is simply no longer a viable position in statewide Colorado politics, but without any definitive statement beyond the negative commitment to not “destroy the economy” while addressing the problem. Whether you buy into this coming from Sen. Gardner depends on how trustworthy you consider Gardner to be–and if the polls are right that’s pretty far from a majority. And of course, does even a duplicitous acknowledgment of climate change cost Gardner more base GOP support than it attracts swing voters?
There’s a lot more we could say about this story. It’s clear that Gardner’s strategy of no-notice appearances is not enough to shield him from criticism, which is widespread enough that it doesn’t have to be marshaled by anyone. Certainly these hard questions and Gardner’s weak answers are news beyond the small circulation of the Colorado Community News publications. We’re pretty sure there are a lot of reporters writing for much bigger outlets who would kill to have this kind of access. After all, Gardner is the most vulnerable Republican U.S. Senator in 2020.
Suffice to say, this story shows why Sen. Gardner feels the need to sneak around.