Democrats are gearing up to challenge Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) again after nearly unseating her in one of the biggest surprises of last year’s midterms.
In a sign of her perceived vulnerability, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) this week highlighted Boebert’s district as one of 31 targets next year, even after former President Trump handily won it in the past two presidential elections.
For Democrats, Boebert’s high-profile media antics and close ties to Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement make her a prime foil.
“One of our most effective comments that we talked about in the district was she’s not focused on the job, she’s focused on herself,” said Adam Frisch, the Democrat who nearly defeated Boebert last year and who is running again to unseat her in 2024. “I can’t believe she had almost the most embarrassing loss in 20 years and she hasn’t changed one iota. She’s actually doubled down on crazy.”
That sentiment is one that Frisch, a businessman and former city council member in Pitkin County, will continue to hammer home in the run-up to the general election next year.
Boebert’s firebrand style has resulted in a long list of controversies in her short congressional career, including a Democratic push to have her removed from House committees after her Islamophobic attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her staunch support of Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
She emerged from her first election victory, defeating 10-year Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary, as a star of the right wing of the GOP, tying herself closely to then-President Trump. Former Chair of the Colorado Republican Party Dick Wadhams remembered Boebert’s rabble-rousing speaking appearances ahead of the election, focusing on issues like gun rights and cultural issues.
“She took that very combative style to her everyday work in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Wadhams said. “I think it started the people in the third congressional district thinking that she wasn’t paying enough attention to the district as she was paying more attention to national politics.”
But the behaviors that Wadhams said may have pushed away some voters in the district also made her a national conservative media star and turned her into one of the GOP’s powerhouse fundraisers in Congress. She raked in nearly $8 million for the 2022 cycle.
“She’s always been a fundraising machine so she’s certainly going to have enough money,” Wadhams said.
But with national Democrats identifying the race as one of their priorities in 2024, Frisch, who in part self-financed his campaign with more than $2.2 million in loans in 2022, might be able to stock a campaign chest comparable with Boebert’s. Through the first quarter of 2023, Frisch raised more than $1.7 million in just over a month after announcing his campaign. Boebert has yet to release her fundraising numbers for the first quarter.
Frisch has pitched himself as an unabashedly moderate Democrat, focusing on agricultural and energy production issues. As the debate over an approaching debt ceiling rages in Washington, many Democrats have taken the stance that cuts to entitlement programs — like Social Security and Medicare — should be off the table as Republicans angle for spending slashes. Frisch ventured into territory that only a select number of Democrats have, arguing that while Congress should raise the debt ceiling, it does need to take a look at the long-term viability of entitlement programs.
“There are three or four big programs that control the vast majority of the budget, and then there’s everything else,” Frisch said. “So I think it’s hard to say we’re going to keep 85 percent of the budget off the table … even if you get rid of 600 percent of the 15 percent that’s left over, you might have a math problem.”
But Frisch will have to walk a tightrope in the run-up to 2024 in a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016 and 6 points in 2020. Republicans have already tried to tie Frisch to what they say are the reckless crime policies of the Democratic Party.
“Extreme House Democrats lost the majority because they hammered families with crime, chaos and skyrocketing costs,” said Jack Pandol, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Why would voters change their minds after Democrats spent their time in the minority coddling violent criminals and opposing relief?”
Wadhams said Frisch would be forced to take even more policy positions in front of voters this time around, without the element of surprise that allowed him to travel the district “presenting himself as a legitimate alternative to Boebert.”
“He will be forced to expose where he really is on these issues,” Wadhams said. “He will be pressured by his left wing in the Democratic party. They do not want anybody to put any distance between their agenda and getting elected to Congress.”
As her detractors rail against her headline-making antics, Boebert pointed to legislative victories like an energy bill that passed the House last week that would boost domestic energy production, which Republicans say would help drop fuel costs.
“I’m working every day to be a strong legislator and to deliver results,” Boebert said in a statement. “I think I’ve been surprising my detractors by introducing and passing a growing list of bipartisan legislation and amendments. The success I’m achieving legislatively is proving my efforts to change the rules are helping make Congress more effective and our country stronger.”
But looming over Boebert’s presumed reelection campaign in 2024 is Trump, who is once again vying for the GOP’s nomination. Boebert has been a close ally of Trump, backing his unfounded claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. On top of that, the former president has now been criminally charged in a New York case involving hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
David Flaherty, a political pollster in Colorado, said Trump is an enormous liability.
“Donald Trump, he’s just completely toxic in this state,” Flaherty said. “When he’s anywhere near the discussion, he’s just a walking turnout machine for Democrat and younger voters.”
With the pressure of increasing eyes on the race from the national parties and the added dynamic of what is setting up to be a polarizing presidential election, Frisch said he would rely again on his moderate bonafides to try to turn Boebert’s district blue.
“I know that the Democratic Party is not looking for a straight, middle-aged, white, moderate Democrat from a mountain town,” Frisch said. “But I truly say what I believe. And authenticity and sincerity works … I was by far and away the most moderate, conservative Democrat (in the last primary), and I wasn’t hiding it.”