Election 2018MediaNews

Republicans are giddy for Western Conservative Summit (and so are Democrats)

Author: Joey Bunch - June 7, 2018 - Updated: June 7, 2018

Sessions-Pruitt-AP.jpg
Attorney General Jeff Sessions (left) and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt at a March 2017 gathering in the Oval Office of the White House. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP file)

Chief organizer Jeff Hunt says he hasn’t seen this much excitement around the Western Conservative Summit since Donald Trump and Sarah Palin came to Denver for the 2016 gathering.

This year’s summit — the largest gathering of conservatives outside the nation’s capital Beltway — runs Friday and Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center. Each year it brings some of the biggest names in conservative politics, policy and media.

“Our tickets start at $50,” he said. “If you went to a Washington fundraiser, the only other way you could ever mingle with a lot of these people, you would have to get an invitation and spend thousands and thousands of dollars.”

Two of the Trump administration’s biggest newsmakers at the moment, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, are scheduled to speak Friday.

Western Conservative Summit
NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch. (Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Wikimedia Commons)

Dana Loesch, the ubiquitous spokeswoman for the National Rife Association, is on stage Saturday, one of some 4o speakers.

The event, sponsored by the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian College, this year has the theme of “Faith, Family and Freedom.”

And so what if Democrats get in a twist about the speakers each year, Hunt asks.

“We’re bold in our positions, and we’re unapologetic,” he said.

This year’s lineup also is slated to include all four Republicans candidates for governor (Greg Lopez, Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson and Walker Stapleton) along with George Brauchler, the lone name on the primary ballot for attorney general.

The state Democratic Party on Thursday unveiled a free online game — called Who Said It? — for Democrats so they could get in on the Western Conservative Summit fun.

The idea, according to the rules, is to match the “right-wing extremist” attending the summit to a quote.

Republican candidates for governor on stage at the Colorado Civic Barbecue event co-sponsored by Colorado Politics and The Gazette, May 19, 2018, in Colorado Springs. (Mark Harden, Colorado Politics)

“There hasn’t been a gathering this out-of-touch since Trump and House Republicans celebrated in the Rose Garden after voting to rip healthcare away from millions of Americans,” Eric Walker, spokesperson for the Colorado Democratic Party, said in a statement. “Right-wing Colorado Republicans like Walker Stapleton and George Brauchler will be right at home at this festival of extremism.”

Play the game by clicking here.

Gubernatorial candidate Jared Polis, a Democrat from Boulder and a member of Congress, is holding a “Stand Up to Sessions” rally Friday at noon at his South Broadway campaign office in Denver.

The issue is legalized marijuana, which Polis supports and Sessions does not. (Spoiler: It’s one of the questions in the Democrats’ online game.)

Polis, his campaign noted, is the author of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in 2013, a decriminalization effort he wasn’t able to pass. He also has been endorsed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the National Cannabis Industry Association and the Minority Cannabis Business Association.

Environmentalists are ready to take swipes at Pruitt, much as they did last year when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke at the summit.

Conservation Colorado, the state’s largest environmental organization, pointed to the number of investigations tied directly to Pruitt’s conduct in his short time in Washington, as well as the budget cuts they say could could threaten the state’s public health and environment.

“Scott Pruitt is unfit to serve as the administrator of the EPA,” said spokesman Jace Woodrum. He expect Pruitt to “tout his attempts to undo decades of environmental progress, but Coloradans will be thinking about his first-class travels, lobbying violations, and attacks on bedrock conservation protections that are vital to Colorado’s way of life.”

Hunt said Pruitt has restored some “sanity and the original intent of the EPA.”

Speeches throughout the event will be streaming live on Centennial Institute’s Facebook page as well as its YouTube channel.

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.