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June 13, 2023 10:01 AM UTC

The Weakest Western Conservative Summit Ever?

  • by: Colorado Pols

TUESDAY UPDATE: KUNC’s Lucas Brady Woods documents the lamentation after what even organizers of this year’s Western Conservative Summit seem to agree was a sad sack of fail:

Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert was one of the headliners. Other speakers included Colorado representatives Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was the only conservative presidential hopeful at the event. Organizers, however, had hoped bigger-name presidential candidates would attend.

“We didn’t get the big presidential names we needed. That’s the reality. This would have looked a little different with Trump or DeSantis,” Jeff Hunt, president of Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute that hosts the summit each year, said. “We can’t seem to get the national conservatives to pay attention.” [Pols emphasis]

…Speakers at the conference focused largely on claims that Christianity and conservative family values are under threat. Rep. Boebert spoke on Friday night, spending much of her time attacking transgender people.

“I’ll tell you how they trade the truth for a lie. It’s when they say a man can be a woman, a man can be pregnant, a man can play in women’s sports,” Boebert said, prompting a round of applause from an audience that filled less than half of the auditorium’s seats.

As Jeb! Bush so eloquently implored, “please clap.”


Here’s what organizers of this year’s Western Conservative Summit at the Colorado Convention Center wanted:

And here’s what they got.

Photo by Tony Gorman via Twitter

As Ernest Luning of the Colorado Springs Gazette’s political blog reports, attendance at this year’s Western Conservative Summit, and once billed as the “biggest conservative confab outside Washington, D.C.” was way, way down this year–although you have to look at reporting about last year’s event to know that:

More than 1,000 people filled a corner of the Colorado Convention Center for the two-day summit, sponsored by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, to hear from a lineup of speakers and join in discussions.

Institute President Jeff Hunt set the tone for the summit and its “Western Strong” theme in his welcoming remarks, delivered Friday morning from the stage of the convention center’s Bellco Theatre.

“We’re creating a place for conservatives to get together,” said Hunt, noting that the gathering was in its 14th year.

But this year, he added, conservatives appear to be on the run in the West…

Last June, the Washington Times reported over 2,000 paying attendees at the 2022 Western Conservative Summit, which was similar to the conference’s pre-pandemic draw (the conference was entirely virtual in 2020 and partly so in 2021). Reasons/excuses for this dramatic decline in attendance that we’ve heard range from moving the conference back to big, bad downtown Denver from the Gaylord resort in Aurora (a smart move considering) to last year’s punishing electoral defeats for Republicans in Colorado having generally suppressed conservative morale. Or it could be summit organizer Jeff Hunt’s mad bull-riding skills (above right).

But as we noted last week, the overall stature of the headlining speakers at this year’s confab was also perhaps the lowest we can remember. The Phil Anschutz-owned Washington Examiner, which supplied most of the media coverage of this year’s WCS, said that swimmer turned anti-trans activist Riley Gaines made the biggest impression:

The star of the Western Conservative Summit is not either of the two presidential candidates who headlined the event. It is not House Republicans Ken Buck or Harriet Hageman or even Lauren Boebert, who Jeff Hunt, the co-chairman of the annual conference, says is routinely the most demanded speaker.

Instead, the belle de jour is Riley Gaines, and the 23-year-old swimmer is maybe making the attendees of the summit, which is hosted by Colorado Christian University, care more about feminism than they have in some time.

Rep. Lauren Boebert speaks at the 2023 Western Conservative Summit.

We hope the implied suggestion here that conservatives don’t care about women’s rights unless there’s some other greater target for their animus isn’t true, but that’s what this sounds like. As for Colorado’s leading controversy generator Rep. Lauren Boebert, her speech to the half-empty convention hall didn’t lack for offensive content:

Representative Lauren Boebert drew laughter from a conservative conference for giving Bud Light a nickname while using a transphobic slur.

Boebert, a Colorado Republican, derailed corporate “wokeism” during her speech at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver on Friday. She highlighted conservatives’ boycotts against Bud Light, the beer brand that faced right-wing outrage for sending a commemorative beer can to influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney to celebrate the one-year mark of her gender transition. During the GOP lawmaker’s speech on Friday, she invoked a term for transgender individuals that is widely viewed as offensive.

We’re not going to reprint the slur, and it looks like most media outlets made the same responsible decision. Another local scandal magnet, Donald Trump’s former attorney Jenna Ellis fresh off her censure by state attorney regulators for her multiple false statements about the 2020 elections, was introduced by her Colorado Christian University colleague Jeff Hunt like she’s some kind of star instead of a disgraced admitted liar barely holding on to her license to practice law.

At this point, Ellis reportedly doesn’t have many friends left in MAGA world, but at least Ken Buck didn’t walk off the stage over Ellis’ support for Uganda’s “aggravated homosexuality” death penalty. And to the surprise of nobody, Donald Trump won the straw poll.

For a conference that was once considered central to Republican plans for a political comeback in Colorado, as well as to growing the national footprint of Colorado’s conservative advocacy industrial complex, 2023 was an ominous sign that along with conservative political fortunes in Colorado, the enthusiasm of the Republican rank-and-file in Colorado is dwindling. We don’t know if the WCS has ever broke even let alone made any money after the considerable expense of holding a large event like this, but there aren’t many recurring public events that can withstand a 50% decline in attendance.

Next year, WCS might fit in the local La Quinta Inn instead of the Colorado Convention Center.


7 thoughts on “The Weakest Western Conservative Summit Ever?

  1. They can't get the big presidential clown candidates because they're largely writing off CO as blue in 2024.  Perhaps Mr. Hunt can pack up and move to another state where they welcome his brand of white christofascism.  And he can take John Andrews with him. 

    1. Is John Andrews still around? He's got to be close to the same age as the late Marion Pat Robertson who left us last week.

  2. Poor grifters…nobody wanted to listen to a bunch of grifters? 
    Pretty sure Anschutz dropped chunks of his prime dark money on the Centennial Institute. Pro'ly Coors and the Bradley Fam, too.

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