Impeachment Proceedings Are Tricky Business For Republican Senators Facing Reelection

Nov 5, 2019
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Republican voters are keeping a close watch on their Republican senators - in particular, where they stand on the impeachment inquiry and whether they're sticking by President Trump. Colorado Senator Cory Gardner will have a tough race in 2020, so Colorado Public Radio's Bente Birkeland wanted to find out what his conservative constituents think.

BENTE BIRKELAND, BYLINE: Cory Gardner joined most of his Senate Republican colleagues and signed on to a resolution condemning the House impeachment process, but he hasn't come out strongly on whether President Trump did anything wrong. Here's what he said last week.

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CORY GARDNER: Well, my position is to take it very seriously - the investigation that's taking place - to not fall for the partisan talking points and make sure that we end the political circus and actually have this done fairly and transparently.

BIRKELAND: In October, a clip of Gardner dodging a reporter's questions on the substance of impeachment went viral.

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JOE ST GEORGE: Do you believe it's appropriate for the president of the United States to ask a foreign leader to investigate a political rival, yes or no?

GARDNER: Well, look. This...

BIRKELAND: The video from Denver's Fox 31 racked up more than 2 million views.

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GARDNER: Unfortunately, though, what we've seen is a very political process take over. If you look what Al Green in Texas, member of Congress, has said - we need to impeach President Trump now because we might not be able to beat him in November - that's about politics. That's not what this serious investigation should be about.

ST GEORGE: But is it appropriate...

GARDNER: Joe, I've answered your question.

ST GEORGE: No, you didn't. Is it...

BIRKELAND: And some conservative voters are frustrated that Gardner is only addressing the impeachment process.

At a community gathering in Castle Rock, a city south of Denver, 70-year-old self-described fiscal conservative Claire Lutz (ph) says she doesn't believe Trump committed an impeachable offense and wants to hear Gardner address that.

CLAIRE LUTZ: I'd like to hear something from him backing him. I just feel that a lot of the politicians - they look out for themselves.

BIRKELAND: She thinks the inquiry is a waste of money when Congress could be working together but isn't sure whether she'll vote for Gardner again.

LUTZ: I'm going to wait a lot on this impeachment thing. Then I'm going to erase everybody that worked against President Trump.

BIRKELAND: Republican Wade Frerie (ph) plans to vote for Gardner but wants him to say more, too.

WADE FRERIE: I think he should support the president and be open about that, be more vocal. And so I'd like to hear more from him, whatever it is.

BIRKELAND: Frerie says he disagrees with Trump on a lot of occasions but calls the inquiry a sham.

Stephanie Ross Kelly (ph) supports the impeachment inquiry. She's a Republican but backed a third-party candidate for president in 2016.

STEPHANIE ROSS KELLY: Financially, I feel like our economy is doing really well, but he's just an outrageous person. It's just hard to get past that piece of it.

BIRKELAND: Ross Kelly says her vote for Gardner hinges on how he and other lawmakers conduct themselves during the impeachment inquiry.

ROSS KELLY: I don't think I like how quiet he is - think that surprised me. But usually, I align with the Republican Party. But I think our family's falling into more moderate - where we could pretty much sway either way.

BIRKELAND: Other voters we talked to in this Republican-majority county said they don't care as much about Gardner's position on impeachment. They're more concerned about immigration, taxes and the overall job market. Cory Gardner is running for a second Senate term in a state President Trump lost in 2016. Two years later, Colorado Democrats won every statewide office and flipped a congressional seat from red to blue.

For NPR News, I'm Bente Birkeland in Denver.

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