About 8,000 Republican delegates, alternates and guests gathered at the Broadmoor World Arena last Saturday for the GOP state assembly. The most pressing issues: voting for national convention delegates and U.S. Senate candidates.
It was a day of speeches from Republican notables, topped by presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas but also including Colorado's GOP members of Congress, led by Sen. Cory Gardner and Rep. Ken Buck.
But the biggest surprise came from a lightly regarded El Paso County commissioner, capitalizing on his opportunity to make a big impression.
Darryl Glenn, considered a huge underdog in the race for the GOP nomination to challenge U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November, blew away the crowd with his stump speech (similar to one he gave a week earlier at the county assembly). The delegates responded by giving Glenn an astonishing 70 percent of their votes, preventing anyone else — including the favorite, state Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton — from reaching the 30 percent threshold to qualify for the June 28 primary ballot.
Among the nine other candidates running, Neville came in second with 18 percent, while Glenn's fellow county commissioner, Peggy Littleton, received less than 6 percent.
Glenn, a graduate of Doherty High School and then the Air Force Academy before serving 21 years in the Air Force and retiring as a lieutenant colonel, earned four standing ovations during his short speech, with nearly the entire arena standing at his conclusion.
No one else all day — including Ted Cruz — enjoyed that kind of reception.
Glenn introduced himself as "an unapologetic Christian constitutional conservative, pro-life, Second Amendment-loving American, and I will beat Michael Bennet."
Much of Glenn's speech covered the same ground Cruz did after him, and that many other speakers touched upon before him. He said his first order of business would be calling for the repeal of the Iran nuclear deal and that anyone who attacked Israel would feel the "power" of our military.
Glenn also echoed others, as well as his county assembly speech, by digging at Hillary Clinton, saying: "I am committed to making sure that we remove her from her pant suit and put her in a bright orange jump suit."
However, Glenn, an African-American, hooked the crowd with another statement that brought raucous applause and his first standing ovation: "We have a battle within our own neighborhoods. And I am tired of our president picking sides. I love law enforcement ... but we need to understand as we have these policy debates, it's not about black America, white America, brown America, it's about the United States of America. And let me be very clear, and I hope the news is picking this up: All lives matter!"
Glenn later made his pro-life stance clear, saying, "I am a strong defender of the rights of the unborn. Now listen up, Planned Parenthood. Any taxpayer funding going to the dismemberment of our babies, I will vote to defund you."
While many pundits have been tempted to write off Glenn's upset as a "one-speech wonder," Jillian Likness, director of communications for Glenn's campaign, says that would ignore many months of work. Likness, who has been with the campaign since March 2015, says Glenn has spent the past 14 months traveling the state, meeting with GOP organizations and voters, building grassroots support.
"When that final number came out, it was mind-blowing. It was such an amazing and humbling victory," Likness says of the 70 percent. "It's a testament that it's not just about the money you raise, it's how you touch people."
And yet, money does matter. Glenn will not be alone in the June primary. Four other candidates have petitioned onto the ballot, including Ryan Frazier of Aurora, a former city official; Jack Graham, an attorney and former Colorado State University athletic director; Jon Keyser, a former Air Force officer, state representative and Hogan Lovells attorney; and Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha.
In 2012, Blaha mounted a largely self-funded, unsuccessful run against U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. Blaha's campaign has not declared financial activity yet, though in his congressional bid, he spent nearly $900,000.
Which is still modest compared to the $7 million in contributions Sen. Bennet had declared as of December 2015. In that same filing, Glenn reported $24,622 in contributions.
Daniel Cole, executive director of the El Paso County Republican Party, noted that until recently Glenn's campaign had been focused on the state assembly. However, now that he is facing a primary campaign, "money becomes much more important. Without funding there is no way to reach the consciousness of the mass electorate."
Likness is not concerned with this financial chasm, saying the tide shifted dramatically: "That 70 percent changed things. I'm seeing the effects of that, now. I'm really confident that we have really strong momentum."