Readers’ mixed reviews of Sen. Cory Gardner’s telephone town hall

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner opened up the phone lines yesterday to take questions from a dozen people while 10,000 more reportedly listened in.

(Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

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Lots of people write letters to Senator Cory Gardner. A rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Skyline Park, Feb. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)  rally; planned parenthood; abortion; protest; copolitics; skyline park; denver; kevinjbeaty; denverite; colorado

People writing letters to Senator Cory Gardner at a rally in support of Planned Parenthood at Skyline Park, Feb. 11, 2017. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

Republican Sen. Cory Gardner opened up the phone lines yesterday to take questions from a dozen people while 10,000 more reportedly listened in.

We’ve already summarized the questions, some of which sharply challenged Gardner, and the senator’s answers — and we asked for people to tell us their thoughts on the event.

In fairness, this is a very small sample size, and it skews toward the left, or at least to people unhappy with Gardner. However, I found that those who wrote in offered a thoughtful mix of praise and criticism, and it’s worth hearing about people’s experiences with this alternative format of public engagement.

To add your own thoughts, just email me.

Scheduling problems:

The event originally was scheduled for 10 a.m., but it was moved to 9:30 a.m. ahead of Gardner’s lunch with President Donald Trump.

“I had arranged my schedule to be available to participate at 10 a.m. MST. I did not see the emails (sent in the 8 a.m. hour) alerting us to the time change as they were directed to my spam folder, but it would not have mattered if I had as I had a conflict until 10 a.m.,” wrote Kristen Hirsch of Highlands Ranch.

She ended up catching part of the event, but was not able to ask any of the questions she prepared. “I do not feel heard or represented by Sen. Gardner and found this telephone town hall to be an unacceptable substitute for engaging with constituents.”

Corinne Gearhart of Englewood similarly had to leave a meeting to get on the rescheduled call. She reports that she was abruptly disconnected from the town hall during the tenth question and could not rejoin.

Grading Gardner’s answers:

“I was not able to ask a question,” wrote David Jackson of Westminster. “He gave a substantive yet diverting answer to every question.  It was obvious why he wouldn’t do that live and in person, he would have been booed mercilessly. ”

Similarly, Heather Hernandez of Lakewood was “thankful that he made the effort, even though I’m positive it was like taking harsh medicine for him,” she wrote.

“I was impressed with how fast he can think and talk,” she said. “It’s obvious he’s a bright man. I’m sure he prepared extensively for this townhall and he made a really strong effort to answer in a way that was as oriented to progressives as he possibly could. I was encouraged to hear that he had supported efforts to inquire about cyber attacks on the election from Russia.”

Corinne agreed that “Senator Gardner had some thoughtful answers,” she wrote, but she wished she “was able to hear them all and meet my representative face to face.”

Corinne was troubled by the fact that Gardner didn’t have to deal with follow-up questions.

“We were not able to ask follow-up questions or get even the majority of our questions answered,” she wrote. She has called Gardner’s office frequently, mostly regarding Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. She noted that her old New York cellphone number is always routed to voicemail, but calls from her local number get answered.

Did it work?

“I felt respected by him on a personal level — he repeated over and over how he values what we say, gave many venues through which we could communicate with him and was a consummate professional. But his actions show that he respects money more than laws that lift up the People,” Hernandez wrote.

She added that she was impressed by the level of respect expressed by the constituents (I can attest to that too), but she felt Gardner did not give enough detail on how he wanted investigations into the Trump administration to proceed. Either way, she won’t be voting for Gardner, she wrote.

Corinne similarly wrote that she’d rather have a face-to-face meeting.

“I’m just a concerned parent worried about my children’s educational future and it felt like I was playing where’s Waldo,” she wrote of her efforts to find Gardner.
“This town hall left me more disappointed and disconnected from our Senator, not less.”