Ahead of Townhall Meetings, National Poll Finds Similar Approval Numbers For Bennet, Gardner
As lawmakers head back to their districts to hold townhalls during the August recess, some are being targeted by local chapters of national activist groups, according to documents available on social media.
This comes as public support for Colorado’s split Senate delegation featuring a Democrat and a Republican remains in a virtual tie.
A July poll showing U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) on equal footing comes as Gardner heads into three townhalls today, targeted by national anti-fossil fuel groups like 350.org and Indivisible.
The Morning Consult’s “Senator Approval Rankings,” issued last month, surveyed more than 140,000 registered voters across the country in interviews from April 1 through June 18. Bennet and Gardner were virtually tied and found themselves in the middle of the Senate pack, with Colorado’s senior senator, Bennet, edging out Gardner, 49 to 48 in approval. Gardner was also just one point behind in disapproval, 29 to 28.
Bennet’s approval has dipped from 54 percent since April’s survey, while Gardner more or less held steady dropping a point. Meanwhile, Bennet’s disapproval ticked up two points, while Gardner’s fell by one.
At a townhall scheduled for this afternoon in Lakewood, Colo., activist groups have issued pre-planned questions targeting Gardner on a number of issues, including the environment and climate change.
The questionnaire for Gardner’s townhall, created and distributed by Indivisible Denver, a “collective” formed in opposition to the Trump administration, says its mission is to “empower citizens to advocate for progressive values through nonviolent political activism, community-building, and providing education focused on increasing civic literacy and building a stronger culture of participatory citizenship.”
The group says it adheres to the principles on the “Indivisible Guide,” which includes advocacy tactics calling for activists to target town halls, demand district office visits, coordinate calls to “barrage your MoCs [Members of Congress],” and find other local events.
“Don’t let them get photo-ops without questions about racism, authoritarianism, and corruption,” according to the Indivisible Guide. Most importantly, the tactics argue, is to make sure to “report back to local media.”
“Ok folks, here it is: The Cory Gardner Town Hall Tip Sheet, compiled by Indivisible Denver. We compiled this based on questions submitted on our FB group, from ideas suggested by other organizations, and from the Indivisible Guide,” wrote Mark A S on the group’s Facebook page.
On environment and climate issues, the group recommended prodding Gardner over EPA budgeting.
“Will you promise me that you will refuse to vote for a budget bill that eliminates these services and endangers the health and safety of Coloradans?” wrote Indivisible Denver.
The group also advocated pushing Gardner on climate change.
“Do you accept the scientific consensus that climate change is real, human-caused, and poses a threat to society? And do you support the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement?”
The pamphlet included “tips for making your questions count” and covered a variety of hot button topics from North Korea to health care.
The two will participate in a panel together next week at the Colorado Oil and Gas Association’s Rocky Mountain Energy Summit, entitled “Business Power Lunch: The Strategy and Future of America’s Energy Plan.” Both senators have appeared together at the COGA event in the past. Gardner called any attempt to end natural resource development “irresponsible” last August at the summitt Bennet said he was “deeply concerned” about the Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone rule in 2015.
Earlier this year in Washington, DC, Bennet and Gardner parted ways on the Bureau of Land Management’s methane rule vote in May, with Bennet voting against moving forward with discussion on repealing the rule, while Gardner voted in favor of proceeding with debate.
Bennet’s own townhalls haven’t been a cakewalk either for the Democrat, facing tough energy questions from anti-fossil fuel activists earlier in the summer. Just after the May 10 methane rule vote, Bennet pushed back against “Keep It In the Ground” activists who disagreed with his position on the Keystone XL pipeline, as reported in Western Wire.
“How do we get progressives like you, who seem to be on the same page on other issues, to work with us on this pressing issue? How do we get you to stand with communities?” an activist asked Bennet. Bennet voted in favor of supporting the Keystone project in 2014.
“My objection to it is that it did nothing to build the environmental movement,” said Bennet in reference to the opposition to Keystone during the town hall in Boulder, Colo. “It did nothing to persuade people that didn’t agree with us that climate was something really important.”
At townhalls and other forums, Bennet said, making Keystone XL pipeline opposition a litmus test on climate change and environmental issues was the wrong move.
“A decision was made to make that the symbol for whether you supported climate, whether you believed in climate change, or whether you were an environmentalist,” he said. “That was the choice that was made. And it was a choice that was made because people said, ‘We can’t see CO2 [carbon dioxide emissions], we have to make it something people can see.’”