The Western Conservative Summit is an annual gathering of conservatives that typically takes over the Colorado Convention Center for two days each summer.
This year it was a scaled-back event, with less-notable speakers and a smaller venue: the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver.
Here’s what our reporters saw Friday and Saturday.
Only one speaker was met with a sustained standing ovation at the beginning and end of his remarks: Andy Ngo, a controversial conservative journalist who has been assaulted while trying to “unmask” activists he believes are members of antifa, a loosely organized and sometimes violent left-wing group.
Ngo claimed Saturday that antifa is a “terroristic organization that organizes openly” and has “ideological ties to communism.” He criticized the U.S. Department of Justice for not using anti-mafia laws to bring down the group.
As he spoke, several police officers stood sentry in front of the stage to protect him; they left when he left the stage. Ngo is often a target of protests, and Westword reported that a range of progressive groups, including the Denver Communists, would protest outside the Hyatt — an event dubbed the “Western BLM-Antifa Summit.” But no protesters were spotted inside or outside Saturday.
Inside, Ngo was hailed as a hero who has risked life and limb to report the truth. Jeff Hunt, the event’s host, said he deserves a Pulitzer Prize and several guests who left after Ngo spoke said he was the reason they came.
On Saturday morning, all three Colorado Republicans in Congress — U.S. Reps. Lauren Boebert, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn — took part in a panel hosted, like a late-night talk show, by Hunt. He asked the trio about Colorado’s leftward trend.
“It used to be a cuss word for you to say to a Democrat politician, ‘You’re from Denver.’ That was all that people needed to hear,” Buck said. “‘They’re from Boulder.’ ‘They’re a Boulder liberal.’ That used to be a label that Democrats would run away from. Now they embrace being a Boulder liberal; they embrace being from Denver.”
Boebert claimed that Colorado — where Democrats control the legislature and all but one statewide office — is not a blue state: “We are a red state with blue cities.” Buck predicted that Colorado “will go purple or red in the future.”
Buck also predicted that Republicans will control the U.S. House after the 2022 midterm elections. He urged conservatives to run for office and wondered aloud why more did not challenge pandemic restrictions last year.
“In Colorado — this is completely amazing: Dispensaries were open, and churches were closed. And I didn’t see a group of pastors, priests and others protesting somewhere about that happening. We went like lambs to the slaughter. We can’t allow that to happen,” said Buck, of Windsor.
Boebert, who lives in Silt, defended her decision last week to vote against a bill that would award congressional gold medals to U.S. Capitol police and Washington, D.C., police for defending the Capitol on Jan. 6. Boebert was one of only 21 House members to vote nay and the only Coloradan to do so.
“They want to say we are against our police officers if we voted against Nancy Pelosi’s radical language. You know, I want to say here today, thank you to the police officers who are here,” the congresswoman said.
America’s most famous anti-LGBTQ cakemaker, Lakewood’s Jack Phillips, tearfully spoke of the various court battles related to his refusals to bake cakes for gay and transgender clients.
“We knew there were cakes that we would not create,” Phillips said of starting Masterpiece Cakeshop. “Cakes that celebrate Halloween, cakes that were anti-American or atheist … but also cakes that would insult or denigrate anybody in any way shape or form, even people who identify as LGBT.”
Phillips plans to appeal a recent Denver district court judge’s $500 fine against him for not baking a cake for a transgender woman.
University of Colorado Regent Heidi Ganahl, considered a favorite to run for governor in 2022, had a booth at the Western Conservative Summit to tout her podcast, Heidi’s Colorful Colorado.
Ganahl told The Denver Post that she hasn’t decided whether she will seek the GOP nomination for governor next year — or any other political office.
She described a potential run against Gov. Jared Polis, the incumbent Democrat rich enough to far outspend his opponents, as a “moonshot.”