By Nicholas Riccardi, The Associated Press and Jesse Paul, The Colorado Sun
GREENWOOD VILLAGE — As Colorado’s Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s reelection campaign moves into general election mode, he is getting an assist from the White House.
Ivanka Trump wound up two days in Colorado on Friday with a child care roundtable in Greenwood Village, where she repeatedly praised Gardner, who was sitting next to her.
The day before, she and Interior Secretary David Bernhardt journeyed to Rocky Mountain National Park to celebrate the passage of a bill — the Great American Outdoors Act — Gardner wrote to fund maintenance on federal lands.
“Thank you, Senator Gardner, you have been a real force in the U.S. Senate for these issues,” Ivanka Trump said at the roundtable, held outside Bright Beginnings day care. She added that his national park legislation was “monumental.”
It’s common for incumbent administrations to send officials to buttress members of their party facing tough elections, and Gardner certainly qualifies. He won his Senate seat by less than 2 percentage points in 2014.
Since then, Democrats have won almost every statewide election in Colorado as the state’s college-educated voters have increasingly turned against the Trump administration.
Gardner faces former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, in November. Even before Hickenlooper was formally made the nominee on June 30 Gardner’s campaign and national Republicans were airing ads slamming him.
Last week, Republicans launched an ad blaming Hickenlooper for a deadly 2017 gas explosion. The widow of the man killed in the incident, Erin Martinez, asked that it be taken down. This week, Gardner called for the ad to stop, and Republicans eventually replaced it with a spot slamming Hickenlooper over a ruling that he violated state ethics laws as governor.
Hickenlooper’s campaign, meanwhile, has been slamming Gardner repeatedly as the GOP-controlled Senate has stalled for two months on a new coronavirus relief package.
“While hundreds of thousands of Coloradans are relying on Senator Gardner to extend unemployment insurance they’re counting on to get by, Gardner instead posed for pictures with President Trump’s daughter,” Eli Rosen, a spokesman for Colorado’s Democratic Party, said in a statement.
Speaking to reporters after the roundtable, Gardner said he thought Congress needed to move on coronavirus legislation.
“It needs to get done now,” Gardner said, noting he’s also sponsoring a bill to create a national testing program for the disease.
Gardner also addressed a number of other hot-button issues while speaking with reporters.
Gardner split with President Trump on whether military installations named after confederate figures should be renamed. The president has threatened to veto legislation ordering the renaming. Gardner said he’s supportive of changing the names.
“If it’s something we can do to heal this country, bring people together, let’s do it,” Gardner said. “It’s something we should do. Let’s learn from the last several months of division and let’s put the country together. And this is part of that answer.”
Gardner also indicated he’s against the federal government sending law enforcement agents and troops into cities where there are race-related protests.
“That’s something that state and local governments and the governor and mayors should be working on together,” Gardner said. “I agree with Gov. Polis and what he said. … I think what he said is he won’t hesitate if there’s a need. Well, I agree.”
Finally, Gardner said he thinks the decision of whether or not schools should return to in-person classes this fall should be left up to local districts. Trump has pushed for students to return to classes.
“That’s the real key: Is making sure that we send as many kids back to school as safely as possible,” Gardner said. “That’s a determination Washington can’t make. That’s a determination that they’re going to make here.”