By Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – The largest gathering of conservatives outside of Washington, D.C. is in Denver this weekend.

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The Western Conservative Summit is hosted by Colorado Christian University’s Centennial Institute, and features some of the nation’s leading Republicans, including Colorado’s Senator Cory Gardner.

(credit: CBS)

Protesters greeted Gardner outside the Convention Center, but he will also face heat inside.

“Cory is going to walk on the stage tonight and face thousands of grassroots Conservatives who want answers on Obamacare, and what he’s planning to do with regard’s to Obamacare,” says Jeff Hunt, the director of the Centennial Institute.

Jeff Hunt (credit: CBS)

The event is in its eighth year, and Hunt says, year after year, attendees have listened to promises of repeal and replace.

“There’s going to be a strong, bold voice that’s going to come out of this to all of Washington, DC, that you need to repeal Obamacare.”

(credit: CBS)

While then-candidate Donald Trump attended the event last year, this year he’s a no-show.

His Secretaries of Education and Labor – here for another event – aren’t even attending.

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Hunt says he doesn’t know if it’s punishment for Colorado not voting for Trump, but “if that’s the case, would you think, rather than punishing, you’d go, ‘we have work to do.’ And you do work by showing up.”

Donald Trump (credit: CBS)

Trump’s absence is a snub to attendees like Kathleen Chandler.

“I feel there’s a little bit of you came before when you wanted our vote, and now that you had our vote, what are you going to do for us?”

Kathleen Chandler (credit: CBS)

 

She’s skeptical of change – health care or otherwise – coming out of Washington, but, Hunt says, most here will demand action.

“They’ve got to at least deliver a repeal of the current state of Obamacare, because that’s not what’s working for Coloradans.”

Jeff Hunt with CBS4’s Shaun Boyd (credit: CBS)

Senator Gardner and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke will speak Friday night.

Four of Colorado’s Republican gubernatorial candidates will also take questions on stage together Saturday.

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Shaun Boyd is CBS4’s political specialist. She’s a veteran reporter with more than 25 years of experience. Follow her on Twitter @cbs4shaun.