DENVER – The annual Western Conservative Summit kicked off Friday in Denver, where several of Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial candidates will be speaking, along with a host of high-profile conservatives that include under-fire EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Among the Friday morning speakers were Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., GOP gubernatorial frontrunner Walker Stapleton and Republican candidate for Colorado Attorney General George Brauchler.
On Friday afternoon, Pruitt, Sessions and GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Robinson were among the speakers.
Sessions in his speech touched on many of the subjects he's been vocal about in his time as attorney general, including the number of judges confirmed so far under the Trump administration, saying "elections have consequences," the MS-13 gang, religious freedom and empowering conservatives, who Sessions said won't be called "deplorables or bitter clingers anymore."
He also discussed the move by he and the Justice Department late Thursday to oppose the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act in a lawsuit involving several states.
"It's a rare step, but one I felt was necessary when it comes to this law—a monumental law of historical governmental proportions that moved the entire health care system and the entire economy in America," he said.
He also talked about his view that religious freedom needs to be bolstered in the U.S., and talked about the recent Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, calling baker Jack Phillips "a courageous Colorado baker who would not back down."
Sessions claimed that the Trump administration has done a better job at cutting down on crime than the Obama administration did, and talked about the crackdown on the opioid epidemic without touching on marijuana—something he has tied together in the past as being similar types of drugs.
He also led a brief "build the wall" chant as he talked about the massive uptick of seizures of fentanyl at the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The entire government knows how strongly he feels about it, and we're getting things done," Sessions said, claiming that people were "stampeding" the U.S.-Mexico border and claiming the U.S. had "the most generous immigration laws in the world."
"If you cross the border illegally, we're going to prosecute you," Sessions said. "Period. That's what we're going to do."
He said he wanted to do away with so-called "sanctuary cities" and discussed the theoretical of someone crossing the border "bringing 6 ounces of cocaine" and making their way to "Boulder or Denver or Aurora" (the cities targeted by conservatives as "sanctuary cities") in two days.
"Colorado's got challenges," Sessions added, to some laughs from the audience before ending his speech: "In the Trump era, we've already seen a historic string of victories for conservatives and the American people. We are going to keep up this pace. We are not slowing down. We are determined to keep winning, and winning, and winning. Are you tired of it yet?"
Pruitt was a last-minute addition to the summit, which bills itself as the largest gathering of conservatives in the country, and his addition surprised some, as Pruitt has seen scandal after scandal plague the past few months of his tenure. Most recently, stories came out that Pruitt sent aides to pick up a specific hand lotion from a specific hotel chain and various sweets for the administrator.
Among the speakers Saturday will be gubernatorial candidates Greg Lopez and Victor Mitchell, as well as Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, commentators Diamond & Silk and the NRA’s Dana Loesch.
There are also a series of workshops, a gala, dinners and a military appreciation ball scheduled Friday and Saturday.
There are seven different ticketing options for those who wish to attend—from the $500 “VIP Summit Pass” to a $125 single-day pass.
Progressive groups and Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., who is also running for governor, planned rallies outside of the summit Friday to protest.
Those wishing to learn more about the summit can click here.