Gardner, launching U.S. Senate campaign: ‘We can do better’

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, waves to supporters as he officially launches his U.S. Senate campaign in late February at a Denver lumber business.

U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, waves to supporters as he officially launches his U.S. Senate campaign in late February at a Denver lumber business.

DENVER — More than 100 Republican stalwarts and activists braved the snowy roads and showed up at a lumber yard to support Congressman Cory Gardner, who they believe is the right candidate to end their party’s 10-year losing streak in top statewide races, as he kicked off his campaign for U.S. Senate.

Gardner, 39, who entered the race just last Wednesday, stood on stage with his wife and children as well as the two former GOP Senate candidates who bowed out of the race almost immediately after he entered it, Ken Buck and Amy Stephens.

In a short speech, Gardner drew broad, optimistic themes about American opportunity — and bluntly attacked Democratic Sen. Mark Udall on what will no doubt be the central focus of the GOP effort to unseat him: Obamacare.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better,” Gardner said, officially declaring himself a candidate for Senate. “Mark Udall broke his promise to America. Mark Udall broke his promise to Colorado. Mark Udall broke his promise to you.”

In an interview with FOX31 Denver after his speech, Gardner slammed Udall for his office’s questioning of the state Dept. of Insurance’s numbers of policy cancellations in the state as a result of Obamacare, noting, as he has since October, that his family saw its old health insurance plan cancelled.

“They were basically calling us liars,” he said.

But when asked about his own voting record in the House, Gardner brushed off the questioning, returning to the drum he will beat constantly for the next nine months.

“We’ll have time to talk about issues as we go, but I have a record of fighting for lower taxes, eliminating regulations that don’t make sense and making sure we’re standing up for every one of us in Colorado,” Gardner said.

“But what I don’t have on my record is voting for Obamacare. Mark Udall voted for Obamacare. It’s destroying this country.”

Democrats, firing off a barrage of press releases as Gardner announced Saturday, aren’t wasting any time focusing on the Republican’s record.

“We’ve swapped one reckless Tea Partier for another,” said Adam Dunstone, Udall’s campaign manager. “But unlike Ken Buck, Congressman Gardner will be held to account for the out-of-touch votes he cast in Congress. His voting record placed him in the top ten most conservative members of the House, while radicals like Rep. Tom Tancredo never cracked the top 50.”

“While Congressman Gardner tries to win his party’s nomination, Mark will continue fighting to protect Colorado’s way of life.”

Environmentalists, who view Gardner as a strong supporter of the oil and gas industry, also criticized the newly minted Senate candidate.

“Today, big oil and big polluters are opening their check books and looking to cash in their long time support of Representative Cory Gardner,” said Pete Maysmith Executive Director, Conservation Colorado.

“Tea Party darling Cory Gardner — who has been great on quips but short on substance — has a record in the Colorado legislature and U.S. Congress of advocating for big polluters over environmental protection and for dirty energy over the future of clean renewable wind and solar energy.”

But Republicans aren’t worried about Gardner being as susceptible to the usual Democratic playbook and the steady attacks related to his support for Personhood or the Republican-controlled House’s failure to take up meaningful immigration reform, as Gardner himself promised in 2012 they would.

“They’re not going to beat Cory that way,” said former GOP Chairman Dick Wadhams. “They’re going to try it, but it ain’t going to work.

Wadhams, who’s been vocal about the GOP’s need to find electable candidates to take advantage of 2014’s opportunities, praised Gardner as a smoother, more acceptable up and comer who is now the face of the party in Colorado.

“He’s the kind of candidate who can not only unite the Republican base, which is fractured at times; he can also appeal to those unaffiliated voters that have swing against us in recent elections,” Wadhams said. “So this really is a huge moment here.

“He can really take the fight to Mark Udall. And we’ve had too many candidates who have not been able to do that. Cory really is the future.”

A number of Republican office-holders attended the event, including: Congressman Mike Coffman, Treasurer Walker Stapleton, and state Reps. Frank McNulty, Polly Lawrence and Kathleen Conti.