With threats, Gardner renews call for permanent U.S. Senate select committee on cybersecurity
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In this Sept. 29, 2014 photo, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., speaks at a political rally at Heritage High School, in Littleton, Colo. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

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Liberal activists are tired of waiting to ambush any event put on by Sen. Cory Gardner, so they're staging a Gardner event without him.

The "in absentia town hall" is Friday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Byers Middle School at 105 S. Pearl St. in Denver.

Members of Congress are on a break from Washington this week, but public events in Colorado by House and Senate members in either party are scarce.

Liberals are mad about all things Trump. Conservatives are mad because Democrats are giving Trump's nominees - including Denver's Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court - a hard time.

Protests at senators' offices across the country have become fixtures in the news, with each nominee and executive order Trump puts out.

U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman learned at a town hall meeting in Aurora last month that protesters can adeptly use elected officials as a political prop. The cameras rolled as he tried to slip out the back door to avoid a made-for-TV confrontation.

Friday's rally against Gardner is put on by "Colorado's largest resistance organizations," they said in a press release.

"It's his job to plan a town hall, but since he has not, we will," said Katie Farnan, an organizer with Indivisible Front Range Resistance. "The fact is we don't see any other way to connect with him, given how elusive he has become. We have invited the senator and sincerely hope he will come, but will hold the town hall with or without him."

Protesters want to talk to Gardner about "affordable healthcare, environmental regulation rollbacks, the Trump campaign's troubling ties to Russia, and the president's apparent conflicts of interest, to name a few."

Gardner has stuff on his plate this week and being yelled at by protesters on the news isn't on the menu. Tuesday at lunch, he's giving a speech to the Governor's Forum on Colorado Agriculture in Denver, for instance.

"Sen. Gardner looks forward to continuing to meet with Coloradans across the state this week," said spokesman Alex Siciliano. "During the in-state work period, Sen. Gardner is holding a number of meetings and roundtable discussions to find solutions to some of the biggest challenges Coloradans face. This includes meetings with healthcare professionals who are working to fix our broken healthcare system to deliver patient-centered, affordable healthcare.

"Sen. Gardner will also be meeting with small businesses to discuss ways to promote economic growth - whether that be by reducing burdensome regulations or reforming our tax code."

Siciliano said Gardner visited all 64 counties in Colorado in 2016.

Colorado conservative activists would like some public-spectacle face time with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet to talk about Gorsuch, but Bennet is in Cuba and Colombia this week with a congressional delegation, said spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano.

"Michael continues to hear from Coloradans daily through letters, emails, phone calls, social media, and meetings," she said.

He is not dodging protesters, however, Cipriano said.

"In fact, our office has set up regular meetings with some organizations that have protested in front of our offices this year," she said. "We want to better understand their concerns and work with them. Michael views protesters as people who care deeply about America and are getting involved with shaping and strengthening our democracy."

Cipriano listed groups he had met with and public events he has attended recently, as well.

"Our offices have added phone lines and resources to ensure we accommodate all the constituents who need our help," she said. "We are also planning tele-town halls for Michael in March."

Gardner held a tele-town hall this month, and his Friday night protesters said that wasn't good enough.

"We are seeking a traditional town hall where Senator Gardner faces the people he represents, and listens to us, and also has an opportunity to learn from us and what our concerns are," organizers of Friday's protest said in a press release.

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