DENVER (AP) — Darryl Glenn, a tea-party favorite from the conservative stronghold of Colorado Springs, decisively won Colorado's Republican U.S. Senate primary Tuesday and will face incumbent Democrat Michael Bennet in November.
Glenn beat four opponents in a race that focused on national security, jobs and Bennet's support for President Barack Obama's health care overhaul and Iran nuclear weapons deal.
Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner and self-described Christian constitutionalist conservative, was the only candidate voted directly to the primary at the state GOP convention.
He won endorsements from Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and the tea party-aligned Senate Conservatives Fund, which poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his campaign.
"What we found out during the campaign is that Coloradans care about the Iran deal, Obamacare and excessive regulations that are hurting working families. Michael Bennet has to account for it," Glenn said after his win.
Seeking his second six-year term, Bennet was unopposed among Democrats.
Rick Palacio, the state's Democratic chair, issued a statement saying "Glenn is too extreme for Colorado and will add to the dysfunction of Washington."
Glenn's victory capped a campaign that frustrated many Republican leaders and encapsulated GOP voters' resentment toward Bennet's close ties to Obama and partisan gridlock in Washington. It also sets up an uphill race against an incumbent who has raised millions of dollars and is running ads touting his work for Coloradans.
At the campaign's start, Bennet was considered one of the nation's most vulnerable Democratic senators up for election this year. He first was appointed to replace Ken Salazar when Salazar was named interior secretary. Bennet was the underdog before narrowly defeating tea party-backed Ken Buck in his first election in 2010.
GOP leaders criticized Bennet's support for Obama's deal to ease economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for Iran's promise not to pursue a nuclear weapon. Bennet also touted Obama's health care overhaul, which has in part led to rapidly rising premiums and dwindling choices for many Coloradans.
Many voters are upset by Bennet's support for Obama's proposal to close Guantanamo Bay, fearing Colorado is a possible destination for the detention center's terrorists.
But the Republican field exploded to 13 after U.S. Reps. Mike Coffman and Scott Tipton and George Brauchler, who prosecuted theater shooter James Holmes, declined to challenge Bennet. Ultimately, five candidates made the primary, none of them having held statewide office before.
Glenn defeated Robert Blaha, a Colorado Springs businessman; Jack Graham, a GOP newcomer and retired businessman from Fort Collins who appealed to the party's moderates; former state Rep. Jon Keyser, a decorated combat veteran who focused nearly exclusively on national security; and former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier.
A divisive race over, Bennet now has a challenger in an independent-minded state that replaced Democratic Sen. Mark Udall with then-GOP Rep. Cory Gardner just two years ago. He'll now have to defend his voting record and address jobs, school choice, health insurance and the war on the Islamic State group, all issues central to Coloradans.
Primary day also featured a Denver campaign stop by Hillary Clinton, who responded to a House Benghazi committee report Tuesday into the 2012 attack that killed four U.S. citizens. Clinton said it "found nothing — nothing" different from previous investigations. The committee produced no new allegations against Clinton.
James Anderson can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jandersonap