If, as expected, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) loses his Senate seat today to Democrat John Hickenlooper, what’s next for the Republican from Yuma?
The Colorado Times Recorder asked activists, pundits, and politicians to weigh in on what they think Gardner’s next moves will be if he loses.
Lizeth Chacon, founding executive director of the racial justice organization Colorado People’s Action, explained that whatever Gardner’s next job is, it should not include representing the people of Colorado.
“I think that if Cory loses then he should never be an elected official in Colorado ever again,” Chacon said. “I think that because if you are going to be someone who is in public office and representing a group of people, you can’t choose who you want to represent. If you’re going to represent the state of Colorado you have to represent all of its people, not just the ones who vote for you. We’ve never seen that from Senator Cory Gardner.”
Chacon took issue with Gardner naming himself a champion of immigrant rights. Chacon, who has been involved with the immigrant rights movement in Colorado since 2006, said Gardner never reached out to or protected the immigrant community in the state and often sided with Trump on immigration. Gardner has voted with Trump almost 90 percent of the time.
“He never stood with us,” Chacon said. “When Trump was attacking our community and calling Mexicans rapists after he got elected when did we see any statement from Cory Gardner? When did we ever see anything from Cory Gardner about the immigrants and minorities in our state? We never saw it.”
Conversely, Wayne Allard, a former Republican U.S. congressman and senator from Colorado, thinks Gardner has done such a great job as senator there’s no way he could lose.
“I don’t know what he’s going to do if he loses because he’s not going to lose,” Allard said. “He’s worked hard for Colorado and he’s done better than most as far as getting legislation passed not only with Republicans but also with Democrats. He’s had a very bipartisan approach so that’s why I’m expecting him to win.”
“He’s not gonna lose,” Allard said. “He’s done such a great job for me and for the people of Colorado.”
Gardner could become a lobbyist. Michael Huttner, founder of ProgressNow, a national progressive organization created in Colorado, thinks Gardner will lose tonight, unlike Allard. Huttner said he thought a lobbying firm will have a job waiting for him after he loses — a path taken by many politicians after being bumped from office.
“I expect that Cory Gardner will join up with all his lobbyist friends and become a high-priced lobbyist insider because he’s been largely a puppet of these insiders ever since he first became a politician,” Huttner said.
Huttner does not see another run for public office in play for Gardner.
Neither did Denver based Democratic communications strategist Laura Chapin who at first, was so exasperated with Gardner that she could not deign to guess about his next moves.
“He has so thoroughly disregarded what people in this state care about,” Chapin said. “I just don’t give a damn.”
But Chapin eventually said she does think lobbying is in Gardner’s future.
“I assume he’ll get a lobbying job,” Chapin admitted. “I’m sure he’s got some sweet lobbying gig lined up somewhere with some firm. He has no political future in Colorado, that’s for sure.”
Chapin’s view is shared by Tom Tancredo, who was a 2010 candidate for governor in Colorado and a former U.S. representative for Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.
Tancredo does not think Gardner is a viable candidate for a statewide office.
“I can’t imagine there’s anything in politics for him if he loses,” Tancredo said. “Lobbying is always an option for him I suppose. If he loses one statewide race, what would make him think he could win another? What would make anyone else think he could win another?”
Katie Farnan, lead organizer for Indivisible Front Range Resistance, creators of the Cardboard Cory cutout, at first pondered Gardner’s future in local politics, maybe as a county commissioner, but then said that she doesn’t see him as an elected official in any capacity going forward.
“I don’t think representing people should be in his future in any way, shape, or form,” Farnan said.
Farnan then said she could see him being a correspondent for pro-Trump outlets like Breitbart or One America News Network, pointing to Gardner’s campaign events with congressional candidate Lauren Boebert as evidence of Gardner moving more to the right.
Farnan said that a career in lobbying was the most likely outcome for Gardner. Still, Farnan did have another suggestion for his next chapter.
“Cory’s a very polished politician, so maybe he will share some of his skills with other politicians,” Farnan said. “I’ve heard him talk many times, but he’s never really saying anything. So maybe he should be a debate coach. He could coach people how to evade questions.”