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When politicians say nothing – Breaking down what Sen. Udall and Rep. Gardner said and didn’t say

Illustration PULP | Image: Gilmar Mattos

I’m going to be honest, we didn’t think our questions we asked Senator Mark Udall and Congressman Cory Gardner these past two months were “gotcha” questions. We didn’t think they were softballs either. So how is it that Sen. Udall who has been in D.C. since 1999–and a member of the Udall political dynasty– and Rep. Gardner who was a staffer for former Senator Wayne Allard dodged the simplest of questions about what they wanted to do for Southern Colorado and the partisan stalemate in Washington?

First the why to our questions.

There’s intractable stalemate in Washington, and a lot of talk about how to fix it, but the problem comes down to this: A conservative would be blasted for admitting belief in global warming, and a liberal would never think of reelection if they didn’t throw support behind anything prochoice. They aren’t moving because it could cost them their job, and that leads to stalemate.

Stalemate leads to inactivity and inactivity leads to low approval ratings. Pew Research found that Americans believe the problems in congress are not caused by the political system, but by lawmakers themselves.

Instead of asking why, it’s time to start asking how. How does congress gain America’s trust? How does a politician represent a starkly divided state in congress? How do you plan to work with the other side like you say you will? How do you balance issues for both rural areas and cities?

Starting with Congressman Gardner. We wanted to know how he’ll act differently- how will he “lead a new generation,” [his quote in a campaign ad not ours] of politicians who can work together to get things done? And, we wanted to gain insight on what he believes are the major issues for Southern Colorado.

Gardner represents the part of the state that wanted to secede from Colorado. It’s extreme and the question is if he would act similarly as a senator. So, we wanted him to talk about how he would bridge the gap between extremes.

Garder states, “differences in opinion don’t have to lead irreconcilable divisions.” Yet two recent campaign pushes in mid-July, Gardner mocks Udall for supporting President Obama. The new generation sounds a lot like the old generation.

On local issues surrounding Southern Colorado we intentionally left our questions broad to understand how he viewed attacking problems in this region. Currently, he represents La Junta and Trinidad all the way to the Kansas border then up to the Wyoming border.

The way he answered our questions, it may be shocking to learn he represents the southeast. To be fair he’s been actively working on important regional issues: Pinon Canon Maneuver Site, funding for domestic violence in rural areas, lean drinking water in the lower Arkansas Valley, rural broadband access and rural healthcare programs. All serious work he’s done, though not as sexy as blaming Udall.

Finally, we wanted to know how he will represent both urban and rural Colorado.  He talked the good game of listening to all stakeholders. But this goes back to our main point, how will you not ignore the views of the people that didn’t vote for you?

His response was basically, I will welcome all opinions, and I’m going to stick to my guns.

As for Senator Udall, we expected him to talk with the air and breadth of a United States Senator. He did for the most part. Udall talked about raising the minimum wage, his NSA spying opposition, wage discrimination to women, a strong renewable energy push, supporting immigration reform through the dream act, support for the Southwest Chief to name a few.

Senator Udall’s questions were more direct to answer the questions: what have you done for Southern Colorado and why should we reelect you?

The most important thing he’s done for Colorado, in his words, was bringing the optimism to the Senate- which he says helped end ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and got money for areas in Colorado that were destroyed by fires and flooding.

Missing from Senator Udall’s answers was how to get Washington functional. His answer was a little curious when his Buzzfeed posts boast about standing on top of mountains and not seeing a red or blue state and that he will fight for Colorado, but he doesn’t give local readers much hope as to how to he has (or would) get Washington working.

We had hoped they gave specifics on major initiatives for the various sub-regions. In the upper Ark talking more about water, tourism and job growth. In Fremont County possibly discussing the Federal Prisons. Out east, water, drought and jobs are issues vital to everyday. In Pueblo turning it into a regional powerhouse again. And finally, addressing the issues of the most ignored part of the Colorado — the San Luis Valley.

Both politicians talk about coming together and forming the can-do Colorado. One that helps rural communities thrive and urban communities prosper. The problem is the same here as it is in Washington- is it all talk or do they mean it?

The reason why there’s stalemate., why Congress’ approval ratings are so low, is because of the timeless curse of all politicians, their actions are different from their words.

Our interviews with Senator Mark Udall | Representative Cory Gardner.

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Written by Kara Mason

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Kara Mason is PULP's news editor. She is also the Society of Professional Journalists Colorado Pro Chapter president. Kara freelances for other regional publications, covering government, politics and the environment.

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