Cardboard Cory – a life-size, cutout version of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner – arrived Friday in Durango, one of 11 stops on a tour of Colorado.
Tour organizers are highlighting what they perceive as Gardner’s lack of willingness to hold public events or meet with constituents.
In an airport shuttle-sized bus with his face painted on the side, Cardboard Cory arrived at 11 a.m. Friday in Buckley Park to hold a mock town hall. Attendees had the chance to pose questions they would like the real senator to answer. Representatives from Conservation Colorado, Front Range Indivisible and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition also gave talks.
“Our main ask is that the senator hold a public town hall announced in advance so that real Coloradans can attend and talk to him about the issues that matter most to them,” said tour communications director Olga Robak earlier this week during a phone interview.
Cardboard Cory made his first appearance in 2017 when 1,000 attendees of the “with or without you” town hall made similar calls for the senator to participate. Gardner succumbed to pressure in August of that year when he held three town halls in one day. He was greeted with hostile questions and a rowdy atmosphere, The Denver Post reported. He hasn’t held an in-person town hall since.
Gardner has spent much of U.S. Congress’ August recess meeting with Coloradans across the state, he said. He has met with community members and business owners on what he calls his “Main Street Walking Tours,” the latest of which took place in Windsor.
But Robak said too many of those meetings have been held with hand-picked audiences and haven’t been advertised far enough in advance.
Gardner’s office pointed to a few recent events to refute claims that he is unavailable. In June, for instance, The Fort Morgan Times invited the public to a meeting with Gardner and the Morgan County Republican Central Committee, four days ahead of time. This month, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America invited the public to a panel discussion that included Gardner.
“I have been traveling across all four corners of the state meeting with Coloradans,” Gardner wrote in an email. “My ‘Main Street Walking Tours’ have continued, taking me to more than a dozen towns across the state. These informal meet-and-greets are a great way to hear directly from Coloradans, and I take these discussions to Washington to fight for bipartisan solutions.”
Part of the Cardboard Cory tour’s goal is to collect questions and send them to Gardner.
“Honestly, if the senator watched our tour and watched the videos of people asking him questions, he’d be perfectly prepared to hold a real town hall,” Robak said.
The tour is sponsored by Protect Our Care, Conservation Colorado, Indivisible, ProgressNow Colorado, Planned Parenthood Votes, American Votes Colorado and Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition.
James Marshall is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.