Sen. Cory Gardner Asks GOP Group To Remove Political Ad About Firestone Home Explosion

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
In the fall of 2019, there are very few signs remaining of the home that exploded in 2017 on Twilight Avenue in the Oak Meadows subdivision of Firestone. The blast was blamed on a leaking, disused gas flowline owned by the former Anadarko Petroleum. Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joe Irwin, both 42 years old, were killed in the Firestone blast. Martinez’ wife Erin was seriously injured.

After speaking with the survivor of the 2017 Firestone home explosion, Republican Sen. Cory Gardner is calling on the National Republican Senatorial Committee to pull an attack ad against former Gov. John Hickenlooper that features the tragedy.

Gardner spoke with Erin Martinez, who lost her husband and brother in the 2017 explosion, on Tuesday and said he expressed to her “that I would not have personally run the ad, and I hope the ad comes down… If I had the power to take down the ad, I would."

Martinez called the ad “horrifying” and has been asking for it to be taken down since it first aired on July 16. She rejected the idea that Gardner can’t get the ad pulled.

“Our family’s trauma should not be the subject of a horrible political ad,” she said in a statement. “Sen. Gardner underestimates his power to have the ad taken down if he publicly speaks forcefully to make it happen. After talking to him, I wonder if he really understands the harm it has inflicted.”

Gardner, who is up for re-election this fall, helmed the Republican Senate campaign arm during the 2018 election cycle. This year it’s being led by Indiana Sen. Todd Young.

The NRSC said it will not pull the ad that is running on TV stations in Denver. A spokesperson for the group said, “the kind of grief Ms. Martinez and her family have survived is unimaginable, and their public fight to keep other Colorado families safe is incredibly important. John Hickenlooper said he was going to do the right thing to protect Colorado families right after the explosion, but then a private donation to his office from the gas company responsible changed that.”

The ad alleges that Hickenlooper did not hold Anadarko Petroleum, the company that owned the well that caused the explosion, responsible because of the donation, which was public. What the ad doesn’t mention is that the investigation into the explosion did begin under the Hickenlooper administration and that a crucial NTSB report on the explosion wasn’t released until after Hickenlooper left office. In March 2020, the state fined the company a record amount — $18.25 million. One thing Hickenlooper did do while in office was order all companies to inspect their wells and flowlines after the explosion.

Both Hickenlooper and Gardner have received campaign contributions from the company in the past. Occidental, which purchased Anadarko, has also contributed to Gardner's current Senate campaign.

Hickenlooper has also called for the ad to be taken down. Hickenlooper Campaign spokesperson Melissa Miller said Gardner ignored Martinez’s request for six days “and then gave the pathetic excuse that he had no influence over the NRSC, an organization he used to run. As usual, he chose the cowardly approach over the right one.”

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to include actions taken by Hickenlooper shortly after the explosion, and to correct language on campaign donations.