During her first debate in the race for her new congressional seat, Lauren Boebert was asked by a rival candidate why she had switched districts in December.
She wanted to give herself and her boys a fresh start after a year marred by divorce, scandals, and family spats that turned physical, all of which played out in the glare of publicity, she said. And she wanted to help the Republican Party hold onto her current Congressional District 3 (CD-3) seat — a sideways admission that she thought she’d probably lose in November to Democrat Adam Frisch or in the June primary.
“That’s been very public, what the home life looked like,” Boebert said at the debate in Lupton. “My boys needed some freedom from what was going on, and this move is the right move for me and for them.”
They now live in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District (CD-4), she claimed. She didn’t say where they’d moved in the deep-red district, which includes most of the rural Eastern Plains and parts of the Front Range.
If getting away from the ex-husband’s and mom’s turbulent past was one of her main reasons for moving, she needn’t have gone to CD-4. Many towns and cities in CD-3 would have gotten her farther from Silt, where the family lived.
For example, She could have put five hours and around 300 miles between her ex and herself by moving to Walsenburg, a quiet town in CD-3 about 45 minutes south of Pueblo. That would also have gotten her out of the limelight; Walsenburg is not a metropolitan hub and when she campaigned there in 2022, around 20 people showed up to support her.
Pueblo, the biggest city in (CD-3), is around half an hour closer by car, but still a healthy distance from Silt. Durango in southeastern Colorado is about four hours away.
Castle Rock, Highlands Ranch, Loveland, Parker, and Windsor, all in the 4th Congressional District, are closer. The largest city in the Eastern Plains, Sterling — population around 13,000 — is about four and a half hours from Silt, same as Pueblo.
So it doesn’t make sense that she needed to move out of her current district to get a fresh start for her family.
Keep CD-3 red
Boebert also said she hoped her district switch would give the Republican Party “an opportunity to secure that seat (CD-3) and keep it red.”
Some, including Frisch, who gave her a good run for her money in 2022 and is running again this year, said Boebert leaving the district could make it easier for the Republicans to hold onto the seat.
In a June 22 fundraising email, Frisch said that winning in CD-3 — which sweeps through western Colorado, over to part of the Eastern Plains, taking in the cities of Aspen, Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs and Ignacio, and those mentioned above along the way — will be “a lot harder” now that he’s no longer running against “Boebert’s well-known craziness and extremism.”
Harder, yes, political analysts said. Impossible, no.
“The fact that Boebert’s running in the fourth does make it easier for Republicans to hold the seat,” said Erin Covey, U.S. House analyst at the Cook Political Report, which changed its assessment of the CD-3 race from “toss-up” — when it looked as if it was going to be between Boebert and Frisch — to “lean Republican” after Boebert switched districts.
“But ‘lean Republican’ is still quite a competitive category, and depending on what happens with the Republicans running for this seat, Frisch definitely has a decent shot at winning,” she said.
“A generic Republican – one who is not Lauren Boebert – should have an advantage in this seat, but Frisch has a massive war chest and is going to make this a competitive race.”
Frisch has amassed $7.78 million in donations, more than three times the $2.44 million Boebert has raised and nearly 10 times the combined total raised by other candidates in the CD-3 primaries. Republicans seeking the GOP nomination include Grand Junction attorney Jeff Hurd, “conservative thinker, writer and speaker” Russ Andrews, and State Board of Education member Stephen Varela. Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout dropped out of the Democratic Party primary yesterday.
Money is “the lifeblood of … political campaigns,” allowing candidates to buy ads, travel, hire staff, and conduct polls and other activities that might help them get elected, the Portland strategic communications consultancy said in a report published in 2020.
“Frisch raised a lot of money when he was going to be running against Boebert, and still has that money,” said Phil Chen, an assistant professor in the political science department at the University of Denver.
‘Functionally an incumbent’
The Democratic candidate, who lives in Aspen, “will probably have more name recognition in the district than whoever the Republican ends up being because he was so close last time” and has been campaigning for roughly three years now, Chen said.
And Frisch has another big advantage: the national attention he got in the last cycle, when he almost beat Boebert, “makes him more like an incumbent,” Chen said.
Incumbents “generally don’t face a strong primary challenge, have institutional support to raise much more money, and have better name recognition,” Chen said.
“Well, Adam Frisch has all of those. He’s functionally an incumbent … in an open-seat race.”
Incumbents often win elections, too. If they lose, they often ride off into the sunset of their political career.
“Losing to a Democrat as a Republican incumbent? That’s kind of going to end your subsequent political career,” Chen said. “But if you move to a new district and you lose in the primary, you can write that off.”
District switch about keeping a cushy job?
“It was less about keeping the third district Republican than it was about protecting her current sinecure in Congress,” the former publisher of the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, George Orbanek, told the Colorado Times Recorder. In this case, sinecure means a cushy job that requires minimal work, pays well, and usually confers some status on the holder.
“And I think it’s highly likely she would have been beaten by Frisch,” Orbanek added, calling CD-3’s functional incumbent “a very substantive individual.”
‘People don’t like carpetbagging’
Boebert may have seen loss ahead in CD-3 and looked to CD-4 after Ken Buck said he wasn’t going to run again, Chen said.
“Members of Congress are single-minded seekers of reelection. They are focused on winning elections,” he said.
“I imagine Boebert looked at CD-4 and thought, ‘Well, this is an open seat (now that Buck is retiring), and if I can get through the primary, my chances of getting consistently reelected in the 4th are very strong.”
Reelection would mean keeping her $174,000 a year paycheck — roughly 3 ½ times the annual per capita income in Colorado between 2018 and ’22. And, if she loses after just two terms, she’d say be a year short of the minimum five years in Congress she would need to qualify for a civil service or federal employee’s pension at age 62.
And there was a sign at the Lupton debate that she could fall at the primary hurdle.
Boebert finished fifth in a straw poll of audience members after the debate, with 12 votes. In first, with 22 votes, was former state Senator and Representative and current Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg. State Rep. Mike Lynch, who last week resigned as minority speaker of the Colorado House after it came to light that he had failed to tell colleagues he had been arrested for DUI and having a weapon while intoxicated, came second with 20 votes.
If she isn’t already questioning her decision to change districts, others are.
Orbanek, who’s on the volunteer board of Grand Junction nonprofit Restore the Balance — Democrats, Republicans and independents working together to build an alternative to political extremism — thinks she could have won the primary in CD-3.
“I feel the Republican Party has gone so far to the right that the base would have given her a primary win,” he said.
Chen thinks she won’t be on the ballot in November in CD-4.
“While primary voters do tend to pick more extreme candidates than the general electorate, it’s hard to make a case, even with primary voters, when you’ve moved into a district for obviously political reasons,” he said.
“People tend to not like carpetbaggers,” a term that’s been thrown at Boebert since she went into CD-4 exile. It’s used to describe outsiders who move to an area to take advantage of a situation they believe will yield them gain.