On Jan. 15, El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn gleefully announced he would challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in the 2016 election.
His campaign's release noted that Glenn is "a husband, father, lawyer and retired Air Force officer, has been elected twice to the Colorado Springs City Council and twice to the El Paso Board of County Commissioners." It also noted that while Glenn might be a little early to announce, he'd be using that extra time to build connections and put together a comprehensive strategy.
Glenn, for his part, says that's exactly what he's been doing — visiting counties across the state, attending small meetings and making his case to the party faithful in hopes that they'll remember him come caucus time.
"You can't buy your way on [the ballot]," Glenn says. "You have the goods or not."
But, at least according to common political wisdom, it's what Glenn hasn't been doing that could have the biggest impact on his campaign. To start, he hasn't been raising a lot of money.
The latest campaign finance reports, which tracked fundraising through June 30, showed Glenn had raised just $16,290 in contributions.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Michael Bennet, in contrast, had raised over $4 million. And Glenn also hasn't been courting the media or doing anything to up his name recognition with the general public, such as seeking high-profile endorsements.
In fact, Glenn says, "My strategy is not to talk to them [reporters]."
The press has reacted in kind, slathering virtually all its attention on a few Republican candidates who have been viewed as electable. Much was made, for instance, of the decision by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman and, later, 18th Judicial District attorney and Aurora theater shooting prosecutor George Brauchler, not to enter the race. State Sen. Tim Neville made a splash when he recently announced his bid, and Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha got some coverage in early September when he announced his intention to announce a run.
Many locals will remember Blaha for his failed primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in 2012. Notably, Blaha was able to self-fund that effort, which has led to rumors that he will also use his own money to jump-start his campaign for U.S. Senate.
Blaha isn't talking too much about his strategy at this point, but he says he's not worried that he'll be overlooked by the media.
"You know," he says, "I've been mentioned a lot with George Brauchler and people like that, and I appreciate that."
Glenn's name, however, has been absent from most coverage.
A Sept. 1 article on Politico, for instance, stated that "the party is pinning its hopes squarely on one man: George Brauchler."
The article never mentioned Glenn, instead stating, "Five Republicans have already announced to run for the Senate seat, but none so far is seen as viable."
A Sept. 30 story in the Denver Post, meanwhile, stated that Brauchler's decision not to run "sends Republicans scrambling once again for a competitive candidate in one of the nation's top races." It likewise failed to mention Glenn.
Rick Palacio, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party, says the press is making the right call.
"The candidates so far announced in the race are not viable," he says. "They tend to be people who are not very well known or are outside of the mainstream."
He adds, "They're not Tier 1 or even Tier 2 candidates."
El Paso County Republican Party Executive Director Daniel Cole says Republicans might be riding a Donald Trump high, but he thinks it would be a mistake to believe a celebrity is needed to beat Bennet in November.
"We don't need a candidate who's prominent now, we need a candidate who can be prominent next November," he says.
And while he can't comment on Glenn directly, Cole notes that Glenn represents more constituents as a county commissioner than a state representative does, and if Glenn can convince the party faithful that he's the right candidate, he could make his way to the primary.
Glenn too notes that his grassroots approach has been effective in winning two elections each for City Council and Board of County Commissioners. He sees no reason why this election should be different.
But state Republican Chairman Steve House paints a different picture. Candidates for U.S. Senate, he notes, are often courted by the Washington wing of the party. They're looking for someone with strong conservative ideals but also great fundraising and campaigning chops. Like Cole, House isn't ready to count any candidate out of the running quite yet, nor is he necessarily looking for a celebrity. But, he says, "They need to be somebody who can win a general election."
Palacio, meanwhile, would add another qualification for a winning candidate: "I think the Republican party has shifted very hard to the right, and because of that shift it makes a lot of the candidates we saw in the past not likely to win a primary in 2016."
In other words, a very conservative candidate could prevail in a primary, which tends to attract the most radical voters. But the same candidate could get slaughtered in a general election, when they have to impress more moderate Republicans.
And, Palacio notes, unlike the tens of millions in campaign money that funneled into the 2014 U.S. Senate race between Mark Udall and Cory Gardner, this year's race could be relatively cheap if there's a "fringe" candidate on the Republican side, or one who is not very well-known. Such a candidate could be ignored by major political funders like 527s and Super PACs, which might prefer to put their dollars into a more competitive race.
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