Nikki Haley, the Trump administration’s former ambassador to the United Nations, joined Republican Sen. Cory Gardner for a private event Monday afternoon in Greenwood Village.
National Republicans are starting to help Gardner with his reelection effort in what’s expected to be a tough 2020 campaign.
Haley and Gardner had a relaxed hour-long conversation, asking each other questions in front of a mostly female crowd of about 150. She told Gardner about her time at the UN and working for President Donald Trump. Both Republicans reflected on their rural upbringings and political roots as state lawmakers.
“I felt the people at the statehouse didn’t understand the value of a dollar,” Haley said of why she entered politics in the first place. “They didn’t understand how hard it was for small businesses to survive.”
After she served in the South Carolina legislature, Haley went on to be elected governor. She’s long been seen as a rising star in GOP circles.
As Gardner has done in the past, Haley blasted Democrats for nationally moving to “embrace socialism” and the push for the Green New Deal. She noted that Medicare For All would mean “many of us will lose our private insurance.” Peppered throughout her appearance, she urged the crowd to help Gardner with donations and by spreading the word.
“All eyes are on Colorado because it’s the pulse of the country,” Haley said, since Democrats need to flip Gardner’s seat if they hope to gain control of the U.S. Senate. And she’s aware it will be one of the most contested races in the nation and a major focus of Democratic election efforts. “We don’t just fight. We fight with passion and we fight hard.”
Meanwhile, Gardner criticized Colorado Democrats and said they are overstepping in their new role in charge of state government. Gardner cited the National Popular Vote compact bill that will pledge the state’s electoral votes for the winner of the national popular vote once enough states sign on board. He also said a measure signed into law to overhaul oil and gas regulations and change the mission for state energy regulators will hurt the economy.
“We're smart in this state. We can figure out a balance,” Gardner said. “We have figured out a balance, but destroying jobs and having government choose winners and losers and saying, you, you work in oil and gas. We have decided that your, your job is no longer viable for the government and we need you out of it. That's exactly they're doing.”
There are nearly a dozen Democrats vying to unseat Gardner and former Gov. John Hickenlooper might enter the race now that his presidential campaign is over. The Haley event was a chance for Gardner to talk about his record in front of a friendly crowd and let them learn more about Haley, a popular Republican woman, and her life story.
Ultimately, Gardner said he believes in being bipartisan in the Senate.
“Because everything is filibustered, right?” Gardner said. “So, you have to have 60 votes. You can't just do it with a Republican majority or a Democrat majority. You have to have people from both sides of the aisle. And that means that you've got to be willing to work with people to find common ground to accomplish your goals.”
On Monday, Democratic activists kicked off a “SinceUBeenGone” bus tour around Colorado featuring a cardboard cut out of the senator. They feel he needs to do more town halls and talk to constituents. The state party said the closed-door event shows he’s not interested in hearing from actual voters.
“Sen. Gardner has spent August recess trying to hide from his constituents and dodging basic questions on health care, climate change, immigration reform and background checks,” said Alyssa Roberts a spokeswoman for the Colorado Democratic Party. “He won’t announce a public town hall because he can’t defend his record of putting wealthy donors ahead of Coloradans.”
Some Democrats did get a chance to talk to Gardner when activists trailed him as he toured downtown Arvada the week before to speak with business owners. Though it was not a widely publicized event, it was part of a Gardner outreach effort that he’s been doing since April.