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New Anti-Choice Candidate Enters Colorado Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) launched his campaign to unseat Colorado Sen. Mark Udall last week, prompting GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck to drop out of the race and run for Gardner's House seat instead. Choice issues figure to play prominently in the Udall-Gardner race, as they have in recent Colorado elections.

Colorado Republicans traded one anti-choice U.S. Senate candidate for another last week when U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner launched his bid to take on pro-choice Sen. Mark Udall, and Ken Buck dropped out of the race and announced he would be running for Gardner’s House seat instead.

“Democrats will assuredly disagree about Gardner’s chances of ousting Udall but won’t dispute the fact that Colorado just went from nowhere to competitive in the space of the last 24 hours,” wrote Washington Post political analyst Chris Cillizza after the Gardner announcement.

“It’s truly a game changer,” said former Colorado Republican Party Chair Dick Wadhams on Denver’s KNUS radio Sunday. “By any standard or evaluation [Gardner] is a solid conservative, and yet he can articulate that conservative philosophy and that conservative rhetoric in a way that will be attractive to the swing voters who always determine Colorado elections and who have swung against us over the last ten years.”

Gardner’s conservative record is undeniable, particularly on choice issues. As a Colorado state senator in 2007, he sponsored a bill to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. Later, during his first campaign for Congress in 2010, he was an outspoken supporter of a “personhood” amendment that would have banned nearly all abortions but was defeated overwhelmingly by voters. In Congress, among other anti-choice actions, Gardner voted to clarify the meaning of rape by defining it as “forcible rape.”

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“I have signed the personhood petition,” Gardner was videotaped saying in 2010. “I have taken the petitions to my church, and circulating into my church.”

Asked about his record by Denver’s KDVR-TV this week, Gardner dodged specifics, as he has repeatedly during his first week of campaigning.

“We’ll have time to talk about issues as we go,” Gardner told KDVR, “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.”

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

Gardner will undoubtedly confront questions, and probably political attack ads, highlighting his anti-choice positions as the Senate campaign heats up. In an effort to win the votes of suburban women, who are a key voting bloc in Colorado, Democrats in the state have hammered Republicans in recent elections cycles, in state and local elections, over their votes on choice issues. Political observers point to Buck’s anti-choice positions as a major reason for his loss to pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in 2012.

Already, Udall has blasted Gardner’s support for “personhood,” putting it at the top of a list issues painting Gardner as an extremist.

After announcing his candidacy, Gardner quickly became the overwhelming front runner among Republicans vying to take on Udall, after Buck, who was leading the GOP field, dropped out along with another GOP senatorial candidate, State Rep. Amy Stephens. Gardner was the overwhelming choice of Republicans who attended caucuses in Colorado Tuesday night.

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