By Shaun Boyd
DENVER (CBS4) – A week after hundreds of liberals staged a mock town hall to bash U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, he held a telephone town hall with 10,000 people from all over the state.
In the past, Senate rules have dictated participants must be randomly chosen from voter rolls, but Gardner’s office says he worked to change that so that any Coloradan could participate.
For nearly an hour, Gardner fielded questions from Denver to Durango and Littleton to Loveland. Nothing was off limits.
Callers were civil, even as they pressed Gardner on some of the most controversial subjects.
A Littleton mother asked about health care for her child who has a pre-existing condition.
“I’m going to tell you a very personal story,” Gardner said. “Over the last year, my mom survived breast cancer. Over the past several weeks, my father has been in and out of the hospital. When our daughter was about to turn one year old she was diagnosed with macrocystic vascular encephalopathy.
“These are things that are near and dear to me that we get right.”
A Boulder woman asked what Gardner would do to defend Colorado’s pot industry. Gardner said Attorney General Jeff Sessions told him he would not make pot enforcement a priority.
“It seems to be at odds with what (Trump Press Secretary) Sean Spicer said. We’ve asked the White House for clarification on this matter,” he said.
Gardner stood by his support of school choice and his opposition to funding Planned Parenthood. A Denver man asked, “Does your antipathy to Planned Parenthood represent your own personal religious convictions?”
“I have supported efforts in the past that would take dollars made available that you referenced and make them available to more federally funded health clinics that would actually provide access to additional people across the state of Colorado in many more locations,” Gardner responded.
While he defended his positions, Gardner didn’t defend all of President Trump’s positions, including his executive order barring immigrants from certain countries.
“We spent a tremendous amount of time and resources in this office helping people around the globe get back to their homes in Colorado where they had the legal right to be,” he said.
Gardner also disagreed with the president on Russia sanctions, condemning Russia’s interference in the presidential election.
“I have supported an investigation into Russia. In fact, I have gone even further than most. I believe we ought to create a separate select cyber committee to look into the Russian allegations. This is something we’re going to see more of. It’s unacceptable that the Russians tried to interfere with our elections, which they did.
“There’s no doubt they tried to interfere. Going forward I’m going to make it very clear where I disagree with the president … we’ll continue to do what is right for the people of Colorado.”
Gardner’s office pushed up the time for the town hall after he was invited to meet with the president. He says they discussed many of the issues raised in the town hall, including health care access.
Despite claims that Gardner hasn’t been accessible, this was his third telephone town hall in two months. He says he also met with constituents in all 64 counties last year and he says he spent last week’s recess holding meetings with business, health care and agricultural groups around the state.