Protesters press Sen. Gardner for a town hall | PostIndependent.com

Protesters press Sen. Gardner for a town hall

Ryan Summerlin
rsummerlin@postindependent.com

Scores of protesters greeted Sen. Cory Gardner with chants of "we want a town hall" when he held a private fundraising dinner at the Hotel Colorado on Friday night.

While the senator has been hosting closed-door fundraising events, he's getting flak for not holding a public town hall for constituents.

Planned Parenthood was instrumental in rallying protesters to picket outside the Hotel Colorado, and during busy, after-work traffic, the sidewalks swelled with what was estimated to be more than 100 people at Sixth Street and Grand Avenue. Other local groups, like Indivisible Roaring Fork, also spread the word to get a solid turnout at the rally.

"Senator Gardner has been home in Colorado for almost two weeks now, but he hasn't hosted a public town hall yet for his constituents. He's keeping his recess activities one-sided by requiring RSVPs and tickets, or hosting private events like the one in Glenwood this Friday," Molly Swank, Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado field director, wrote to encourage supporters to rally in Glenwood.

But the protesters weren't only there for women's rights. Lots of pink, knitted hats topped demonstrators' heads, but the issues they brought up ran the political gamut. They do not want Gardner to support efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level. They also opposed the president's executive orders on immigration and his environmental and energy development policies.

"I don't want my daughter to have to stand on a corner and protest and fight for our rights as women," said Kellie Smith of Basalt. Gardner has stood with 100 percent of President Donald Trump's policies, she said.

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Mary Gish, from Glenwood Springs, also joined the rally because she was motivated by thinking about future generations. But the protest was familiar territory for her. Gish, who is now 77, also protested at the Women's March on Washington, D.C., the day after President Trump's inauguration. And she later went to Planned Parenthood's convention in Phoenix earlier this month, and then to the Tax Day March in the same city, protesting to have the president release his tax returns.

Heather Kent, from Basalt, told of her son, who was born with a pre-existing condition. He was uninsurable when insurance companies could deny coverage for such conditions, so Kent's family is intimately impacted by health-care policy, she said.

Others held signs opposing the president's increasingly aggressive posture toward North Korea.

It's great to see people who maybe weren't as politically engaged before the presidential election becoming involved, and it's going to be important to keep that energy going into 2018, said Kent.

"Cory Gardner is not listening to his constituents. He's supposed to listen to all his constituents, not just the special interests that can afford to pay him," said Judi Simecek of Carbondale.

Zoe Yost, from Glenwood Springs, said she was there primarily to fight the effort to defund Planned Parenthood, as the organization had provided her with health care at a time when she was without insurance.

Gardner ran on promises to be a moderate senator, but he has turned into one of the most partisan members of the Senate, said Ryan Yost.