Riding a wave of endorsements from some of the nation’s top conservatives, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn emerged Tuesday from a crowded Republican primary field to face U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November.
Glenn, who describes himself as an “unapologetic Christian, constitutional conservative, pro-life, Second Amendment-loving American,” jolted the state GOP for the second time this election cycle with a double-digit win over four vastly better-funded opponents, including two wealthy businessmen who poured millions of dollars into their campaigns.
With 58 of Colorado’s 64 counties reporting complete, unofficial results, Glenn had 130,084 votes, or 37.75 percent of the vote, ahead of second-place finisher Jack Graham, a Fort Collins businessman and former CSU athletic director, who scored 84,663 votes, or 24.57 percent. Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha ran third, with 56,689 votes, or 16.45 percent, followed by former state Rep. Jon Keyer’s 43,111 votes, or 12.51 percent and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, who had 30,011 votes, or 8.71 percent.
In recent weeks, the retired Air Force officer and former member of the Colorado Springs City Council won endorsements from U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Mike Lee of Utah, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the influential Senate Conservatives Fund and conservative blogger Eric Erickson, among others.
In April, Glenn was the only Republican to emerge from the state assembly, vanquishing nine rivals by winning a commanding 70 percent of the delegate vote. The other four primary candidates petitioned their way onto the ballot, although only Graham was able to get there without the help of court rulings.
Relying on an all-volunteer staff — Glenn opened his victory speech by thanking his “statewide team of misfit toys,” noting that’s how he refers to his hard-working volunteers —and almost no budget, Glenn has also been on the GOP Senate campaign trail the longest, since launching his bid nearly a year and a half ago.
“When we started this campaign last January,” he told supporters at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, “we decided we’re going to campaign without fear.”
After months of campaigning on a shoestring in relative obscurity, visiting Republicans in every corner of the state, Glenn swept to victory at the assembly
That meant driving virtually anywhere in the state that more than a handful of Republicans were gathering. “We wanted to take the time to go out across the state county-by-county and talk to people,” he said. “It’s about you — it’s about, ‘We the people.’”
On his travels, he said, he learned that “people are frustrated, they’re angry. They’re tired of politicians saying one thing and then getting elected to office and forgetting about the people they left behind.”
Glenn starts the general election campaign in a familiar role, as the underdog. Bennet, who won the Democratic nomination without opposition on Tuesday, had $5.7 million in the bank at the end of the pre-primary reporting period, while Glenn had $50,198.
Bennet faced an equally right-leaning GOP nominee six years ago, when he ran for his first full term in the Senate and barely defeated then-Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck by 1.7 percent of the vote in a Republican wave year. (Buck won election to Congress in 2014, taking the place of Republican Cory Gardner, who unseated Bennet’s Democratic Senate colleague Mark Udall two years ago.)
Democrats greeted Glenn’s win with delight, immediately labeling him “too extreme for Colorado” and attempting to tie him to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, noting in an email blast that Glenn has called Trump “a patriot” and said he’ll campaign with Trump. “Here in Colorado, that’s going to pose an elephant-sized problem,” wrote Bennet campaign spokesman Andrew Zucker
“Darryl Glenn opposes comprehensive immigration reform and says he’d have voted against the comprehensive immigration reform package that Sen. Bennet helped write, and pass, out of the Senate. Glenn says there shouldn’t be any federal minimum wage, and is a full climate change denier who wants to cut taxes for billionaires, defund Planned Parenthood and outlaw a woman’s right to choose, even in cases of rape and incest,” Zucker wrote.
Glenn has said he doesn’t intend to work across the aisle and wouldn’t vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as the Republican leader if he wins his seat. He has derided Bennet’s support for the Iranian nuclear deal and the Democrat’s vote for President Obama’s signature health care overhaul, as well as blasting Bennet for waging a war on coal as part of the administration’s energy policy.
“This campaign is not about black America, brown America, white America,” said Glenn, who is Colorado’s first African American nominee for the U.S. Senate by a major party. “This campaign is about the United States of America.”
— with additional reporting by Nicole Cassou