GREELEY – U.S. Sen. Gardner took the stage at the second of three town halls Tuesday to a mixture of cheers and boos and, despite efforts by his aides to encourage attendees to ask a wider variety of questions, faced many inquiries on health care.
They centered on his lack of support for single-payer care, what he’d do to prevent the disadvantaged from losing Medicaid and his reasons to vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, when many his constituents don’t want him to.
One woman, a single mother with two young daughters who depend on Medicaid, asked Gardner what he will do to make sure she can afford health care, to a standing ovation from the crowd. Another man who identified himself as disabled asked Gardner why his health care proposals don’t prioritize people like him.
“I hope that we’ll have everyone involved instead of allowing the system to collapse because that’s not acceptable,” Gardner said in response to one question about health care moving forward. “… When I ran in 2014, I pledged to make sure we lowered the cost and increased the quality of health care.”
Gardner was answering questions at Greeley public charter school’s auditorium during the second of three solo town halls, his first such events in over a year.
Amid jeers and groans from the crowd, Gardner turned to large charts and graphs when asked about health care. And, when he said he wanted to stabilize the insurance market and take care of people with pre-existing conditions, one woman yelled out, “You did not vote that way!” to which the crowd responded with cheers.
Gardner advocated for transparency in health care, but the next man who took the microphone after that statement criticized the senator of the hypocrisy to advocate for transparency while he had participated in closed door meetings to help draft the proposed replacement for the Affordable Care Act.
“You talk about transparency, and you went into closed doors … but you didn’t even have a woman on the panel,” said Scott McClain, to a standing ovation from the crowd.
Generally dissatisfied with Gardner’s actions in Washington, a few people asked him what he was going to do to counter rhetoric from the White house that did not immediately condemn attacks in Charlottesville, Va., in which 20-year-old James Alex Fields was charged with ramming his car into a crowd and killing a woman.
“We can’t let people think that somebody who believes in the KKK or white supremacy is part of any base,” Gardner said. “That’s why I spoke up. … Why we have a 20-year-old neo-Nazi in this country I don’t know. We have to stand up and fight (against that).”
But his strong statements against the violence provoked criticism that he would not actually follow through with policy, and responses that he wouldn’t go along with everything the president did fueled conservatives’ criticism that he is more concerned about Washington Republicans than for the people who elected him.
Among the smaller but notable gathering of Republicans, one man expressed displeasure that he helped get Gardner elected but did not believe the senator was doing enough to support Trump and was disappointed in the failed attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Our government has no business messing around with health care,” said Earl Hood before the event started, who is a Fort Loften resident who previously served as a Republican delegate. “Health care is not a right. I want to ask him why our party is not working with our Republican president.”
Hood did ask him, and Gardner’s response was that he will continue to stand up for what he believes is right – regardless of the president’s agenda. But, this further angered liberal attendees, who countered that he stands up for himself, not the people he represents in Colorado.
“We have to recognize that there are people who voted for Trump,” Gardner said. “There are people who voted for Hillary Clinton.”
Gardner’s last town hall Tuesday is in Lakewood, at Colorado Christian University, from 3:30 to 5 p.m.