Gardner vs. Gardner: Lawmaker whips up ire over state GOP caucus vote

A Colorado Springs legislator complained to the state House Republican Caucus on Thursday that he’d been sucker-punched when a “multidimensional, or even multiambitional chess game” went awry and his co-conspirators backed off plans to challenge their party’s sitting leadership.

“Some of you may have already been threatened with a primary about your vote here today,” state Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Spring told members of his caucus as they prepared to chose between him and state Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma for the position of minority whip, PolitickerCO reported Friday morning. “It is a matter of personal style,” Bob Gardner told the caucus. “If you want a style that twists your arm, than I’m not your candidate. But if you want a style that is open and honest and respectful and listens to you … I ask for your vote.”

Bob Gardner lost the secret ballot to Cory Gardner, who denied he’d enlisted the other Gardner in a plan to unseat incumbent Assistant Minority Leader David Balmer of Centennial. Cory Gardner and his cohort, state Rep. Frank McNulty of Highlands Ranch, also scoffed at the notion any Republicans had been threatened with 2010 primary challenges.

Let’s back up here, because it gets complicated (and not only because two of the players, who are not related, share a last name). Bob Gardner contended the other Gardner and McNulty recruited him last month to run for minority whip as part of a slate intended to topple Balmer, with Cory Gardner taking on the assistant minority leader — a position that could bolster Cory Gardner’s rumored plans to challenge U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, the Democrat elected this week to represent the Republican-leaning 4th Congressional District.

So when Bob Gardner threw his hat in the ring for minority whip, he expected his comrades to back him. However, he claimed, they changed their mind and reshuffled the deck, declining to challenge Balmer but unwilling to give up on Cory Gardner’s designs on a leadership post. That’s how Bob Gardner found himself facing Cory Gardner in the whip race when he’d thought they were on the same team.

McNulty copped to recruiting Bob Gardner to run for the whip post but said circumstances had changed because House Republicans picked up two seats in the election. “I think that I am comfortable with the leadership team that we have now,” McNulty told PolitickerCO on Thursday.

As for Bob Gardner’s charge that caucus members were threatened with primaries to sway votes? “Obviously (he’s) a little bit bitter,” McNulty told the online news site. “His words tended to indicate that he had to have some knowledge that the votes weren’t going to go his way — and as it turned out, they didn’t.”