DENVER ― He’s a great listener. He’s extremely patient. And though his personality can be a bit flat, he never ducks a question.
Because he can’t move.
“He” is Cardboard Cory, a life-size cardboard cutout of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) that frustrated activists created in 2017 when the senator ceased holding public town halls in favor of unannounced private events.
In the senator’s absence, Cardboard Cory has been hosting real events with real people.
Activists have been lugging six Cardboard Cories to various meet-and-greets, forums and other events where constituents are encouraged to ask questions of the facsimile that they can’t direct at the real thing. Some of the interactions are then tweeted at Gardner.
Last week, Cardboard Cory went on tour, visiting 11 cities across the state.
The tour kicked off last Monday with a stop outside Gardner’s Denver office, where state Rep. Tom Sullivan, whose son was murdered in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, said he’s been trying to meet with Gardner for the better part of a decade.
“Cory Gardner has refused to meet with me for seven-plus years, and I’ve made it very easy for him,” said Sullivan. “Our family endured the worst mass shooting in our state’s history, and he doesn’t have the courage to stand in front of me and my family and at least give us the ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ talk.”
“I can’t imagine the lack of compassion he shows for people like Dreamers,” Sullivan added, referring to undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children.
At a stop in Grand Junction on Thursday, cancer survivor and health care activist Laura Packard, who was part of the bus tour, encouraged the senator to host more public events.
“I think that it’s pretty sad that you have to talk to a paper product instead of your elected U.S. senator,” Packard told the media. “I don’t understand why he’s so afraid of Coloradans. He should do more public town halls so that he can hear from us and hear what we have to say.”
Activists say it’s been 644 days since Gardner’s most recent public town hall in 2017; his office was unable to prove otherwise to the Greeley Tribune. Gardner’s last two town hall events were 480 days apart, according to a local activist.
All the while, the senator has repeatedly, pointedly ignored interview requests from local media, and dismissed an uptick in phone calls to his office in 2017 as coming from “paid protesters.”
Gardner’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment from HuffPost.