COLORADO SPRINGS — “Darryl, Darryl, give me your phone, I’ll start answering.”
Surrounded by his daughters crying tears of joy in a Broadmoor ballroom, Darryl Glenn officially became a general election candidate for the U.S. Senate. And that means things will change for the once obscure El Paso County commissioner. Like not having to answer his own cellphone anymore.
When Glenn’s screen started lighting up with “Unknown” after the race was called, Daniel Supranovich, the director of the candidate’s campaign operation, said he’d take care of it.
Glenn looked surprised. “Seriously?” he asked at the center of a circle of cheering onlookers under the glow of a projector screen displaying his winning numbers.
“I will,” Supranovich said, catching the tossed cell phone in the air. “I’ll take care of it.”
More than that will change for Glenn, once viewed as an underdog in a sprawling 15-candidate Republican primary just three months ago. (He has now gained a pair of new handlers from national campaigns). Tonight, about 100 people crowded into the Rocky Mountain Ballroom of the Broadmoor Hotel to see the man they think can beat Democrat Michael Bennet and two third-party candidates in the fall.
Mingling among them was Roger Edwards, 66, who owns a small trucking company in Douglas County. As a delegate to the April state assembly he went there expecting to vote for a sitting state senator but ended up voting for Glenn instead.
“It was the speech,” Rogers told The Colorado Independent in an interview.
That would be Glenn’s memorable barnburner at the April 9 GOP state assembly, which he followed with a winner-take-all win of 70 percent of the 4,000 Republican delegates on the convention floor, wiping out six of his rivals. Tonight he beat four more, all of whom had petitioned onto the ballot by gathering signatures to qualify. (Three of them didn’t gather enough, and had to sue to make it on the ballot.)
“These other people were just one of the crowd,” Rogers said. “There was no way to differentiate themselves from the other guy.”
And that— who each of these candidates were— was the 997,631 voter question for registered Republicans in Colorado who pretty much checked out of a race that also included former NFL quarterback Jack Graham, ex-lawmaker Jon Keyser, Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier.
None of them ever stood out except Glenn, and even that only happened in the past two weeks. A lack of public polling didn’t help bring attention to the race among the Republican base— one made up of party leaders who couldn’t even recall who was on the ballot.
But Glenn, a lawyer and former Air Force officer who was once on the cover of Powerlifting USA magazine in the ‘80s, steadily gained the backing of national conservative figures like Sarah Palin and Erick Erickson, the founder of RedState.com. The Senate Conservative Action PAC, which supports far-right underdogs around the country, paid for TV ads when the under-funded Glenn couldn’t afford them. Then, none other than Ted Cruz chose to jumpstart his political comeback after leaving the presidential race by backing Glenn and campaigning with him in Colorado.
Another oddity in this race: Glenn was dead last in raising campaign cash, something he had said early in his campaign that he wasn’t interested in doing. According to research from the U.S. Public Interest Group, 86 percent of better-funded House and Senate candidates have won their primaries so far during this election cycle.
Glenn won anyway.
Back in the ballroom, Glenn told his supporters from a stage, “You guys are trying to make me cry.”
He thanked his all-volunteer “statewide team of misfit toys”— he was the only candidate in the race without paid staff — and launched into a speech about what he would do as a U.S. Senator. Americans, he said, are tired of people saying one thing and doing another. He’ll be different, he said. He’ll focus on re-establishing trust between citizens and public officials and breaking through a lack of belief.
“What that means is you need to believe in the fact that we can be great,” he said. “I understand right now we’re hearing themes about ‘Let’s make America great’ but the theme of this campaign is ‘It’s time for Colorado to lead.’”
Colorado, Glenn said, is the home of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights amendment that limits government spending, and so in the Senate he’ll fight for a balanced-budget amendment.
“There are three things that we are going to continue to focus on. Number one, the defense of this country,” he said, adding that “radical Islamic terrorism must be dealt with and as Americans we must acknowledge it and we must address this enemy.”
He talked about energy independence, fiscal responsibility and national security, and stayed largely away from social issues.
Glenn ran in the primary as a candidate who said Republicans needed to quit reaching across the aisle, and instead stand up and lead. But tonight, as a general election candidate, he talked about finding common ground on at least one issue.
“We do not have have a revenue problem, ladies and gentleman, we have a spending problem,” he said. “As Coloradans and as Americans we can work to solve this debt and we can actually fix this problem. It’s going to take commitment. We must first acknowledge that there’s a problem, but then we must develop policies that actually will allow us to fix the problem, because when we work together as Republicans and Democrats, then we will have economic prosperity for each and every one of us.”
Still, Democrats are already painting the candidate who ran a hard-right primary campaign as too conservative and extreme to win a statewide general election.
“Republicans just nominated a candidate who says Donald Trump is a ‘patriot,’ thinks Ted Cruz should be the next Supreme Court justice and believes the real problem with Washington is that there is too much bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats,” said Chris Meagher, spokesman for the Colorado Democrats, in an election-night statement.
At his own campaign party in Denver, Jack Graham, who came in second to Glenn, called him “a fantastic human being,” whom he’ll get behind.
“I’m proud of what he’s accomplished for his campaign and the Republican party, and I will support Darryl Glenn,” Graham said.
Glenn won with 37 percent of the vote. Graham brought in about 25 percent, and Blaha came in third with about 16.
Marianne Goodland contributed to this report from Denver