A knock-down, drag-out affair in Pueblo between Sen. Mark Udall and Congressman Cory Gardner on Oct. 9 could have easily been promoted on the venue's marquee as the Steel City Smackdown.
Buoyed — and sometimes booed — by a rowdy audience, the …
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Buoyed — and sometimes booed — by a rowdy audience, the two rivals tangled on a debate stage inside Memorial Hall on issues they have clashed over countless times throughout the Senate campaign.
But while many of the issues are worn — they once again sparred over issues that included women's reproductive rights and the Affordable Care Act — the candidates' energies certainly weren't. The two went at each other hard throughout the night.
That was apparent when the Democrat Udall attacked Gardner and his Republican colleagues in the House of Representatives for failing to make progress on immigration reform. Udall scolded Gardner by saying, “You haven't lifted one finger” toward movement on immigration issues.
“You talk about growth. You want to grow the economy? Pass the immigration bill now,” Udall said, referring to the immigration reform measure that passed the Senate this year, but never got off the ground in the House.
When Gardner pivoted to energy issues during the exchange on immigration, it created an opening for Udall to highlight the congressman's dodge.
“I'm glad to talk about energy because you're wrong about that too, but we're talking about immigration reform here,” Udall said.
Gardner said earlier in the debate that Democrats had their chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform when they controlled Congress in 2010, but failed to do so.
The two exchanged immigration failure labels on each other. Udall bashed Gardner for not supporting citizenship for many of the undocumented immigrants living here, while Gardner pointed to Udall's support for a bill from nine years ago that sought to make illegal immigration a felony.
Gardner got his own shots in while criticizing the way Udall has courted women voters through television ads that have attacked the congressman over his positions on abortion, birth control and personhood, which would provide legal rights for the unborn.
Udall has tried to corner Gardner on his continued support for a federal personhood effort and for his prior support of a statewide effort here.
Gardner, who is pro-life, has said he no longer supports local personhood efforts and is in favor of women being allowed to obtain birth control without a prescription.
Gardner said Udall is clinging to women's issues “because he can't talk about anything else.”
“You've run this entire campaign as a social-issues warrior,” Gardner said.
Udall fired back, telling Gardner, “It sure takes brass” to be referring to him as the “social issues warrior.”
“Congressman, we wouldn't be having this discussion if you hadn't spent your career trying to limit the reproductive freedoms of women,” Udall said.
Gardner continued his campaign-long attack on Udall for supporting President Obama's policies, including Obamacare, the president's signature legislative achievement.
“While you're voting with President Obama 99 percent of the time, I will vote 100 percent of the time for the people of Colorado,” Gardner said.
The two also traded jabs over accusations of leadership failures. Gardner attacked Udall — whose Senate committee assignments include Armed Services and Intelligence — for missing hearings having to do with emerging threats like that of ISIS-sponsored terrorism.
And Udall slammed Gardner for voting with Republicans to shut down the federal government last year during a time when Colorado needed Uncle Sam's help during a flood disaster.
This was the third debate of the week between the two, but it was easily the most lively. At one point, Pueblo Chieftain managing editor Steve Hensen, who moderated the debate, had to scold the raucous audience for “embarrassing” themselves for their repeated outbursts throughout the evening.
But the candidates themselves seemed to be energized by the crowd, seemingly queuing up their one-liners in anticipation of a hearty response from their supporters.
Gardner jabbed at Udall when the senator accused him of distorting his record as a way to distract voters.
“I agree, your record is pretty distracting,” Gardner quipped.
That led Udall to fire back, “You get a sense of why the House of Representatives does nothing when you listen to Congressman Gardner.”
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