When El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn concluded his remarks at the Colorado Republican State Convention on Saturday, delegates began murmuring among themselves about “The Speech.” The whispers seemed prescient.
Glenn’s convention speech helped catapult him to the top of the Republican field running for U.S. Senate, and by capturing 68% of the total delegate vote, he knocked three other challengers out of the race altogether (Tim Neville, Peg Littleton, and Jerry Natividad will not appear on the Primary ballot because they failed to exceed 30% of the delegate vote – the minimum threshold for ballot access). Here at Colorado Pols, we had anticipated that Glenn might do well enough to gain a spot on the June ballot, but we never would have predicted that he would be able to scuttle the campaign of presumed frontrunner Neville.
We’ve updated The Big Line to reflect our changing perceptions of the 2016 Senate race, which means we have some explaining to do for the new top Republican name on the Line. When Glenn first announced that he would run for Senate in January 2015, we initially wrote it off as a quixotic quest by a candidate who was not well-known outside of Colorado Springs. Some 16 months later, Glenn’s overwhelming convention victory was so astounding that it caused us to reassess the GOP race altogether…
IMPORTANT NOTE: We still don’t know how any of the candidates performed in the last full fundraising quarter before the Primary – Q1 fundraising reports won’t be publicly available until next week — but we can read between the lines a little here. It’s safe to assume that none of the GOP candidates were able to pull together a sizable fundraising quarter because we haven’t heard a peep from anyone about campaign cash; there’s no strategic advantage to keeping quiet if, say, Jon Keyser raised $2 million in the first three months of the year. Campaigns don’t sit on good news any more than you would.
Mail ballots will start showing up at the homes of Republican voters in about eight weeks, which doesn’t leave much time for speculation. For the purposes of this analysis, we’re also going to assume that all four candidates who sought to petition onto the ballot (Keyser, Jack Graham, Robert Blaha, and Ryan Frazier) will be successful once the Secretary of State’s office goes through their signatures in full; we’re fully aware that some combination of these four names might not make the final ballot, but we don’t have enough information there to make any assumptions.
Wait, Who is Darryl Glenn, Again?
Glenn is a two-term El Paso County Commissioner and retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force who he has been running for the Republican Senate nomination longer than any other candidate (Glenn formally announced his campaign in January 2015). He calls himself a “Christian Conservative Constitutionalist” and has staked out far-right positions on Climate Change, abortion, and a general opposition to the current Republican leadership in Congress. What really separates Glenn from the rest of the GOP field, however, is his natural charisma; he is funny and endearing in front of an audience, which is a far cry from the dour demeanor of Graham and the boyish self-consciousness of Keyser. These traits should translate well in television ads if Glenn can raise enough money for a decent ad buy.
He Won at the GOP Convention; Can He Win a Primary?
In politics we often talk about a candidate’s “path to victory,” and this is where Glenn has the upper hand over the rest of the field: There are multiple roads that can guide Glenn to the GOP Senate nomination.
“I will gladly put a patch on my shoulder right now that says I will not vote for Mitch McConnell”
Glenn is positioning himself to the far-right of the other candidates in this race, which should have significant appeal for a Republican electorate that is quite clearly not interested in “politics as usual.” Four-time incumbent Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado Springs) almost didn’t even make the Primary ballot this year, thanks to a surprise challenge from Calandra Vargas, whom he’ll still need to defeat in June in order to keep his seat. In CD-3, Rep. Scott Tipton couldn’t prevent little-known 28-year-old Carbondale resident Alex Beinstein from making the ballot with 40% of the delegate vote. When you consider that even Rep. Mike Coffman had to sweat it out before narrowly avoiding a Primary challenge, Glenn’s blowout win at the GOP convention suddenly seems more like a revelation than a surprise. Republican discontent with the status quo in Colorado apparently runs much, much deeper than anyone imagined, which is a huge advantage for the one candidate who can unequivocally claim the support of grassroots Republicans.
It’s also critical to note that, in a crowded field of candidates, Glenn doesn’t need to capture a majority of the votes in the June Primary in order to secure the nomination. With so many candidates on the ballot, Glenn’s “win number” looks a lot different than it would in a head-to-head matchup.
Consider: In the 2010 GOP gubernatorial Primary, Dan Maes defeated Scott McInnis at the state GOP convention and went on to win the Primary with a narrow 50.7 % of the vote. A total of 387,253 votes were cast in the 2010 Primary; Maes won the election with 196,238 votes (compared to 190,907 for McInnis).
If we use those 2010 numbers as a guide, Glenn could capture the GOP nomination for Senate with as few as 78,000 total votes (for a rough approximation, divide the total number of votes cast in the 2010 Primary and distribute them equally among the five candidates in 2016). When he was re-elected as an El Paso County Commissioner in 2014, Glenn received more than half of that total (42,750 total votes) in El Paso County alone. Obviously it would be an oversimplification to imply that Glenn can pick up the same number of voters in a U.S. Senate Primary, but the point here is that Glenn does have a base that he can work with…and as we learned from “The Speech” at the GOP State Convention, the base likes what he has to say.
Glenn’s alliterative description of himself as a “Christian, Constitutional Conservative” is usually followed by some form of declaration that he is 100% pro-life and a staunch supporter of gun rights and the Second Amendment.
Here’s Glenn speaking at a candidate forum in Montrose on March 5. Many Republican candidates try to rail against “Washington D.C.” and the “Republican Establishment,” but Glenn might be the only GOP candidate in the race who isn’t holding back:
“What I’m tired of is the establishment sitting here telling us what we need to do,” says Glenn in the clip above. “I’ve traveled across the state and the one consistent thing that I’ve heard is there are people who are extremely frustrated with politicians promising one thing and then going up to Washington, DC and selling out.
“I think it’s time to stop apologizing for American Exceptionalism and let the world know that America is back in business — that we’re going to continue to lead. And that’s why I’m here. You need to understand that I’m going to represent each and every one of you. I don’t put my finger up in the air and try to figure out which way to vote. I will gladly put a patch on my shoulder right now that says I will not vote for Mitch McConnell.” [Pols emphasis]
Glenn is also not shy about going right after Keyser, the “establishment” candidate who was hand-picked by the NRSC after serving just one-half of one term in the state legislature. In this clip from the April 5 9News debate, Glenn openly questions the experience of Keyser:
Keyser is a bit of a one-trick pony who is trying to sell himself as a candidate based largely on his service in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this is also a problem with Glenn on the ballot. Glenn served 14 years in the military, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force. It surely won’t go unmentioned that Glenn outranks Keyser.
As for the rest of the GOP field of candidates, Glenn is far and away the most experienced politician of the bunch. His biggest problem is going to be fundraising; Glenn finished the Q4 (2015) cycle with a few coins and some pocket lint in his Senate campaign account. The good news is that Glenn doesn’t need to raise as much money as the other four candidates because he didn’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on paid signature gatherers. Glenn should be able to get a financial boost from winning the Convention outright, just as Dan Maes was able to round up lots of checks following his 2010 GOP Convention victory.
Political discussions in Colorado will be focused for the next few months on the Donald Trump/Ted Cruz battle for the Republican Presidential nomination. You’ll be reading and hearing a lot about “Republican insiders” and the “Republican elite” trying to steal the election from GOP voters, and this talk will only help Glenn as he campaigns for the U.S. Senate nomination. By pulling off such an impressive win at the GOP State Convention, Glenn now owns the title of “the grassroots’ choice.” That’s a title that carries significantly more weight for Republican voters in 2016 – much more than it has in a long time.