As Colorado gets bluer, Republicans find fellowship at Western Conservative Summit

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Tony Gorman/CPR News
A shopper looks at merchandise at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver, June 10, 2023.

It’s been a rough decade for Colorado conservatives. 

The party has seen its power whittled away by a string of disappointments, losing state and federal offices in election after election. That reality hung over attendees of the Western Conservative Summit in Denver this past weekend.

“As far as where we're at right now, it's horrible,” said attendee Randy Pfaff, a pastor of the Cowboy Church in Cañon City.

The Summit, which is put on annually by the Centennial Institute, brings conservatives from across the West to participate in workshops like ‘Identity Theft: How to Protect Your Kids from the Left’s Attack on Male and Female’ and hear from a roster of right-wing speakers. This year’s list included 2024 presidential candidates Larry Elder and Asa Hutchinson.

For his part, Pfaff blames migration for the state’s Democratic turn, and specifically, the arrival in recent years of an “influx of Californians.”

“They came in with a lot of money. And so the price of house and land and all that went up,” said Pfaff. “But anybody who's a real conservative that lives here for any length of time and has watched, there's no way they could be happy with what's going on in this state.”

Pfaff said watching people network and build relationships at the Summit gave him hope that the party can rebound. “Maybe those connections — God puts his hand on them things, and who knows what could become of that.”

The Summit certainly had its social elements — in the vendor hall of the Colorado Convention Center, attendees browsed booths of MAGA gear and other momentoes and picked up literature on different causes (including dueling booths for and against ranked-choice voting). There was a hunting simulator to try and even a mechanical bull for those brave enough to try.

The gathering was also a chance for fellowship for those who rarely see fellow conservatives in person these days.

“I live in Wheat Ridge and I am surrounded by anything but conservatives,” said 84-year-old Cecilia Maley. Maley said she posts religious symbols and signs for Republican candidates around her property, but “unfortunately, they seem to get stolen in the middle of the night.”

Maley complained that people — from neighbors to family members — have lost the ability to talk to each other about their political differences.

“I believe that we need to get back to being really caring about each other, to stop insulting each other, to appreciate that there are traditional values that have worked for our country for over 200 years,” she said.

CPR’s Megan Verlee contributed to this story.

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