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Frustrated residents seek response from Sen. Cory Gardner

Office protesters say they want their voice heard

Frustrated that Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner has ignored countless calls, more than 50 people converged on his Durango office Tuesday in an attempt to elicit a response from their elected official.

“I pay taxes, which pays for (Gardner’s) salary, his health care, and he can’t even answer his phone,” said Durango resident Lauri Costello. “It’s not a democracy when people don’t have a voice.”

Since the election and subsequent inauguration of President Donald Trump, many of those in attendance Tuesday have called their locally elected officials to express a range of concerns.

Most people standing outside Gardner’s office near Office Depot said such things as Trump’s nominees for key Cabinet positions, environmental policies and basic human rights have prompted them to call or write at least once a week.

All said Gardner has failed to respond in any meaningful way – in contrast to Congressman Scott Tipton, a Republican, and Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat – and that attempts to contact a representative in the Durango office have continually been unsuccessful.

“I just don’t understand why Cory Gardner is not responding to the people he’s supposed to represent,” said Gail Harriss, a Durango resident. “Especially when time is of the essence with Trump’s nominees.”

Alex Siciliano, a Washington, D.C., spokesman for Gardner, said since Jan. 1, the senator’s office has received a large volume of emails and phone calls. He has responded to more than 25,000 letters and fielded thousands of phone calls.

“Nothing is more important to Senator Gardner than providing the best constituent service possible to all Coloradans,” Siciliano wrote in an emailed response.

“We continue to receive a large volume of calls from out-of-state special interests, many of them from New York and California. Our office will continue to prioritize responses to Coloradans in a timely fashion.”

The Durango Herald on Tuesday called all of Gardner’s eight offices in Colorado, as well as the Washington, D.C. headquarters.

In Durango, the line continues to ring with no voicemail.

In Denver, multiple calls throughout the day were met with a busy signal.

At Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Greely and Washington D.C., a voicemail was left on the general lines with no return call Tuesday. Siciliano said those offices passed the reporter’s messages to him.

And at Grand Junction, Pueblo and Yuma, a representative answered the line and referred The Herald to Gardner’s press contact, who returned a call.

“I called this morning, and it rang and rang and rang,” said Durango resident Rose Chilcoat, a former conservation advocate with the Great Old Broads for Wilderness.

“I’m calling on Cory Gardner to represent the people of Colorado and not stay in lockstep with people trying to dismantle a government for the people, almost on a daily basis now.”

Gardner defeated incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Udall in 2014, by about 49,700 votes.

Most recently in Colorado, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton beat Trump by more than 136,300 votes.

In October, Gardner renounced his support of Trump after the release of a 2005 video that shows Trump making vulgar comments about women.

On Friday, Colorado’s junior senator sat in the VIP section while Trump was inaugurated in Washington, D.C., saying in a prepared statement later that America’s “best days are ahead.”

Earlier this month, a coalition of public interest groups demanded Gardner honor Colorado’s value rather than buckle to Trump and party loyalty.

“Senator Gardner needs to serve Colorado, not D.C. and not Donald Trump,” said Ian Silverii, executive director of ProgressNow Colorado.

In recent days, Gardner has voted in support of Rex Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO as secretary of state and applauded Scott Pruitt, the nominee for EPA administrator with fossil fuel industry ties.

“We’re very frustrated,” said Patty Dionne, an organizer of Tuesday’s event. “It’s one thing to disagree with a politician on an issue, but he’s MIA. If he doesn’t want to do his job, we’ll find someone who will.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

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