Sen. Cory Gardner, “our environmentalist,” addresses CACI

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at a lunch Thursday sponsored by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. (Photo courtesy of Evan Semón)
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams at a lunch Thursday sponsored by the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry. (Photo courtesy of Evan Semón)

Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner was introduced at a business lunch in Denver on Thursday as “our environmentalist on Capitol Hill” and dang if he didn’t get up and recycle a joke from his 2014 campaign.

Gardner noted that the attack ads aimed at him featured “grainy black-and-white pictures” and seemed to air “every 30 seconds.”

“One of the greatest places you can go to as a Republican in a heated campaign is Cabella’s,” he said, referring to the giant fishing-and-hunting outlet.

Per usual, the line elicited laughter. Gardner talked about customers coming up to him at the Cabella’s in Grand Junction and asking how he was doing. Two men in particular were staring at him. One walked off but the other said, “Hey, hey, are you — ?” and Gardner smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah, I am.”

“So he calls his buddy over and says, ‘Look, it’s Bill Owens!'” Gardner said, referring to a former governor.

The crowd at the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry gathering let out a big laugh, and Gardner then finished off with another line: “So now I go to REI.”

Keith Pearson, chair-elect of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and Travis Webb, a managing partner at BKD LLP, the new CACI chair, at a lunch Thursday (Photo by Evan Semón)
Keith Pearson, chair-elect of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and Travis Webb, a managing partner at BKD LLP and the new CACI chair, at a lunch Thursday in Denver. (Photo by Evan Semón)

The crowd also welcomed CACI’s new chairman, Travis Webb, a managing partner at BKD LLP, one of the nation’s largest accounting and advisory firms. The Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry ‘s motto is “We champion a healthy business climate.”

Gardner last year defeated Democrat Mark Udall, becoming the first candidate in 36 years to knock off an incumbent Colorado U.S. senator. He told the crowd that he and Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and the rest of the Colorado delegation — featuring three Democrats and four Republicans — get along better than some delegations that are all members of the same party.

“The Colorado delegation works together better than any other delegation in the country,” Gardner said, adding that helped the state get the funding to finish the beleaguered Veterans Affairs hospital in Aurora.

The senator touched on a variety of topics, including broadband, deregulation, marijuana and banking, trade agreements and aerospace and technology. He got a big round of applause when he said the Senate passed the first long-term transportation bill in more than a decade, particularly after he spelled out what that money means for Colorado. And he talked about the need to bring the economic boom in certain parts of Colorado, such as the Denver metro area, to the rest of the state.

Gardner also joked on the situation in Washington, saying he is the only senator not running for president, and noted the one thing D.C. can agree on is who will not be speaker. He then pointed to CACI’s executive director, former state House Speaker Chuck Berry, and said a petition was circulating to put Berry in the post.

The line about Gardner being an environmentalist drew this response on Twitter from Conservation Colorado: “Interesting.” His environmental record was criticized during the campaign.