Q&A with Colorado’s U.S. Senate candidates: Cory Gardner and John Hickenlooper

Staff reports
Corey Gardner (R) and John Hickenlooper (D) are in the 2020 election for a U.S. Senate seat for Colorado.

Editor’s note: This question and answer interview is part of The Aspen Times’s 2020 election coverage for the Nov. 3 election.

In the race for one of Colorado’s two U.S. Senate seats, incumbent Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, faces John Hickenlooper, the Democrat and former Colorado governor and Denver mayor.

The debate around coronavirus public health orders often pits the economy against human life. What do you think the Trump administration did right and wrong in the first six months of pandemic response?

Cory Gardner: When the pandemic hit, I made sure that I was in close contact with the governor to make sure that the state had the supplies they needed. In April, President Trump, at my request, approved the delivery of 100 ventilators from the national stockpile to the state of Colorado. I helped secure over 100,000 face masks from Taiwan and over 150,000 testing kits from South Korea for our state. Additionally, I’ve worked to navigate this public health crisis and mitigate its effects in a manner that allows us to keep individuals safe and healthy while simultaneously allowing us to keep businesses operational and people employed. Shortly after the start of the pandemic, Congress moved quickly to pass a bill to help Coloradans in need. My highest priorities during that time were to ensure that individuals were safe, that they were able to get the care they needed, and to secure nearly $13.5 billion in financial relief for small businesses who were hit hard by the ensuing closures.

John Hickenlooper: To respond to the economic crisis, we must first get the threat to our public health under control. We need urgent investment in testing, contact tracing and vaccine research so we can get our arms around this virus and fully reopen. Over the last six months, I’ve heard from Colorado’s small businesses and the workers they employ, and they are hurting — some have had to close their doors for good. And instead of fighting for much needed relief, Washington left them behind, taking multiple recesses while unemployment insurance ran dry and Colorado families suffered.

And we recently found out that President Trump was intentionally lying to the American people about the severity of this pandemic, and Sen. Gardner has stood by silently, yet again putting loyalty to President Trump ahead of the people of Colorado.

What would you include in a new coronavirus relief package, and how would those proposals help individuals and businesses?

John Hickenlooper: Until a vaccine becomes universally available, we need to adapt to life with the virus. To do so, Congress must provide additional financial relief so that the state and local governments, school systems, hospitals and small businesses that have been overwhelmed by this pandemic can begin to rebuild. We need to immediately reinstate and extend additional unemployment insurance for the thousands of Colorado workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. For our 630,000 small businesses and the 1.1 million Coloradans they employ, the stakes could not be higher. We must accelerate our efforts to enable small businesses to keep workers on payroll and give our smallest small businesses the tools they need to succeed. This summer, Sen. Gardner said it was “unfathomable” to go on recess without passing additional COVID relief, yet that’s exactly what he did.

Cory Gardner: First and foremost, we need to make sure that we’re helping individuals who are in need. We need to provide relief for those who are worried about how they’re going to meet their rent and mortgage payments; we need to make sure that they’re going to be OK. Secondly, we need to support our businesses. I support efforts to expand business loans and loan forgiveness to those who continue to struggle. Doing so will keep people hired and doors open. It’s important that our economy can snap back to its full strength and grow even stronger than ever before once the health pandemic is over. Republicans in Congress recently introduced a bill which I voted for that included $15 billion for child care, $105 billion for education, $16 billion for testing and contract tracing, $20 billion for farm assistance. Unfortunately, the bill died after a majority of Democrats voted against the package.

How do you plan to help Colorado’s mountain resort economies recover from the pandemic?

Cory Gardner: My Great American Outdoors Act, which was signed into law last month, will enrich Colorado’s mountain communities by creating thousands of jobs and will invest millions to fix our National Parks. For every $1 invested in our National Parks, $10 is returned to the local economy. The employment opportunities created by my bill will be particularly beneficial for individuals who were formerly employed by resorts or hotels that had to lay off or furlough staff as a result of the pandemic. As Congress works to pass another relief bill, I’ll work hard to make certain that Colorado’s mountain resorts — an invaluable part of the state’s economy — receive adequate relief.

John Hickenlooper: Colorado’s mountain resort economies have faced staggering damage because of COVID-19. Virtually overnight, they had to shut their doors and tell visitors from around the world to stay home. It was a decision that saved lives but has now left our mountain towns with some of the highest unemployment rates in Colorado. To help them rebuild in the short and long term, we need leadership in Washington to provide additional grants and loans for small businesses so they can stay in business, protect our public lands and pass the CORE Act, and address our climate crisis. These measures will ensure we not only build back but expand our outdoor recreation economy to be stronger than before.

In an increasingly partisan political environment, how do you plan to successfully reach across the aisle to work with members of the opposing party?

John Hickenlooper: I’m running for Senate because we need to start getting things done in Washington. As mayor and governor, I worked with both parties to make sure we were delivering for the people of Colorado. It involves making compromises and working together with people who you may not always see eye to eye with. Instead of focusing on our differences, I want to come to the table and find the areas where we can agree. When I was mayor of Denver, we brought together Democratic, Republican, and Independent mayors from across the metro area to make a massive expansion to our public transit system. As governor, we were able to work on a bipartisan basis to expand Medicaid and get health care to 500,000 more people in our state.

There is alway going to be partisanship in politics — we’re kidding ourselves if we think otherwise, but with a little innovation, creativity, and a willingness to work together we can get the job done. From COVID-19 relief to climate change, we need to find areas of commonality and not be afraid to have the hard conversations to move the ball forward.

Cory Gardner: As the third most bipartisan member of the United States Senate, I know how important it is to work across the aisle. Colorado needs Senators who are willing to find common sense solutions to our most pressing issues. In the six years that I’ve served in the Senate, I’ve always prioritized people over politics. As I continue to work to improve the lives of Coloradans, I’ll continue to work with those whom I disagree with by finding common ground, working hard and delivering real results for those whom I’ve sworn to serve.

How should Congress respond to the ongoing social justice movement surrounding police brutality against Black men?

Cory Gardner: This debate has been avoided for too long in our country, and I’m dedicated to taking steps to ensure that men and women of color can feel safe and secure in America as we work towards justice and equality for all. Though our country has made significant strides in ensuring justice for all, recent events have reminded us all of the progress we must continue to work towards. I’m cosponsoring the JUSTICE Act because it would improve law enforcement transparency, accountability and implement common-sense reforms.

John Hickenlooper: The United States has a long history of racism, segregation and legalized oppression based on skin color. The economic disadvantages associated with race are varied and persist to this day. Any form of discrimination, either overt or covert, has no place in our state or country. We must ensure all people have access to quality education, a strong social safety net, family-sustaining jobs and physical security. I am committed to working hand-in-hand with communities of color to design economically just reforms that make an impact on the legacy of inequality that has plagued our country for generations. Bills such as the Justice in Policing Act would change the culture of law enforcement to build trust between our communities and police officers and ensure we are taking a comprehensive approach to accountability.

These interviews were conducted by the Summit Daily News and are being shared and published by Colorado Mountain News Media properties. To read more information on the 2020 ballot, go to