DURANGO, Colo. (CBS4) – For the first time since President Donald Trump was elected, Sen. Cory Gardner participated in a town hall-style event with Coloradans.
The meeting in Durango was called for by Colorado leaders including Gardner, a Republican and Colorado’s junior senator, and Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat and Colorado’s senior senator. It was organized for residents of southwest Colorado to talk about the Animas River and the Gold King Mine spill.
Members of the public were chosen at random to ask questions after putting their names in a hat, and instead of the mine spill many asked Gardner questions about health care.
“What we’ve seen is those health care costs continue to increase. What we’ve got right now isn’t working,” said Gardner, who is a leading supporter of the effort to repeal and replace the American Care Act.
“Western Colorado has some of the highest cost increases in their insurance in the country,” he said.
Many in Friday’s crowd said they are worried about losing their health insurance under the Republican plan, which Gardner has voted for in all of its various iterations this year. So far, no Republican plan has garnered enough votes in the GOP-controlled Senate to be approved.
One person in the meeting said he wants to know why Gardner isn’t listening to people like him.
“Why on earth did you vote for the Republican ‘wealth’ care bill, when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it,” he told Gardner.
Gardner replied: “I voted for it because I will vote to continue to work to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act with something that is going to decrease costs and increase the quality of care. So the reason is because the Affordable Care Act isn’t working. It’s not working.”
The crowd got very boisterous during that response from Gardner, and one woman yelled “I never had insurance until the ACA. I could never afford it.”
Since Trump’s election, Gardner has avoided meetings like the one on Friday, instead opting for private meetings or conferences over the telephone.
“I’ll throw you a softball,” said another one of Friday’s meeting attendees. “Please, can you tell us each individually when you will schedule an in-person town hall here in Durango and La Plata County.”
“When will you be back to do a real town hall in Durango?” said another woman.
Gardner said he’s going to wait and see when it comes to town hall events in the future.