Republican Sen. Cory Gardner toured downtown Arvada Tuesday afternoon to speak to business owners as part of his outreach effort across Colorado during the August recess.
His office noted that Arvada was the 10th city he has visited in the last few months on his “main street walking tour.” Other stops have included Cañon City, Lakewood, Gunnison, Aurora and Westcliffe to name a few.
His staff hasn't sought much publicity for the events. And about two dozen progressive activists stood outside (but never entered) the businesses Gardner visited in order to question him about gun control and health care.
“I had a lovely opportunity to connect with Sen. Gardner as a fifth-generation Coloradan about what I honestly believe the values of Colorado are, which are honesty, openness, and a good beer,” said Charlie Berger, one of the co-founders of Denver Beer Co.
The brewery has a taproom in Olde Town Arvada where Berger and Gardner sat at a table over a beer with other local elected officials. Berger said he and Gardner talked about the Craft Beverage Modernization Act, which provides excise tax relief.
Berger, a Democrat, didn’t mention his top priority as a voter, which is protecting the environment and backing the Green New Deal. Instead, he told CPR he wanted to tell the senator that Colorado should be a leader in taking the moral high ground when it comes to “all the craziness in Washington” and indirectly asked him to stand up to President Donald Trump.
“I really encouraged him to be one of the senators that can have a big impact by being upfront about the truth and about what's right,” he said. Berger felt that he really listened and was glad Gardner made the time to sit down with him — “And I'll give him credit for that.”
Another business owner said he talked to Gardner about the difficulty of retaining employees, and the high cost of health care for small businesses. It’s a theme Gardner said he’s frequently heard.
“Workforce issues, the need for more workforce. Colorado's incredibly competitive in terms of finding workers, whether it's a restaurant or a service industry or manufacturing, we need more skilled workers,” Gardner said.
He also said business owners have raised concerns about government regulations, while the senator himself touched on the current trade imbroglio.
“I don't support the tariffs,” Gardner said. “We need to make sure we eliminate the tariffs and move on to additional free trade agreements around the world.”
Gardner is considered one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection in 2020. Especially in a state that has trended blue and where the president is unpopular with moderate voters.
Susan Glass, the head of the Jefferson County Democrats and one of the activists that trailed him in Arvada said that Gardner “seemed to listen a little bit more, but we need to see action and he needs town halls.”
Glass said her stepson has leukemia and his medications cost $9,000 per month. That’s an issue she brought up with Gardner as he strolled along the sidewalk.
“We have questions and we are there trying to understand what he's doing and we need answers because our lives are affected by it every day.”
The JeffCo Democrat’s stepson was a junior at Columbine High School when the shooting took place, so she wants Gardner to back gun control legislation and buck the National Rifle Association. Trump has publicly discussed a compromise between Republicans and Democrats on universal background checks, but Gardner told a crowd earlier in August that he did not support gun control.
In Arvada, Gardner said people need to be protected from violence and harm and that we need to “make sure that we're protecting constitutional rights.”
He called it an important debate and conversation to have but said he didn’t “think anybody should be politicizing it to the extent that they may try to do that. I think that's wrong. What we ought to do is focus on the root causes and preventing it from happening.”
Gardner said his reelection campaign will focus on highlighting bipartisan legislation he has sponsored and what he feels are wins for Colorado such as his successful effort to have the BLM headquarters moved to Grand Junction.