DENVER – The race for U.S. Senate in Colorado is perhaps the centerpiece contest facing voters this midterm election.
The fate of incumbent Democrat Mark Udall could determine the balance of power in Congress. If Republican U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma is able to unseat his opponent, it's possible that the U.S. Senate flips to Republican control.
The left has relentlessly been attacking Gardner, mostly over personhood.
Gardner pulled his support this year for a state ballot question that would assign constitutional rights to the unborn, thereby banning abortion. Critics say the initiative would go as far as to ban common forms of birth control.
Gardner not only distanced himself from it, but he also proposed providing “the pill” over the counter without a prescription.
Still, Udall and fellow Democrats point out that Gardner remains a sponsor of the federal Life Begins at Conception Act. They say the measure is tantamount to state personhood.
Even sponsors of the Colorado personhood effort equate the federal bill to personhood, and those sponsors told The Durango Herald, “We wholeheartedly support both.”
FactCheck.org said voters should be aware that Gardner still supports a federal bill that would prompt the same concerns over birth control.
But Gardner insists that he has remained a sponsor of the federal bill because they are different policy proposals.
“They are two different pieces of legislation. Different from a procedural standpoint; from a legislative standpoint. So, they are not the same, and they are completely different,” Gardner told the Herald on Tuesday.
When pressed to highlight the policy differences, Gardner answered, “One is a federal bill, one is a state bill, one's an amendment to the state constitution with a number of other implications. They are different, they are not the same.”
For his part, Udall acknowledged that the race has been filled with attacks.
“I owe it to Colorado to make the best, strongest case, and to draw comparisons between Congressman Gardner and me,” Udall said.
One area in which Udall is drawing a comparison concerns last year's government shutdown in the wake of the September floods. Republicans forced a budgetary impasse in an effort to defund Obamacare. Gardner ultimately joined a minority of Republicans to reopen the government, which included $450 million in funding for flood repair.
“This is a contrast between Congressman Gardner and myself,” Udall said. “Congressman Gardner supported the government shutdown that delayed the recovery.”
Gardner responded, “I never supported the government shutdown. In fact, I worked during the shutdown ... to reopen the government.”
Energy and water
Perhaps the greatest issue facing Southwest Colorado is energy and water.
The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed rules that would allow it to regulate small bodies of water and cut carbon-dioxide emissions.
Udall said the energy debate comes down to addressing climate change, stating, “You ensure that the conversation continues about how do we respond to climate change.”
In addition, he added, Gardner, “doesn't believe climate change is a threat.”
Gardner, however, said he understands that climate change is a problem. He said, “Where I draw the line is policies that ... would destroy our economy.”
Gardner also defended a ballot initiative he supported in 2008 that would have redirected some gas and oil severance-tax revenues from water to highway projects.
“It was an effort to guarantee an increase in water funding every year protected constitutionally from raids by other people,” he said.
This story was changed from its original publication to clarify the source of a quote about personhood bills.