COLORADO SPRINGS — Not long after giving the most well-received speech at today’s GOP state convention, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn was mobbed by Republicans.
“You’re like a breath of fresh air,” a man said, reaching out for a handshake. Others, like Jessica Gallegos, waited for a chance to speak with him just to say what a great speech he had given.
Gallegos came to the convention from Silverton without knowing who she would vote for in the race for U.S. Senate. She said after the Glenn barnburner he won her vote.
“To hear him— there’s no doubt in my mind,” she said. “He’s such a motivational speaker. It was amazing.”
Kyle Fisk, a Republican campaign consultant who is not working on Glenn’s campaign, said he thought the speech could have shifted today’s race among the seven candidates trying to get out of today’s convention.
Seven candidates for U.S. Senate gave 10 to 15 minute speeches to a crowd of more than 5,000 convention-goers, many of whom are delegates and will cast votes to decide who they think can beat incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in the fall. Candidates like Glenn need to crack 30 percent in order to make it out of the convention and onto the June GOP primary ballot. With seven of them in the race, only three could possibly emerge in the most balanced scenario. It’s also possible only one candidate wraps up enough votes to win it outright, knocking the six others out. (There are four other Republican candidates who have petitioned onto the June primary ballot outside the convention process.)
Republicans will vote today at the state convention at the Broadmoor World Arena.
Fisk, a longtime friend of Glenn’s, recalled a recent conversation he had with the candidate about what Glenn needed to do at today’s convention.
“I said, ‘You’ve got to give the speech of your life,’” Fisk told The Colorado Independent. Glenn’s reply: “I’ve got a sermon ready.”
“And he was right,” Fisk says. “Because he brought it. That was the best speech of the day. By far. Not even a close second.”
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Speaking second to last in the bunch, Glenn came out swinging fast, starting off thanking his mother for giving him life and positioning himself as a strong defender of rights for the unborn.
“Listen up, Planned Parenthood,” he said, promising to defund the women’s health organization that provides abortions if any tax money goes toward — his words— the dismemberment of babies. He introduced himself as an “unapologetic Christian constitutional conservative pro-life, Second-Amendment-loving American that will beat Michael Bennet.” He said he’d defund sanctuary cities, cut taxes, and bring more money back to individual taxpayers. He railed against the Iran nuclear arms deal and earned roaring applause when he said he hoped media reported this line: “All lives matter.” Glenn also brushed away bipartisanship. “One thing I’m absolutely tired of hearing is Republicans are reaching across the aisle,” he said. “We need to step up and lead, ladies and gentlemen.” Glenn said America’s entitlement system has people “bowing down to government instead of to God.” And he took aim at the potential Democratic nominee for president, saying he was personally committed to getting Hillary Clinton out of her pantsuit and into a “bright orange jumpsuit.”
A convention speech might have more sway at this convention than in years past.
Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House said 30 to 40 percent of the delegates who showed up to this year’s GOP congressional assemblies and the state convention are new to the process. That means they aren’t necessarily the loyal party machine types or ones who jump onto bandwagons with certain Colorado Republican tribes.
These kinds of delegates who will be voting today, Fisk says, “want to hear the speech. And [Glenn] owned it.”
If there was ever an indication that a convention speech can carry significant influence, consider what happened Friday during the 5th District congressional assembly that took place in a hotel across the street from the Broadmoor World Arena.
There, a relatively unknown 32-year-old legislative staffer named Calandra Vargas had given a passionate speech about why she should replace incumbent Republican Congressman Doug Lamborn, whose district encompasses Colorado Springs.
Following her speech, she came just 18 votes shy of taking out a sitting congressman who has been in Washington for five terms.
“This is an unusual election year,” Lamborn told The Colorado Springs Gazette following the results.
At least one of Glenn’s rivals in the U.S. Senate race said he isn’t worried.
“Speeches can always change things,” said Tim Neville, a state senator who is also running for U.S. Senate through the convention process, and gave his own speech today. But there are speeches and there are records, Neville said, hoping that those voting today will take that and more into consideration.
Glenn himself acknowledged that his speech likely helped him today, but he downplayed how much it meant in the context of his campaign.
“This is my hometown, so I do kind of have the home field advantage being a commissioner,” he said in an interview. “But afterwards people were coming up and they appreciated what I had to say, because I’m going to fight, and that’s what it’s about.”
Glenn says he expects to come out with enough votes to push out his six other rivals.
“We expect to win. We want to be the only ones coming out here. That’s our goal,” he said. “This is the best poll there is.”
Kelly Maher, director of Compass Colorado and a conservative commentator in Denver, noticed the line of people waiting to meet Glenn following his speech.
“He definitely got the crowd as excited as we’ve seen in the last three conventions,” she said. “If there was a speech that could have shifted the tide, that was it.”