This year the Western Conservative Summit drew five Republican candidates and one likely candidate. Sen. Rick Santorum led the stage on Friday and it continued on Saturday with Gov. Mike Huckabee, Carly Fiorina, Gov. Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Gov. Scott Walker.
The main political issue dominating the summit was Friday’s Supreme Court ruling making same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said the ruling was “based on a lie” during his speech Friday night. (Read Santorum coverage HERE)
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee told the gathering on Saturday morning that the Supreme Court in legalizing same- sex marriage in all 50 states tried “to unwritten the laws of nature and the laws of nature’s God,” and conservative can’t ignore this decision they same way that “Abraham Lincoln did about the Dred Scott decision in 1857.”
Huckabee also attacked President Obama flip-flop views on same-sex marriage in 2008 and 2012. “Obama said that he believes that marriage is between a man and a woman, and he believed that, because he said as a Christian, it was the biblical view, and he had to believe that God was in the mix,” Huckabee said. “One of three things is true: he was either lying in 2008, he’s lying now or God rewrote the bible and Barack Obama is the only one who got the new edition and I don’t think that’s what happened.”
Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Florina tone was different from Huckabee as she stated she didn’t oppose same-sex unions and its time for Republicans to connect “with Americans or it could cost the party the presidential election in 2016.” However, Fiorina criticized of the Supreme Court decision, calling the Supreme Court an “incredible example of judicial overreach” criticizing the Supreme Court as “activist judges.” Florina argued that the case was “best left up to the states and the people to continue this discussion instead of five Supreme Court justices saying we are going to tell you what marriage is.”
Former Governor Rick Perry argued that the decision should have been left to the states to decide. “One size will not fit all. That’s not how this country was set up. This week the Supreme Court made decisions that, I’ll be real honest with you, I didn’t agree with at all,” Perry said. “I have said from the get-go that these decisions, particularly that decision about traditional marriage, needed to be made in the states. I believe that with all my heart. That is where that needs to be decided.”
Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson disagree strongly on the Supreme Court’s ruling stating, “Marriage is a religious service and not a government form.” Carson, the winner of the summit straw poll two years in a row, called on “Congress to hold religious views are respected and protected and the government must never force Christians to violate their religious beliefs.”
The keynote Speaker was Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, an all but announced candidate who didn’t mention the controversial ruling during his speech. Instead, Walker spoke like an announced formal candidate, saying he thinks he would beat Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton in 2016. Walker is expected to announce officially July 13.
During the Q&A onstage segment with radio host Hugh Hewitt, Hewitt asked if Walker would defend religious liberty. Walker replied “Yes”, and then went on to explain the importance of freedom of religion. “To me, it is not freedom from religion, it is freedom of religion, which ultimately means we have the right to practice our religious beliefs and not have others interfere. We should respect the opinions of others in America, but that in return means that they not only respect our opinions, they respect what is written in the Constitution,” he said.
Hewitt then asked Walker if elected how would he appoint justices. Walker says he looks “integrity and people who understand the sole role of the judiciary to uphold the constitution.”
Walker was met with a heckler during his Q&A segment where Walker brushed off the shouting “I’m used to protesters, so this is not uncommon. Probably exported in from Wisconsin. When you’ve had 100,000 protesters and death threats in front of your house, one or two guys shouting from the crowd its like what’s the big deal?.”
However, it was a set-up from the Centennial Institute Director John Andrews Jr as he closed Saturday portion: “Some of you may not know it, but we planted that protector to keep you on your toes during Scott Walker’s segment.”
The summit conducted a straw poll on Sunday where it was announced that Ben Carson was the winner for a second year in a row. Carson received 26% beating Carly Florina by 23 votes. Fiorina received 26% of the 871 votes cast to come in second. Walker came in third with 22% of the votes. Even though straw polls are unreliable, the two non-politicians emerging as rising stars compare to longtime conservative favorites such as Ted Cruz can prove momentum due to their extensive grassroots approach.
Western Conservative Summit Straw Poll Results
Former surgeon Dr. Ben Carson- 224
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina- 201
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker- 192
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz- 100
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul- 34
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio- 24
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry-20
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum-16
Businessman Donald Trump-15
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee-13
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal-9
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush-4
Ohio Gov. John Kasich-4
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie-3
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham-3
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney-3