Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO), who is challenging Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), has expressed skepticism in the past that climate change is caused by man and is now drawing attacks from Democrats for it. But he’s still touting his own green bonafides in a key Senate race that could turn on environmental and energy issues, releasing an ad this week that features Gardner striding in front of windmills and talking up his support for renewable power.
“What is a Republican like me doing at a wind farm?” Gardner asks the camera. “Supporting the next generation, that’s what.” He touts his authorship while in the state legislature of a law that “launch(ed) our state’s green energy industry.”
Gardner’s history with environmental issues is a little more nuanced than the ad might suggest, and Democrats have tried to seize on it. Back in 2010, shortly after he was elected to the U.S. House in a campaign where he railed against cap-and-trade legislation, Garder told Environment and Energy Daily, according to an archived story accessed through LexisNexis: “I believe climate change is happening. I’m just not convinced man is causing it.”
Those kinds of comments from Gardner have been the focus of an attack campaign on the Republican from NextGen Climate, the advocacy group founded by billionaire Tom Steyer, who has pledged to spend $100 million during the 2014 elections.
The group is spending $700,000 on a television ad that uses climate change skepticism as one example of Gardner’s extremism, according to KDVR in Denver. “He thinks he knows better than the scientists, NASA and the U.S. military on climate change,” the ad’s narrator says.
NextGen Climate also put up two digital billboards this week that hits Gardner for “denying” climate change, according to the Denver Post.
Seth Masket, a political scientist at the University of Denver, told TPM last month that energy and the climate could be the big issues of the Colorado Senate race. The state is a mix of hardcore environmentalists and suburban liberals who tend to believe in green on the one hand, but it also has a healthy support for fracking in its rural areas. Last month, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper even negotiated a deal to take anti-fracking initiatives off the ballot this fall, the Post reported.
Udall already has “sterling environmental bonafides,” Masket said, and now Gardner seems intent on putting green energy at the center of his platform. “I’m anticipating that will be a big issue.”