- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2016

DENVER (AP) - Eight Republicans seeking Colorado’s Republican U.S. senate nomination said they’d support a Donald Trump presidential nomination as, like Trump, they styled themselves as outsiders intent on fixing a broken Washington in a televised debate Tuesday.

“I’m an outsider. I’m running against the permanent political class,” Colorado Springs businessman Robert Blaha said to open the debate hosted by KUSA-TV. Blaha has pledged to limit himself to one term in his quest to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet in November. He’s also backing GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz.

“Whoever can beat Bernie or Hillary is who we should get behind,” former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier said of presidential candidates Sanders and Clinton, respectively.

All laid out common conservative themes in the debate, saying Washington needs to cut spending, bolster national security and enforce immigration laws.

They also tried to distinguish themselves to voters ahead of Saturday’s state GOP assembly in Colorado Springs.

Former state Rep. Jon Keyser of Morrison drew some fire from his rivals for suggesting that “I’m the only one on this stage that has shown he is a fiscal conservative” because he worked in a legislature that balanced state budgets, as required by law.

“Go run a business. I object to that statement strongly,” said Jack Graham, a businessman.

Keyser also tried to distinguish himself on national security - as a veteran who served in Afghanistan and Iraq - and had a brief dustup with Blaha over whether Blaha had questioned Keyser’s leadership skills as a veteran. Blaha denied it.

Few remarks were directed at Bennet, who’s seeking a second full term in office and had $6.7 million in his campaign accounts at the end of 2015, far more than any of the GOP hopefuls.

It was a chance to present themselves to votes ahead of the GOP state assembly, where anyone getting at least 30 percent of delegate votes wins a spot on the June 28 primary ballot. State Sen. Tim Neville of Littleton is among those going through the convention.

Four candidates - Blaha, Frazier, Graham and Keyser - aim to qualify for the primary after turning in signatures from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts.

Three other candidates filed candidacy paperwork for the nomination - none with statewide name recognition.

Also appearing Tuesday were El Paso County Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peg Littleton and businessman Jerry Natividad.

Graham and Littleton said they supported a woman’s right to choose when it came to abortion, though both described themselves as pro-life. Graham also went against the grain of the national party in saying the Senate should consider President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Senate Republican leaders say the next president-elect should name a Scalia replacement.

“We are coming across as a party of obstructionism,” Graham said.

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