THE BLOG
09/06/2014 08:00 am ET Updated Nov 06, 2014

How Gardner Rode an Abortion Ban to Congress

Back in July, Cosmo's Ada Calhoun quoted Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA, as saying:

Mason: "[Cory Gardner has] built his entire political career on support of personhood. I think he's just listening to some bad advice, and he's playing politics."

Calhoun didn't get into the details of how and why Gardner,who's now running for U.S. Senate in Colorado, relied on personhood to advance himself in politics, so I'll hit on it briefly now, not only because it gives you insight into Gardner but, in the bigger picture, the anti-abortion movement's lock on Republican candidates as they move through caucus and primary processes in Colorado.

From the time he was elected to the State Legislature, Gardner clearly made his anti-abortion stance a priority, sponsoring state personhood legislation, in 2007, defining life as beginning at conception and outlawing abortion even in the case of rape and incest.

In 2008, Gardner stood with other Colorado legislators in support of Colorado's first personhood ballot measure, earning a shout out from Kristi Burton, the mother of our state's personhood movement.

When she helped launch the 2012 personhood measure, which didn't make the ballot, Burton praised Gardner as "very supportive" and "one of our main supporters" of personhood campaigns.

Gardner's deep support from anti-abortion activists paid off when he launched his first congressional campaign against a tough field of candidates, including Tom Lucero, the former CU regent.

At a Tea Party event in November of 2009, Gardner was asked if he'd carry legislation to end the "practice" of abortion:

Gardner: "Yes, and I have a legislative background to back it up."

The applause you hear in the video is a clue to how important the abortion issue is to the activists in attendance. You can imagine the reaction of any if the three candidates present had offered anything but a full-throttle acceptance of banning abortion.

Later, in 2010, Gardner touted his personhood chops at one Republican congressional candidate forum, where he infamously said the following. (Again, note the round of applause.):

Gardner: "I have signed the personhood petition. I have taken the petitions to my church, and circulating into my church. And I have a legislative record that backs up my support for life."

All his trumpeting of his personhood stance set Gardner up perfectly to win the votes of pro-life delegates at the 2010 GOP district convention, where the congressional nominee is selected.

Indeed, as reported by the Colorado Statesman in May of 2010, Gardner "stormed the 4th Congressional District GOP assembly last Friday -- winning 60 percent of the delegate vote and shutting out University of Colorado Regent Tom Lucero and businessman Dean Madere, the two other Republican contenders."

Leslie Jorgensen, covering the assembly for the Statesman, reported a detail that brings us back to the exact point personhood's Keith Mason made about Gardner building his "career on support of personhood."

Jorgensen reported:

Christian Family Alliance of Colorado distributed a flyer to delegates that reported the three candidates' positions on several conservative issues that included public funded abortions, the personhood ballot initiative, gay rights, and posting the 10 Commandments in public buildings. Gardner scored perfect responses, Lucero missed the mark on two issues, and Madere had "refused to respond." [BigMedia emphasis.]

This (as well as the rest of this blog post above) obviously isn't proof that Gardner, who's debating Democratic Sen. Mark Udall at the Club 20 debate in Durango tonight, owes his political career solely to his support of personhood.

But it's clear enough that personhood was one of the foundational building blocks of his climb to Congress, proving Keith Mason correct and shedding light on the short-term gain GOP candidates encounter by joining with anti-abortion activists. And the long-term pain they encounter if they seek state-wide office in Colorado and are forced to defend their positions.