Heard on the Hill

Cory Gardner Has a Really Good Mitch McConnell Impression

Take Five: Gardner’s staff wants him to act cool in front of celebrities

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., never got to tell Powers Boothe that he loves “Red Dawn.” (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Cory Gardner’s impression of Mitch McConnell was spot-on as he described that time during the tax debate when the pair talked marijuana.

The Colorado Republican has embraced the cannabis industry. But some of his colleagues aren’t so sure.

Gardner sat down with Roll Call and talked about that, Star Wars and antiquing.

Q: What is your least favorite thing about the Senate?

A: Oh, you know, I think it’s the Jell-O at lunch, and it’s the hip replacement Thursday. As [one of] the youngest members in the Senate, I think hip replacement Thursdays are a real challenge around here.

Cory Gardner Does a Mitch McConnell Impression, Talks Star Wars and Divulges His Run-In with Prince

Q: What is your best Senate leadership story?

A: Obviously, as a Coloradan, I had been very active on the issue of marijuana. ... I was trying to explain it to Mitch McConnell. We were in the well of the Senate during the tax debate, talking about some of the marijuana tax issues, small business tax issues.

So I said, “Hey Mitch, 47-plus states have legalized some form of marijuana, medical marijuana, CBD.” I said, “Even Utah is most likely gonna legalize medical marijuana this year.”

And McConnell looks at me and he goes, “Utah?” And just this terrified look. Right as ... he says that, Orrin Hatch walks up, and Mitch looks at Orrin, and he says, “Orrin, is Utah really gonna legalize marijuana?” And Orrin Hatch folds his hands, looks down at his feet and says, “First tea, then coffee, and now this.” It was just hysterical.

[When Sen. Mark Warner Stuffed Shrimp in His Pockets]

Q:  If you could be any Star Wars character, who would you be and why?

A: I think Luke Skywalker. R2-D2 is pretty cool. But that would be tough to be a robot.

I think our kids already have every line memorized from all of them that we’ve watched. Luke Skywalker — fight for good and evil. 

Q: Who is the coolest celebrity you’ve ever met?

A: My favorite movie is “Red Dawn,” like the original “Red Dawn.”  

I was at this dinner, and I was so excited to be there because it was a group of Republican Hollywood actors. I was really pumped up, because I was a kid from a farm town in Colorado, a little teeny tiny town. … Finally, someone on my campaign staff was just like, “Stop it. You need to act like you belong.” Gary Sinise is behind me, and Kelsey Grammer comes into the room. Right next to me, a guy named Powers Boothe walks in. Now, Powers Boothe was the Air Force pilot in “Red Dawn” who taught the Wolverines how to fight. He sits down next to me, and I’m thinking this is the best day of my life.

I just wanted to say how I love “Red Dawn.” I’m so excited. This is amazing. But all I could hear was my staffer’s voice in my head going, “You need to act like you belong.” So we ended up talking politics the whole night, and I never got to tell him that I absolutely love “Red Dawn.”

There were a couple other embarrassing stories, may or may not have involved Prince years ago in an elevator. As he’s leaving, I think it was me or my friends said, “Hey Prince, I think you’re great,” and he just doesn’t say anything. The doors open, he leaves and ... one of the most enormous people on Earth turned to us and said, “Prince thanks you.” And that was it.

[Mitch McConnell Had a Fun-Free August]

Q: Tell me about your love of restoring antiques.

A: My mom and dad ... they would spend countless hours going to auctions, going to sales, buying what looked like a piece of junk furniture. It always seemed to have this, like, green-colored paint on it. They would spend hours stripping it down ... and eventually end up with an amazingly beautiful 100-plus-year-old piece of furniture.

Now I have tortured my kids with the same kind of hobby and experience. We found some really neat stuff. In fact, the desk that I have in my office at the house once belonged to my great-grandfather. We didn’t know it when we got it, but as we were restoring it, we found the name of his business stenciled on the bottom of one of the drawers of the desk.

(Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)
If Gardner could be a “Star Wars” character, he’d choose Luke Skywalker. (Thomas McKinless/CQ Roll Call)

Quick hits

Last book read: “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter.

Pet peeve: I hate being late, and you know that’s the worst pet peeve you can have in a place that is always two hours behind. It’s just terrible.

Cats or dogs: In Colorado, we’re a dog state. We like cats, but dogs are where it’s at.

One of my favorite billboards in Denver has this big sign of a dog. The writing under the dog: “A Colorado electric blanket.” It was just the dog sitting on the bed. It was pretty cool.

If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: My entire life I’ve grown up admiring my great-grandfather.

Closest friend across the aisle: Sen. Michael Bennet and I have a great working relationship.

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