Darryl Glenn, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Colorado, says he isn't worried about all those polls showing him losing by double digits to Democrat Michael Bennet, who currently holds the seat. And neither does Glenn admit to being bothered by criticism of his thus-far low-key campaign, his alleged embrace of Donald Trump or his ongoing spat with the Denver Post over its reporting about a 1983 domestic-violence incident involving his father in which he initially said he was never charged and later insisted that he didn't recall some of the specifics.
Indeed, during a wide-ranging, in-depth conversation with Westword earlier this week, shortly before the Bennet campaign publicly declined to debate him at a planned CBS4/KOA radio forum, he expressed supreme confidence that he and his grassroots effort would confound the so-called experts and emerge triumphant in November. He's even calling his margin of victory in advance: He says he'll win by four points.
What follows is a complete, unedited transcript of our conversation with Glenn. Topics that follow his introduction to voters include his enmity for the Affordable Care Act, which he'd like to repeal; his belief that Americans are being overtaxed and businesses suffer from too much regulation; his take on abortion (he's pro-life without exception) and Planned Parenthood (he thinks it should be de-funded); his opinions about immigration and border security, which naturally dovetail into questions about whether or not he's a full-throated Trump booster; his differences with the Post; and the two small things he thinks Bennet's gotten right amid an avalanche of wrong.
The only additions to the conversation are photos from Glenn's Facebook page and a small handful of notes, in which we fact-check specific claims made by Glenn. Some of these items call for interpretation: For instance, his comments about Colorado's abortion laws qualify as either a significant exaggeration of the actual statute or a clever way of framing the debate to his advantage, depending upon your viewpoint. But there's little ambiguity about his allusion to an issue involving the Denver Post, which bashers of the newspaper see as evidence of pro-Bennet bias via a personal relationship between a onetime Post reporter and the senator's ex-spokesperson earlier this decade.
Westword: You're just introducing yourself to many Colorado voters. How would you describe yourself to folks who may not be familiar with you yet?
Darryl Glenn: I'm somebody who has a military background, grew up in Colorado Springs and has been a Colorado resident basically since I was two and a half. I have a servant's heart, been involved in politics since 2003. I'm currently a county commissioner, and I've won major elections by decisive margins, and my style is really to get out and talk to people and become their advocate regardless of their party affiliation.
What in your view are the centerpiece issues of your campaign? And what would be your first priority if elected?
I have had the privilege of driving around and talking to people. And people are legitimately concerned and scared about the security within the country and externally. There are threats that are out there that, if you think back eight years ago, people didn't even have to think about. So people are concerned. They want to make sure that we have a plan on how to address that, and if we have to use the military, that our military is properly trained and equipped to do the job.
People are also concerned about some of the policy decisions and the impact they've had on their ability to provide for their family. We start talking about the Affordable Care Act. I've talked to so many people — I've just wrapped up a western swing, but about two weeks ago, I was out in the eastern portion of the state — and overwhelmingly, they're concerned about their inability to be able to afford these potential premium increases and the lack of options because of the health insurance that is mandated to us. And if you factor that in on top of job losses.... When you're looking at Delta County losing 1,200 jobs and that having a devastating impact on that particular community and the ripple effects that support that industry, the mining industry. When you're looking at job losses on top of insurance increases on top of wages being flat, people are really concerned about their ability to survive. And I'm out there trying to reassure them that as their representative, I'm going to take their voice back to Washington, D.C., so they can be sure they have a representative who's going to stand up and fight for them.
You mentioned the Affordable Care Act. There have been a lot of complaints about the act, but often folks doing the complaining don't have any suggestions about how we can deal with problems such as the large number of uninsured people. What do think needs to be done in this area if the Affordable Care Act isn't the way to do it?
What people need to understand is, the best way to bring down health-insurance costs is by increasing competition. And you have to realize that what's happening as this plays out is that you're seeing less insurance providers and a lack of competition. So prices are going to increase and it's going to have a disproportionate effect on people. Even if you have insurance, your insurance premiums are going to get to the point where you can't afford that, and you're having to make policy decisions about whether to pay a penalty versus be insured.
We need to recognize two things that are positive, as far as wanting to deal with pre-existing conditions — and I think a lot of people who have children like the idea of being able to keep them on your insurance plan until they're 26 years old. But you've got to be able to reduce that mandate and allow competition across state lines and look at tort reform and some improvements that you can make across the insurance industry. Allow more personal savings to be able to go into health-savings accounts. That's going to ultimately bring down the cost of insurance. And you need to have a health-insurance philosophy that allows people to pick their insurance policy.
Why are people mandated to have coverage for maternity care if they're not going to have children? These are things that don't make sense. And what about younger people who want to absorb more risk? When you encourage more competition, the price is actually going to come down, and then we will be in a better position of being able to take care of everyone. But you need to be able to let the market do that. What's happening right now is you're going to be forced into almost a single-payer option, where it's going to the point where it's too big to fail. And then people who are supporting this are going to come in and say, "We have to have a taxpayer bailout." And then the other thing you have is single-payer. And single-payer, what that does is it reduces quality and it really is not in the best interest of anybody when you start thinking about health insurance.
Do you believe that the Affordable Care Act can be adjusted to take care of these issues? Or do you believe the entire act needs to be dismantled and Congress should start over — but keep a couple of those provisions you mentioned?
You have to recognize what's working — but you have to repeal it, because it has a mandate for people to participate in it, and that's a fundamental flaw when it comes to allowing the market to get in there and compete and dictate cost control. That's the fundamental issue. But what I object to is, it's not enough to just say repeal. You have to have a plan in place, because you have to realize that there are real issues people are concerned about when it comes to dealing with insurance. When you're talking about preexisting conditions and being able to help your kids out, that's extremely important for people to address. So you need to do that, but you need to have a plan ready to go to deal with that. That's my philosophy.
Do you feel that the average American is being overtaxed and American businesses are being over-regulated?
Absolutely. When you look at history, we're looking at 1 or 2 percent growth. And when you're looking at the fundamentals, people are looking at, "Why are businesses relocating overseas?" It's their tax policy. Public companies have a fiduciary responsibility to provide for their shareholders, and they're going to look for cheaper ways to provide services. What we should be doing is talking to these employers and figuring out what it is about our tax policy that's giving you an incentive to relocate jobs outside of this country, and addressing that particular issue.
It's also very important that when you're trying to grow your economy and stimulate your economy that you look at small business owners and talk to them about what is happening that's preventing them from being able to grow their business and hire more employees. And overwhelmingly, when you talk to small businesses, which is the foundation of our economy, they will tell you regulations are getting in the way. We're not saying you should wipe out every regulation. But what we should be doing is sitting down with them and talking about specific regulations that are directly impacting their ability to go out there and hire.
I always highlight the fact that when you're particularly looking at the black and brown communities, one in five people are unemployed or underemployed. And in particular, the black community, when they're looking at their earning potential since 2007, that's gone down by 16 percent. So that shows you there's something wrong we should be addressing when it comes to employment.
[Note: The unemployed or underemployed stat cited by Glenn has been in wide circulation for the past several years; here's an Economic Policy Institute link on the subject. However, we were unable to find contemporary documentation showing that earning potential in the black community has declined by 16 percent since 2007. In reporting about the latest U.S. Census Bureau information on September 13, for instance, the New York Times stated: "Poverty rates fell most sharply for African-American and Hispanic households, but their income gains were smaller than for white households.")
What is your position on abortion? I understand that you don't believe in exceptions in cases of rape, incest and when the life of the mother is at risk. Is that correct?
Here's the issue. I know people love to talk about extremes, but we're not going to play the game, for a lack of a better way of saying that. Nobody ever talks about Michael Bennet's position on this and what the actual law is in Colorado. They don't talk about the fact that Michael Bennet's position is that you can actually have an abortion up to the time of delivery. They always like to point and paint conservatives as being extremists — especially me. I'm pro-life. I believe in life at conception. But they never talk about the other aspect where you can literally go to a delivery room and if a doctor says, "You're not ready," and then you can go home, but then change your mind and have an abortion.
Are there any examples of that taking place in recent history?
It's the law that allows that to happen. And what I'm saying is, unfortunately, media publications don't address that issue. That's the law in Colorado that allows you to do that. So when we're ready to talk about both extremes, if you want to call those extremes, then that's when we're really able to have a substantive argument. But until we're willing to do that, until Michael Bennet is willing to talk about that aspect of it, I'm not going to entertain any more questions on that issue.
(Note: A National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws post about Colorado's abortion laws notes that "Colorado is one of the few states where a late abortion can be obtained. Outpatient abortion is available up to 26 weeks. In addition, medically indicated termination of pregnancy up to 34 weeks is also an option for conditions such as fetal anomalies, genetic disorder, fetal demise and/or severe medical problems.")
Would you de-fund Planned Parenthood?
When you look at the facts out there right now, I think that should be something that's bipartisan. It's something that's clearly an issue, and I personally can't support funding that. Should they have the ability to have their day in court and prove us wrong? Yes. But there's enough information out there that's on the public airwaves that it raises a level of concern, and in my opinion, I would de-fund that aspect of it. And the reason why, and what you don't report, is that there are other providers out there when it comes to women being able to have access to health care. It's always presented that only Planned Parenthood does that. I want to make sure that we let people know there are other options. But here we have one organization that's a concern, and it warrants an investigation.
What is your position on immigration? Do you believe there shouldn't be a path to citizenship even for so-called Dreamers — people who were brought to this country as children?
What I believe is the fact that national security is a very important aspect that we need to pay attention to before we can even address those issues. Unfortunately, we tend to overlook some very critical steps, and I don't think we're ever going to have a bipartisan discussion until we address the fact that our border is not secure. And we have got to emphasize the importance of securing access to this country. We currently have laws on the books right now that aren't being addressed.
We really need to look at our current immigration system right now. We need to reform that. It needs some efficiencies to be able to do that. And until we do those things, I don't think we will ever have a rational discussion about that.
Are you in favor of building a wall along the Mexican border?
What I'm in favor of is making sure we have security for our country and we can control access to our country. So if there are people who want to do us harm, we have the ability to be able to do that and we're able to make sure that we're creating a safe environment for people to live. You might wind up with physical infrastructure, it might be technology. Those are the mechanisms to do that. But we first need to get to an understanding that we need to secure our border and be able to do that — and make a bipartisan commitment to be able to do that first.
If I'm understanding you correctly, you might be in favor of an alternative to a wall if there were other technological means to increase border security, but if there wasn't, a wall would be fine by you. Is that correct?
I think you're putting words in my mouth. First you have to make the commitment to do it [make the border secure], and that could be a wide variety of options. I think we get so hung up on what we're going to specifically do versus us needing to recognize that the security aspect of our border has to be protected. When we first reach that commitment, then we can talk about how to do it.
A lot of Republican candidates across the country have distanced themselves from Donald Trump. But you took a prominent speaking role at the Republican National Convention and have spoken about him in positive terms. Why did you make that decision? And why do you think a Donald Trump presidency would be good for America?
I would say the best way to characterize that is, I support our party's nominee, and Donald Trump is our party's nominee. But what I also want to make sure people recognize is that when it comes to the United States Senate race, it's Darryl Glenn versus Michael Bennet. I can't control what everybody else does, but I'm not going to allow people to be distracted from what's important in this election in Colorado. And in Colorado, what they need to recognize is a sharp contrast between Darryl Glenn and what he's going to do versus Michael Bennet's record. A lot of people spend, in my opinion, way too much time talking about everything else that's going on instead of focusing on the Senate race and what's going on in Colorado. My focus is on that.
Do you think any discussion about who does or doesn't support Donald Trump is a distraction from those local issues you mention?
What I think is, it's not a balanced discussion. It's always about Donald Trump, it's never about Hillary Clinton. And I believe, especially when we have debates with Mr. Bennet, that it's a waste of time when you're supposed to be talking about the U.S. Senate race that you're being asked to justify the policies of your candidate at the top of the ticket. We should be focusing on what is Darryl Glenn going to do versus Michael Bennet. So to continue to go down and do the point-counterpoint, in my opinion, doesn't serve the public well when you're trying to make a decision about who's going to be the best person to represent you in the United States Senate. I want to keep you focused on my record and why I'm the better person to serve in the Senate than Michael Bennet.
There's been a lot of commentary about your campaign getting off to a slow start. One publication [The Atlantic] has gone so far as to suggest that you've barely mounted a campaign. Is that more inaccurate reporting? How would you describe your campaign's launch and how it's developing right now?
What I would say is those are people who don't understand how campaigns work when you actually go out and talk to people. It's very nice to sit around in a nice, comfortable environment and write stories about what you think is going on. But it's a completely different story when you actually go out and talk to the people we're talking to and really learn about the issues. So we don't really focus in on what everybody else is saying about the campaign. We focus on the people we've met along the campaign trail, the stories that they're telling us, the frustration that they have that Michael Bennet has not been representing them — that he's been voting in lockstep over 98 percent of the time with the administration and not listening to what's happening at the ground level in Colorado. That's what the story is.
[Note: In June, Politifact addressed the 98 percent claim, then being made by former senatorial candidate Ryan Frazier. The stats showed that Bennet voted with the Obama administration either 98 or 99 percent of the time in the years 2012, 2013 and 2014. In 2015, though, that number fell to 89.7 percent.]
But unfortunately, the media doesn't spend any time talking to those people. They stay at the 50,000-foot level because they're used to politicians saying one thing and then going off and doing something else. And they buy all these fancy advertisements and give the appearance that they're actually talking to the people. But when you talk to the people, they'll tell you they don't see him. That's the reality of it. That's why we're going to win this race by four points.
Four points is a very specific number. Why do you say you're going to win the race by four points?
I believe that. And if anybody's been following my campaign, I said I was going to win the primary decisively, and we did that — and we're going to do the same thing now, because we know we've got the temperature of what's going on in Colorado. Our message, it doesn't matter if you're Republican, Democrat or unaffiliated. People are going to be able to see they have a leader who's going to represent them, and we project we're going to win by four points.
Do you feel that the kind of grassroots campaign you're describing is capable of defeating a campaign with a lot more resources and the ability to run the sorts of commercials you're talking about?
I would say a successful campaign reflects the desire of the people who are there to support a candidate. And what I would tell you is, Michael Bennet has not been representing the people of Colorado when you look at those key votes: the Iran nuclear deal, the Affordable Care Act, job losses that are out here. When you're just wanting to have a conversation and you call him up, you hear crickets when you call Mr. Bennet. So in Colorado in particular, they're frustrated in the fact that they're tired of politicians saying one thing and then going back to Washington and voting in lockstep with the administration and special-interest groups. That's overwhelmingly the story. You can run as many commercials as you want. That doesn't change the facts people are having a tough time when they sit down at their kitchen table to pay their bills. That's the deciding factor, and that's why I'm going to win this race.
How do you get that message out more widely when you're talking about going directly to the people? Are you relying on word of mouth — for person to tell the next person about what you stand for?
No, we are going to be able to compete in every arena. Don't get me wrong: We'll be able to do everything Michael Bennet can do, because there are a lot of people who are financially supporting this campaign. But what you don't see on the other side is their connection and their warmth to actually go out there and talk to people — to have town halls where people can come up to you and not have to go through a moderator. People really want to talk to you and look you in your eye and ask you those questions. You can spend all the money you want, but if you don't go out there and talk to people, it's not going to work. That's why Michael Bennet is not going to be successful.
The National Republican Party hasn't put a lot of emphasis on your candidacy; at least that's the perception out there. And a lot of polls that once said Michael Bennet was vulnerable to defeat no longer say that. Is that an example of opinions from people at the 50,000-foot level, not the ground level — and if they were at the ground level, they'd see you're running a much more competitive campaign?
I would agree that there are a lot of people who are used to the old standard form of how races are done. But this is an election cycle that's unique. When history is written, they'll go back and say, "What was going on in this particular election cycle?" That's because there's so much emphasis on special-interest groups and things like that. And people don't really realize the national party has been very supportive. There have been senators that have actually come out here to campaign with me. We just don't make a big deal of it because we're out there actually talking to these people.
Again, all these pollsters, they're not really out there talking to Coloradans. They're trying to do things the way they've done it in the past, but this is not that election. This is a completely different election cycle. That's why I tell people not to get hung up about the polls. Because number one, they're not accurate. If you go out and talk to people, they'll tell you what's really going on, and you can't measure that. And the reason why you should take my word for it is, look at my pathway to get here. I've overcome every single obstacle, every single poll that you can possibly think of. So that should tell you something unique is happening within Colorado. That's why we're going to win this by four.
Who are some of the senators who've campaigned for you?
Senator Scott [U.S. Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina], and Senator Lankford [U.S. Senator James Lankford from Oklahoma] spent a day out here. Senator Cruz [U.S. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas] came out here, and we've had a lot of support from other senators fundraising and communicating. The national party has actually been very supportive, because they realize there are more seats up from the Republican side than from the Democrats, so they're dealing with that. They're very reliable in terms of what we can do. Cory Gardner has spent a lot of time and effort helping this campaign, too. So people that think we're out here by ourselves, that's not accurate. They just don't have access to all the information and can't see all the support we're getting. But so much momentum is coming our way, and we're extremely blessed by that.
You're currently not talking to the Denver Post, and the perception is that you weren't happy with the newspaper's reporting about a domestic-violence incident involving your father back in the early 1980s. At least from the outside, it appears that the reporting was accurate, and your initial responses to the revelations have been criticized as not being entirely truthful. What's right and what's wrong about those perceptions?
Your whole premise is wrong. The fact is, the Denver Post was presented with information that showed that they didn't understand — and this is an issue that goes well beyond politics. When you find out about a domestic-violence situation, the first thing you should do is educate yourself on the people who are involved with it. And they, for some reason, can't even comprehend the fact that some people can't recall the whole thing, especially when they're so ingrained as part of your daily life. And then when presented with that information, for some reason they just assumed that I was being dishonest about that.
There are still things I don't remember, but for having difficult conversations, thirty years later, with my mother. We're still uncovering these things. And when presented with these things, they demonstrated such a lack of sensitivity, such a lack of awareness of what goes on in these kinds of environments. They were trying to sensationalize it, and that's something that's not right. And when you start thinking about how many people are impacted by these kinds of situations, and when you see these things played out, it's just wrong. And at some point in time, you have to stand up for the right thing.
They can have access to my staff. But what I'm not going to agree to is to have them be moderators in debates with me and Michael Bennet. To be a moderator, you have to appear to be objective, and there's no objectivity when it comes to the Post, and when you look at some of the things the writers are stating, and when you're looking at the behavior that prior people had in the Bennet campaign during the last election cycle. Having a relationship with somebody within the Bennet campaign, within that organization.
I don't want the focus to be on Darryl Glenn versus the Denver Post. I want the focus to be on Darryl Glenn versus Michael Bennet. That's the true story.
[Note: According to a 2013 article in The Colorado Observer, then-Post reporter Allison Sherry, who covered Bennet's 2010 Senate race, was involved at the time of publication in a relationship with Trevor Kincaid, Bennet's spokesman and communication director during that campaign. The Observer piece notes that the match was confirmed by the Post in April 2011, five months after the election.)
You mentioned that this is a different kind of election cycle. Does that mean it doesn't matter whether or not you're talking to the Post, or participating in a Post-moderated debate, even though it's the largest news organization in the state?
I try not to even think about it when it comes to the Post and the election. Like I say, sometimes you just have to do the right thing. And doing the right thing is about representing my family, representing the issues that went on, standing up for your integrity. I don't even think about the Post when it comes to this election cycle. They have their job to do and I respect that. But that doesn't mean I need to have direct communication with them. If they have questions on policy issues, they can contact any member of my staff. They can attend anything, because it's a free country. But to think I'm going to view them as impartial is just unrealistic.
Is there anything you agree with Michael Bennet on?
Pre-existing conditions and having insurance for your kids until they're 26 — these are the two things as far as the Affordable Care Act that, when we repeal that, we must recognize they're very important to people. Those are two things we found out are important. But when you start thinking about leading, he's not leading, and he's not representing his constituents well.
The Bennet campaign has launched a website called MeetDarrylGlenn.com, which strikes the familiar theme that you're too extreme for Colorado. It also includes a number of different quotes, suggesting, for example, that you've called Democrats "evil," you would reject working in a bipartisan manner, and you would support Senator Cruz serving on the U.S. Supreme Court. Are those assertions inaccurate? Or would you stand behind them?
Those things are what you call nice sound bites that are part of the Bennet strategy to only report half of what is said — and to distract people away from his record. That's why he's come out with all these commercials trying to make it appear that he's bipartisan when he's not. Michael Bennet's idea of being bipartisan is to try to get people to agree with him that the Iran nuclear plan was a good vote, and agree that the Affordable Care Act was a good vote. That's his idea of bipartisanship. But when you start standing up for issues that Coloradans want to stand up for — things like vouchers — it's amazing how Michael Bennet doesn't support vouchers. It's amazing how Michael Bennet continues to support policies that are going to keep people in the black and brown communities unemployed and under-employed, but he won't even talk to them. Everything he's doing is designed to distract people from his record. That's what the issue is.
My last question is a very simple one: Why should Colorado voters elect you to the U.S. Senate?
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They should elect me because they want to have somebody lead and represent them. Somebody who has grown up in Colorado, who still makes Colorado his home, and is willing to actually go out there and talk to people and fight for all of Colorado, regardless of party affiliation. To make sure you actually have a voice. You need somebody who's actually willing to keep the administration accountable and recognize the fact that as a legislator, you are a separate but equal branch of government. Too often, politicians can rubber-stamp everything that's coming down even if it's against the very interests of the people you serve. That's what Michael Bennet has done over 98 percent of the time. What they get from me is a proven leader, somebody who loves this community and wants to bring us together. I am going to be able to do that. That's why I'm going to win this election by four.