WASHINGTON — Far-right Rep. Lauren Boebert scored the closest victory in pro-Republican territory last fall, defeating Democrat Adam Frisch by just 546 votes and surprising political observers who hadn’t had the slumbering race on their radar. from Colorado.
Frisch is now seeking a rematch, and Boebert, a conservative firebrand and culture warrior, has not moderated her political positions or toned down her rhetoric in her second term on Capitol Hill. Instead, Boebert has been drawing national headlines for taking on President Joe Biden and her own Republican leadership.
In January, she and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., nearly derailed Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s attempt to become a speaker in a dramatic showdown on the House floor. She accidentally lost the most important vote of the year: a vote to increase the debt ceiling that he had opposed. Last month, he angered GOP leaders and colleagues by trying to force a plenary vote to impeach President Joe Biden on border issues before the House investigations into him were concluded.
Now, she is fighting over the military policy and government funding bills that must pass, demanding that they include right-wing politics to win her vote.
“A lot of Republicans have been taken aback by her,” said Dick Wadhams, former chairman of the Colorado Republican Party from 2007 to 2011. “She hasn’t changed her operating style, substantially or overall.”
The One House Republican lawmaker, who knows Boebert well, offered this advice: “His ass needs to get home to campaign. She cuts ribbons, she goes to bar mitzvahs and takes credit for things she has absolutely nothing to do with.”
In a part of Colorado that leans conservative but is used to electing pragmatic Republicans and Democrats who tend to focus on local issues like water, natural resources and agriculture, Boebert stands out the wrong way for a segment of voters, Wadhams said.
“The perception, whether fair or not, is that Congresswoman Boebert has paid more attention to fighting these battles within the Republican Party than to the district,” said the former Colorado Republican Party leader. “Now, I’m sure her office would refute it. The problem is that she is darkened by the way she behaves. And that’s what she’s fighting for right now.»
Asked if he planned to change his approach this cycle, Boebert blamed his 2022 decision on «vote harvesting,» a Republican term for third-party absentee ballot collection, rather than what Democrats they have called his «MAGA extremism» and political hoaxes. .
“We need to get voter participation. I think all Republicans should focus on polling where it is legal in Colorado. And, I mean, that’s something we need to pay attention to or we’ll continue to be in the mess we’re in,” Boebert said in an interview as he walked down the Capitol steps. “Democrats go after ballots while we go after voters. And so, I mean, we have to get in the game.»
But Boebert also said she’s focused on “delivering” Colorado’s sprawling 3rd District that includes rural areas, the cities of Grand Junction and Pueblo, and the rich ski resorts around Aspen. Although she did not provide details, and her office did not respond to a request for comment, some recent news releases have focused on local issues, such as her water payment receipt get a hearing, your bill to remove the gray wolf of the endangered species list by passing out of the committee and ensuring a $5 million grant for a rural health center in a spending package that she voted against.
“In the previous Congress, I couldn’t do as much because we were a minority,” he said. “And we have a wonderful advantage of having this majority where I can actually drive wins for my district.”
Once the owner of the gun-themed restaurant shooters gridBoebert, 36, has amassed millions of social media followers and a significant platform outside of Congress on conservative podcasts and television shows, and at political conventions.
Democrats, and even some Republicans, say his rising national profile has dwarfed any supposed hometown wins. Boebert recently grabbed headlines after another conservative hero, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, called her colleague a «little p—-» on the House floor, an altercation that led to Greene’s expulsion of the far-right Freedom Caucus. While Greene has now sided with McCarthy, Boebert remains a thorn in her side.
“People want the circus to stop,” Frisch said, accusing Boebert of doing “all kinds of pointless chases and causing all kinds of drama” that the district doesn’t care about. «She’s one of those people who still loves to get on Twitter and cable news networks and just yell and yell.»
“She’s not focused on the district, she’s focused on herself,” he said. «And we’ll hit her with it.»
In a phone interview, Frisch said he had only needed “two more weeks with just gas money” to win the 2022 race. Now, he says, he will have the time and resources he needs to close the deal. Frisch raised a whopping $2.6 million to Boebert’s roughly $818,000 in the second quarter; he reported having $2.5 million in cash on hand versus Boebert’s $1.4 million, according to campaign reports.
“She doesn’t seem to be taking the job any more seriously than before. And again, that’s bad for the district and bad for the country,” Frisch said.
He promised that if elected, his focus would be on local issues like water, rural health care, rural education, agriculture, ranching and natural resources.
But the Democrat still faces an uphill climb in the Republican-friendly district, which former President Donald Trump won by 8 percentage points in 2020, according to data tracked by Daily Kos.
But Frisch, 55, said the 2022 result shows he appeals to nominal Republicans, including Trump voters, calling himself a «very conservative Democrat running up against an extremist.» He wants to join the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus and be one of the five most bipartisan members of Congress. He said he disagrees with his party on energy policy, seeing a bigger role for oil and gas alongside clean energy (although he said he would have voted for the Inflation Reduction Act). . And he did not say whether he supports Biden’s re-election in 2024.
«I share the concern that most people have that it’s a bit disappointing that we’re left with some kind of redo of 2020,» he said. «I’m laser-focused on what’s going on at CD-3.»
The Republican National Congressional Committee, however, is eager to paint Aspen City Council member Frisch as too liberal for the district.
“Adam Frisch is a liberal guy who travels the district spreading lies like a snake oil salesman. Coloradans see through his act,” NRCC regional press secretary Delanie Bomar said.
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., a Frisch supporter this cycle and last, acknowledged that Boebert, with millions of followers on social media on the right, can raise money for the campaign with things like his impeachment push. to Biden. But he noted that Boebert voted no on Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is expected to generate billions in funding for the Centennial State and will be a major focus of Democratic campaigns next year.
“There are those who can monetize extremism, monetize selfish politics. And she could do that to a certain extent, but that only takes it so far when she literally isn’t submitting funding requests for roads, bridges and water infrastructure,” Crow said. “You can only hide that for so long. And clearly last cycle, the template was ready. The squad is even higher now.»
Democrats will make it a priority to get Boebert out of Congress, Wadhams warned, which could force the national Republican Party to spend money to step in and bail her out.
“It has become a kind of national symbol of what they want to beat,” Wadhams said. “It’s going to be a long, sweeping fight between these two. It’s not going to be pretty. And he’s going to go all the way.»