If you happened to stroll past Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner’s office in Denver today, you probably noticed what appeared to be a party going on for the senator’s reelection campaign.
Upon closer inspection, it would have become clear that this was a tongue-in-cheek event thrown by his opponents to mark the official start of their 2020 campaign to oust the senator from office.
The event, called “Gardner’s Colorado Campaign Kickoff/Kickout,” was in part a response to Gardner’s formal campaign kickoff, which is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Washington D.C. alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
This particular detail has drawn ire from progressives who say it’s fitting that Gardner wouldn’t begin his campaign in Colorado, since he doesn’t actually serve the interests of his constituents.
“He just does not represent Coloradans,” Jean McMahon, who attended the event, told the Colorado Times Recorder. “He’s not at open forums, and he’s just unavailable to the people.”
McMahon, who said she visits Gardner’s office frequently to talk about issues like health care and the environment, is confident that Gardner’s reelection campaign will be unsuccessful.
“Colorado is getting more and more blue. And he’s just so far from Colorado’s values,” she said.
Attendees enjoyed free poke bowls and cake, and posed for photos with “Cardboard Cory,” the now infamous cardboard cutout of the senator, which activists bring to events to take questions from constituents when the flesh and bones version of Gardner doesn’t show.
They also signed a giant card for Gardner that read, “Congratulations, Cory! On the launch of your re-election campaign in Washington D.C.”
One note said, “Yuma needs you! Go home. – Greg.” Another said, “Congrats on failing to take away my healthcare!”
As the Colorado Times Recorder‘s Erik Maulbetsch reported on Feb. 13, Gardner’s D.C. campaign kickoff is a high-profile event with high ticket prices to match:
“The presence of the entire Senate Republican leadership team demonstrates the significance of Gardner’s seat. In addition to McConnell, the invitation lists all five other members of leadership: Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota, Conference Chair John Barrasso of Wyoming, Senate Republican Policy Committee Chair Roy Blunt of Missouri, Vice Chair Joni Ernst of Iowa, and finally Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana), who replaced Gardner as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Tickets for the luncheon start at $500, but the suggested contributions amounts for individuals run up to the $5,600 maximum allowed by law. Donors who ‘max out’ are considered to have joined Gardner’s ‘Executive Board,’ while a $2,800 check earns the contributor a ‘Season Pass.’ Gardner’s campaign is offering unspecified ‘Benefit Packages’ with each of those high-dollar donations. “
A call to Gardner’s office to figure out what a “season pass” entails was unsuccessful, but ProgressNow Colorado, one of the event organizers, created a website with some ideas of their own.
The Denver event was also organized by local Indivisible groups, which formed following the 2016 election to oppose Trump’s agenda. In Colorado, they’ve been persistent in organizing rallies and visits to Gardner’s office to hold him accountable for his votes on issues including the Affordable Care Act and the GOP tax bill.