News Politics

Colorado GOP Senate Candidate Accuses Opponent of Using Abortion to ‘Distract’ Voters

Jason Salzman

In a radio interview, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner said his opponent, Sen. Mark Udall, is “trying to distract voters” by attacking Gardner for his positions on abortion and contraception, which, according to Gardner, "aren't top of mind for people."

Under attack by Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) for his hardline anti-abortion position, Republican senatorial candidate Rep. Cory Gardner said on a Denver radio show Saturday that Udall is “trying to distract the voters with issues that, quite frankly, aren’t top of mind for people.”

Gardner’s comment came in response to a question from KNUS 710-AM radio host Craig Silverman about Udall’s advertisements, which have blanketed Colorado TV stations, hammering Gardner for his long-standing efforts to ban abortion, even in cases of rape and incest, and to restrict access to contraception.

Asked by Rewire about Gardner’s statement that abortion issues aren’t top of mind for people, Colorado College political science professor Robert D. Loevy said, “That’s more of a wish, or a campaign goal, than a statement of fact. If Udall and the Democrats can run enough ads, and they are dramatic enough—and the ones they’re running now are effective—if they succeed with that, then it’s an issue.”

“Political scientists refer to the adage, ‘The battle is about what the battle is about,’” Loevy continued. “What that means is candidates have to establish issues. If you can make the battle about your issue rather than the other person’s, you’ll win the election.”

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“He’s trying to play down the abortion and contraception issue, because recent elections in Colorado have proven that those issues are losers for Republican candidates, most conspicuously when [Colorado Sen.] Michael Bennet used them against [Republican] Ken Buck in 2010. Cory Gardner would like to have this issue off the table.”

In his radio interview, Gardner said people in Colorado are worried about “their family’s economy, how they are going to afford to send kids off to college, how they are going to fill up with a tank of gas that’s almost $4 a gallon right now; those are the issues that the people of Colorado are worried about.”

“Gardner’s not wrong,” said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report. “Pull up the Gallup issues, and you’ll see these [abortion] issues don’t resonate with the electorate as a whole. But they do appeal to the Democratic base and drop-off voters, especially women. Was there a better way to say it? Probably.”

Women are a key voting bloc in Colorado, and getting them to the polls in the upcoming midterm election is critical for Udall, Duffy said.

“Reproductive health care is a critical part of any woman’s economic future and affects her bottom line,” said NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado Executive Director Karen Middleton via email, when informed by Rewire of Gardner’s radio comment. “Ninety-nine percent of American women have used birth control, and they know how much it costs. Cory Gardner still doesn’t get it about why these issues matter in a very real way to Colorado women and families.”

Seventy percent of Colorado’s registered voters are less likely to back candidates who want to restrict access to contraception, according to an NBC/Marist poll released Tuesday.

In Colorado, where the governor’s office and the state legislature are controlled by pro-choice Democrats, a bill banning nearly all abortion was defeated in March. Another state bill, allowing prosecutors to bring charges against people who harm an “unborn member of the species homo sapiens,” failed to make it through in February. Nationally, states have passed 21 laws so far this year restricting abortion.

Gardner’s statement reflects comments he made during his first congressional campaign in 2010, when he defeated Betsy Markey, a pro-choice Democrat trying to hold her seat in a Republican-leaning congressional district.

In response to Markey’s attacks on his hardline anti-abortion positions, including his support of Colorado’s failed “personhood” amendment in 2008, Gardner said at the time, “Right now the only person talking about social issues in this campaign is Betsy Markey.” He promised reporters not to pursue an anti-abortion agenda if elected to Congress.

After winning the election, however, Gardner co-sponsored bills to redefine rape, defund Planned Parenthood, and to define a “person” in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to include all human development, beginning at the fertilized egg (zygote) stage.

News Abortion

Colorado U.S. Senate Candidate Hedges on Anti-Choice Stance

Jason Salzman

A Republican running for U.S. Senate in Colorado was on record during the GOP primary as supporting a "personhood" abortion ban, but now, as Republicans have done in previous Colorado elections, he’s sounding more pro-choice.

During his successful primary campaign to take on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Darryl Glenn clearly stated his opposition to the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, garnering the support of anti-choice organization Colorado Right to Life (CRTL).

Glenn’s “pro-life” rating from the group was based on a questionnaire revealing, “with no weasel-room,” that the candidate believes “government has an obligation to protect all human life from conception forward” and “every innocent human being has an inalienable Right to Life at every age or stage of development,” according to the CRTL blog.

Glenn, an El Paso county commissioner, is now hedging on his stringent anti-choice stance and angering his former anti-choice allies in the process.

“As a person who has two adult daughters, I put myself in that situation,” Glenn said during a July 19 appearance on Devil’s Advocate, a local public affairs television program sponsored by a conservative think tank. “And I want to make sure that when we’re talking about health care, you want to make sure that women have the ability and access to health care, so that they understand all the different options that are out there. And at some point in time, maybe they might have to make that decision. But that is a personal decision that they have to make between them and … God.”

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Anti-choice activists were unhappy with Glenn’s comments.

“I’m willing to say on behalf of our organization that his comments were not nearly as strong as we would hope,” Susan Sutherland, vice president of Colorado Right to Life, told the Durango Herald, which broke the story Monday. “He was just trying to play a little bit of political maneuvering there.”

Gualberto Garcia Jones, the author of Colorado’s failed 2012 “personhood” amendment, told Rewire via email that Glenn’s comments show that the “right to life is not a priory for him.” So-called personhood laws, rejected by voters in several states, would grant full rights to a fetus, therefore outlawing abortion care.

“As a politician, he knows that a consistent 100% pro-life position will make it much more difficult for him to get elected to a statewide elected position in Colorado,” wrote Jones, vice president of the anti-choice Personhood Alliance. “We know from past personhood campaigns that support for a 100% pro-life position at the present time can get you around 35% of the vote statewide, however, with that sizable support comes 45% or more of ardent opposition. This political reality leads candidates for statewide office to do the primary-general two-step.”

“Every politician has to make a call on fundamental issues,” Jones continued. “What call they end up making is simultaneously a reflection of the politician’s priorities (getting elected v. standing for a principle) and of the electorate who on fundamental questions such as the right to life is itself not consistent.”

One pro-choice group in Colorado downplayed the debate about Glenn’s choice of words to describe his abortion stance, focusing instead on the policy ramifications.

“We are not concerned about the label that someone has or is given,” said Cristina Aguilar, executive director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR), in an email statement. “We are committed to ensuring that women have access to information and support to make the decision that is best for them and that they are able to seek quality health care without medically unnecessary barriers.”

In Colorado’s last U.S. Senate election, U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner dropped his support for a state “personhood” amendment after years as a strong supporter, saying he did not understand the measure. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) followed suit.

Even though Gardner refused to rescind his support for a federal “personhood” bill, Gardner defeated pro-choice Democrat Mark Udall in an election that emphasized choice issues from start to finish.

After winning the GOP U.S. Senate primary in 2010, Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck withdrew his backing of a so-called personhood amendment, also saying he had not understood the anti-choice measure aimed at ending legal abortion.

Democrats hammered Buck on the “personhood” issue, like they did four years later in in the 2014 Gardner-Udall race. Buck lost to pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who faces Glenn this November.

News Politics

Colorado Republicans Pick Anti-Choice County Commissioner for U.S. Senate Race

Jason Salzman

Darryl Glenn, an anti-choice Colorado Springs County Commissioner, defeated a pro-choice GOP rival and three other anti-choice Republicans in the race to take on pro-choice Sen. Michael Bennet in November.

In Colorado’s Republican senatorial primary Tuesday, Darryl Glenn, a conservative county commissioner from Colorado Springs, scored a decisive victory over Jack Graham, a former Colorado State University official, who stood out from the GOP field of five candidates for his atypical pro-choice stance.

Glenn received about 38 percent of the primary vote versus nearly 25 percent for Graham, who finished second.

Glenn made no secret of his anti-choice stance during the primary election, describing himself in interviews as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative” and supporting “personhood” rights for fertilized human eggs (zygotes), a stance that could outlaw abortion and many forms of contraception.

Consistent with this, Glenn is also opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision.

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Glenn frequently brought up his faith in interviews. For example, Glenn broke out from his Republican rivals at the GOP state convention in April, where he gave an impassioned speech during which he discussed Planned Parenthood and opposing abortion ​before delegates voted him on to the GOP primary ballot.

Asked about the speech by conservative radio host Richard Randall, Glenn said, “Well, that wasn’t me. That was the Holy Spirit coming through, just speaking the truth.”

Seriously?” replied the KVOR radio host.

Absolutely,” Glenn replied on air. “This campaign has always been about honoring and serving God and stepping up and doing the right thing.”

Political observers say Glenn’s position on abortion, coupled with his other conservative stances and his promise never to compromise, spell trouble for him in November’s general election against Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet.

“Glenn’s stance on abortion isn’t necessarily disqualifying,” Jennifer Duffy, senior editor of the Cook Political Report, which offers non-partisan election analysis, in Washington D.C., told Rewire via email. “Colorado has sent pro-life Republicans to the Senate. But, the cumulative effect of all Glenn’s conservative positions on social, economic, and foreign policy, as well as his association with Tea Party-affiliated groups and his lack of funding make it very, very difficult to see a path to victory for him.”

In the final weeks of the primary, Glenn was supported by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Glenn’s ties to the right wing of the Republican Party drew criticism during the campaign from GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He criticized Glenn for accepting the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which gave Glenn $500,000.

Duffy doesn’t expect the race to be “very competitive,” an observation that aligns with the “Democrat favored” assessment of the race by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. Last year, Bennet was widely considered one of only two vulnerable U.S. Senate Democrats.

“Darryl Glenn’s support for ‘personhood’ puts him on the wrong side of Colorado voters’ values, including many pro-choice Republicans and unaffiliated voters,” said Karen Middleton, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, in an email to Rewire. “Support for reproductive freedom crosses party lines in Colorado, as demonstrated by the landslide losses by three ‘personhood’ ballot measures. Glenn’s chances of beating pro-choice champion Michael Bennet were already slim. This puts it closer to none.”

Glenn did not immediately return a call for comment.

In 2014, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is anti-choice, defeated pro-choice Democratic Sen. Mark Udall, who hammered Gardner on his abortion stance throughout the campaign. 

Gardner threw his support behind Glenn Wednesday, reportedly saying to Roll Call that Glenn has fundraising challenges ahead of him but that he’s “winning when nobody expected him to.” And that, Gardner was quoted as saying, “bodes well for November.”

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