With the midterm elections approaching in November, one of the most closely watched Senate races pits Colorado incumbent Democrat Mark Udall against challenger Rep. Cory Gardner.
Pollsters have the race, often a contentious one, pegged as nearly a dead heat. Gardner, 39, of Yuma, was elected to represent the 4th Congressional District in 2010, prior to being a member of the state’s House of Representatives. On Wednesday, he stopped by The Aspen Times offices to present his platform. The following are excerpts from the interview.
Aspen Times: During this midterm election season, Colorado seems to be on the forefront of many hot- button issues. Gun control, immigration, legalization of marijuana, fracking, abortion and so on. This also will likely be one of the most expensive Senate campaigns in the history of Colorado. What do you consider to be the most pressing issue for Colorado?
Cory Gardner: People in Colorado are working harder and harder each day and are finding themselves falling further and further behind each day. The issues in this campaign are economy related; it’s what we’re going to do to get families back to work, what we’re going to do to make college more affordable and grow our economy, responsible energy development. It’s about what we’re doing to protect our environment, and so those are the issues that I hear throughout Colorado — north, south, east and west, whereever I am. It’s about what they’re going to do to better their lives and opportunities.
AT: During this campaign you have said you favor over-the-counter birth-control pills. Is it fair to say you have changed your mind and how do you explain that?
Gardner: Sen. Udall’s lying, and because Sen. Udall can’t run on the economy, on energy, he can’t run on health care, he’s got to run away from those issues. He’s running a very negative and deceptive campaign full of untruths. The first time my wife saw that ad (run by Udall’s campaign) she laughed and said, “Didn’t you used to pick up my prescriptions?” So, Sen. Udall is simply running a campaign to try to run away from everything else.
AT: Then what are the facts?
Gardner: The fact is I support contraception available over the counter without prescription.
AT: Without prescription?
Gardner: Yes, and that’s the key part, and we need to fix Obamacare to allow that to happen. Because right now there’s a provision of Obamacare that prohibits the payment of over-the-counter medication. One provision-change in Obamacare would allow those over-the-counter pharmaceuticals to be paid through in insurance.
AT: Do you believe that women have their own right to make their own choices about health care, specifically abortion?
Gardner: I am pro-life, and I have voted for measures that have exceptions. I think Sen. Udall wants to divide the state of Colorado and not focus on issues of the economy or health care or energy. In fact, I would say this: When it comes to health care, Sen. Udall has said that people shouldn’t be making their own health care choices. He cast one of his votes on Obamacare, a bill passed that took 335,000 Coloradans off the insurance they were promised they could keep. Thousands of women across this state lost the doctor they were promised they could keep. Thousands of women across this state saw their health premiums increase because of Sen. Udall’s vote. And Sen. Udall promised that if you liked your health care, you could keep it; if you liked your doctor, you could keep your doctor. This would lower the cost of health care. So the choice that has been taken away is Sen. Udall’s vote for Obamacare.
AT: Earlier this month you broke rank with the Republicans by voting against a bill that would have dismantled the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival. But in 2013 you voted in favor of a bill that would have ended it. Can you explain your change of heart?
Gardner: Those were two different pieces of legislation at different times, one being an appropriation and one being a stand-alone bill. But the stand-alone bill had broader consequences than anything that we’ve seen before, and if you look at what the legal language could lead to, it could certainly lead to litigation that would affect kids in this country because of the broad nature of the language.
AT: Do you support border security?
Gardner: We do need immigration reform. ... I think in order to pass legislation we do need to have border security. That’s important, but to me, when I say border security I am not just saying border security, which is personnel and physical equipment on the north, south, east and west. It has to be more than that. Border security also includes a meaningful guest-worker program. ... We have to have a meaningful guest-worker program.
AT: Do you support Udall’s legislation to protect the Thompson Divide area from drilling?
Gardner: I know the legislation that Sen. (Michael) Bennet has introduced and Congressman (Scott) Tipton has obviously been working on this issue. ... Federal legislation that affects a local issue, those discussions ought to be led by local stakeholders.
AT: You signed the No Climate Tax Pledge in 2010, and a 2011 House Energy and Commerce Committee report, which was commissioned by the Democrats, says you played a vital role in making the 112th Congress the “most anti-environment House in history.” Explain your position on climate change.
Gardner: I think you have people (commissioning) this report who are trying to politicize and point fingers and create division on an issue of climate change. And my policy has been to bring people together on common-sense and good environmental policies. Sen. Udall supports a carbon tax, and in fact he’s called it one of the very important things to do. Sen Udall’s carbon tax would crush the economy.
AT: Do you believe in climate change?
Gardner: Well, I have said that the climate is changing. I’ve said that before, but I’m very concerned that the revenues for it would destroy our economy, like Sen. Udall’s idea to place a carbon tax, driving up the cost on low-income earners, on people with fixed income, and they would destroy our economy.