TRAIL BLEND | Is Ron Hanks the next Darryl Glenn? GOP delegates and primary voters will decide | Columnists


At some point in the next few months, in the run-up to the Colorado primary election, one of the Republicans hoping to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Michael Bennet could take a break from a primary debate, turn to rival Ron Hanks and start channeling Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentsen.

Bentsen, the 1988 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, was in his third term in the U.S. Senate — around the time Texas elected Democrats to a statewide position — when he uttered a line that endures decades later as one of the most stigmatizing lines ever uttered about a president or vice-presidential debate stage.

Bentsen’s mic-dropping moment came during the Oct. 5, 1988 debate in Omaha between the wizened, 67-year-old Texan and his fresh-faced opponent and fellow Indiana Senate member Dan Quayle, 41, of Republican George HW Bush. racing partner.

As the debate turned to questions about the qualifications of vice-presidential candidates to run for the presidency – a routine question in the race – Quayle compared his experience to previous vice-presidents and referred to former President John F. Kennedy, who had served only two others. years in the Senate than Quayle when he ran for president in 1960.

“I have as much experience in Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he ran for president,” Quayle said. “I will be prepared to deal with the people of the Bush administration, should this unfortunate event ever occur.”

It was then that Bentsen delivered the comeback that would soon illustrate political repression.

“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy,” Bentsen said, pacing his words for maximum effect. “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are not Jack Kennedy.”

Peals of laughter and applause filled the room as moderator Judy Woodruff tried to calm the crowd.

“That was really unwarranted, senator,” Quayle replied, a hurt look on his face.

The damage was done, though Quayle and Bush beat Bentsen and presidential candidate Michael Dukakis by about 8 points, winning 41 states.

Lately, it’s become common to hear comparisons between Hanks — and his chances of winning this year’s GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate — and Darryl Glenn, the 2016 Republican nominee and longtime nominee who came from behind. from the pack to defeat a broad primary field of wealthy autofinanciers and more polished politicians.

Lacking support from National Republicans, Glenn and his narrow campaign came closer to upsetting Bennet in the general election than most polls and pundits had predicted, though he still fell short by around 5.6. points.

Since Glenn rose from relative political obscurity to national stardom – as a challenger in what had been considered one of the most competitive Senate races in the country this cycle, with a speaking spot at the Convention national Republican – her rise has come to symbolize the underdog candidate turned Cinderella in Colorado political circles.

Hanks, a first-term Fremont County state representative, has a lot in common with Glenn, and the 2016 and 2022 Republican primary fields look alike, but it remains to be seen if Hanks will benefit from the same confluence of luck, courage and shoe leather that propelled Glenn to the nomination.

Both are brazen and vocal grassroots candidates, unafraid to embrace the more conservative positions of the GOP, and both present themselves as outsiders standing in the way of the party establishment.

Like Hanks, Glenn was an unlikely Senate hopeful who entered the race without an apparent groundswell calling him to run, although by the time Hanks announced his candidacy last fall he had already made the headlines for months for his antics in the legislature and his appearance in front of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

Instead of the nine months Hanks had been in office when he launched his Senate bid last October, however, Glenn was in the middle of his second term as El Paso County Commissioner and had served for six years. on the Colorado Springs City Council when he started. functioning. Hanks also ran an unsuccessful congressional campaign in California in 2010. Both have long careers in the Air Force on active duty and in the reserves: Glenn retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel after 21 years of service, and Hanks retired after 32 years.

Glenn entered the Senate race much earlier in the cycle than Hanks, launching his campaign 22 months before the election, in January 2015, and racked up the mileage, criss-crossing the state from one Lincoln Day dinner to the next. meeting long before most of the other candidates even considered entering the primary.

By the time the precinct caucuses approached in March 2016, 13 Republicans had joined the fray, making it the most congested main Senate area in the nation. Five of them planned to present a petition on the ballot and eight – including Glenn – were going through the caucus and assembly process, which requires obtaining the support of 30% of the delegates at the assembly of the ‘State. Republicans gathered to nominate statewide candidates that year on April 9 in Colorado Springs, which is the same date and location as this year’s GOP state assembly.

When Glenn showed up, the candidates for the petition were former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier, Colorado Springs business consultant Robert Blaha, former CSU athletic director Jack Graham, former State Jon Keyser and Jefferson County Commissioner Don Rosier.

Joining Glenn in the assembly were State Senator Tim Neville, fellow El Paso County Commissioner Peg Littleton, and a handful of other perennial activists and candidates.

In a shock, Glenn was the only Republican to walk out of the assembly, winning the front row in the primary ballot and pushing the others away. After delivering a rousing speech that shook the rafters and put the cheering crowd on their feet, Glenn garnered the support of 70% of delegates, making it mathematically impossible for any of his fellow Republicans to win a primary ticket. out of the assembly. .

After a host of twists and turns, four Republicans qualified for the petition primary – Graham without a fuss, then Blaha, Keyser and Frazier after multiple court visits to get rulings that their signatures were sufficient after the three initially turned out to be insufficient.

Glenn, whose fundraising had never been his forte, headed into the primary at a serious disadvantage, particularly as he faced two wealthy candidates — Graham and Blaha — who ended up paying at least $1 million each in their own campaigns. In all, Glenn only spent about $100,000 before the primary, including gas money for all those months he traveled the state and introduced himself to future delegates.

But a slew of supporters from Republican superstars and movement conservatives began pouring in for Glenn, including former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, Texas Sen. Colorado GOP ahead of this summer’s Republican National Convention – Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and influential blogger Eric Erickson. Support and a spending jolt from the Senate Conservative Fund, an organization founded by former South Carolina senator Jim DeMint and led by former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, helped seal the deal.

Glenn won the five-way primary by about 13 points with 37.5% of the vote, ahead of second-placed Graham.

Hanks, like Glenn, didn’t impress anyone with his off-year fundraising. Hanks only made about $16,000 in contributions, mere peanuts compared to the rest of the field, including about $1 million in receipts reported by the pair of wealthy candidates, construction company owner Joe O ‘Dea and property developer Gino Campana, who each donated around $500,000 themselves for the quarter.

Different this time, there is only one major candidate seeking the Republican Senate primary ballot by petition: Joe O’Dea. This could dramatically change the dynamics of this year’s June primary, as it means there will likely only be two or three Republican candidates in the primary ballot. That could make it harder in a less divided arena for a candidate with a high floor and a low ceiling like Glenn or Hanks, whose supporters are staunch but might not stretch far into the middle of the primary electorate.

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