Colorado Sen. Mark Udall phoned his Republican opponent Rep. Cory Gardner Tuesday night and conceded a contentious senatorial campaign that spotlighted women’s health issues, including a state “personhood” amendment that Gardner claimed he didn’t support despite backing a federal “personhood” measure.
Gardner’s four point margin of victory, 49-45 percent, reflected what most polls were showing in the weeks leading up to the election.
“The people of Colorado have had their voice heard,” Gardner said during his victory speech last night, as reported by the Denver Post. “They are not red. They are not blue. But their message is crystal clear to Washington D.C., ‘Get your job done and get the heck out of the way.’ ”
The Udall campaign had consistently accused Gardner of being out of step with Colorado’s purple reputation on issues from abortion and climate change to immigration and health care.
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Udall hammered Gardner on his anti-choice record as soon as Gardner jumped in the race in March, attacking Gardner in Udall’s first campaign ad for his longstanding support for state “personhood” amendments. Colorado’s controversial personhood ballot measure was easily defeated by voters Tuesday night, marking the third time anti-choice activists have seen the measure go down in Colorado.
The Udall ad’s central message, derived from Gardner’s long history of backing personhood, would be repeated by Udall in ads and other communications throughout the campaign: If elected, Gardner will ban common forms of birth control, and he can’t be trusted.
Gardner, after three weeks without a response to Udall’s attacks, announced that his past support of personhood amendments was “not right” and he would not be supporting personhood “going forward.”
The Udall campaign responded by pointing out that Gardner remained a co-sponsor of a federal personhood bill, called the Life at Conception Act, which aimed to institute a national ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, as well as common forms of birth control.
In an effort to prove that he didn’t want to ban birth control methods, Gardner in June unveiled a proposal for over-the-counter sales of contraception.
The Udall campaign appeared to be caught off guard by Gardner’s proposal, which the congressman promoted in television advertisements and media appearances, but Udall countered in the following weeks by pointing out that Gardner’s proposal would be more expensive and uncertain for women, especially given that reproductive health care is free under the Affordable Care Act and in many instances requires a doctor’s involvement.
With Udall keeping the reproductive-health theme front and center in the campaign, local reporters began questioning Gardner about the apparent hypocrisy of abandoning state personhood amendments but standing behind a federal personhood bill.
Gardner responded by repeatedly telling dumbfounded journalists, “There is no federal personhood bill.”
In one debate, KUSA’s TV news anchor Kyle Clark told Gardner that “charitably” you have a “difficult time admitting when you’re wrong,” but less charitably, “you’re not telling us the truth.”
Reporters also grilled Udall over his campaign’s emphasis on women’s health issues. In another debate, for example, Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels pointed out that Udall had been tagged as “Mark Uterus.”
The Denver Post editorial board’s endorsement of Gardner denounced Udall’s focus on contraception and abortion issues as “obnoxious,” a characterization that Gardner repeated in ads and appearances during the campaign home stretch.