DENVER – As Colorado embraces the one-year anniversary of the September floods, the issue has become a centerpiece of the state’s U.S. Senate race.
Democratic incumbent Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner, a congressman from Yuma, are working to highlight their recovery efforts since the devastating floods that took lives and destroyed homes.
Gardner on Wednesday commemorated the anniversary with remarks on the floor of the U.S. House, while Udall is planning stops Friday in Lyons and Jamestown, where flooding was particularly horrific.
Given the expensive and heated election season, the issue has flooded into the race, with both sides attacking each other over efforts.
Udall’s camp referred to last year’s government shutdown in the wake of the floods, in which Republicans locked down on government funding in an effort to force Senate Democrats to defund President Barack Obama’s federal health-care reform.
“Congressman Gardner would like us all to forget that he chose to shut down the government while thousands of Coloradans were struggling to put their lives back together after last year’s flood,” said Kristin Lynch, a Udall campaign spokeswoman. “Gardner’s reckless shutdown delayed Colorado’s flood recovery and hurt our small businesses and local economies when they were at their most vulnerable.”
The Udall campaign pointed out that Gardner voted to reject Democratic efforts to reopen government. But Gardner ultimately joined a minority of Republicans to reopen the government, which included $450 million in funding for flood repairs.
While there was no formal vote on a government shutdown, there was a Republican-led movement to defund the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare. The effort was tied to several appropriations bills.
A letter circulated at the time in which dozens of House Republicans signaled their support for defunding health-care reform through the appropriations process. Gardner did not sign that letter.
“Cory stood proudly with Senator Udall and other members of Colorado’s congressional delegation to fight for Coloradans during the flood and even helped rescue flood victims from a Colorado National Guard helicopter,” said Matt Connelly, a Gardner campaign spokesman. “Coloradans deserve better than a senator who would exploit victims and divide Colorado for his own selfish personal gain.”
The Gardner campaign released a video Wednesday highlighting news reports of Gardner and Udall working together on recovery efforts.
Gardner also came down hard on Udall for recent comments regarding the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, a Sunni militant group. The militants are also referred to as ISIL.
At a Club 20 debate in Grand Junction on Saturday, Udall said, “I can tell you Steve Sotloff and James Foley would tell us, don’t be impulsive. Horrible and barbarous as those executions were, don’t be impulsive, come up with a plan to knock ISIL back.”
The comment referred to two American journalists recently murdered by ISIS.
He later apologized for invoking the names of the two Americans who were beheaded by the Islamic State.
“When addressing ISIL during this weekend’s debate, I should not have invoked the names of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. It was inappropriate, and I sincerely apologize,” the senator said in a statement.
“My intent was to emphasize the importance of taking the right next steps as we confront this serious threat,” Udall continued. “It is critically important for the United States, our allies and countries in the region to beat back ISIL.”