At a casino bingo hall in southwestern Colorado, Lauren Boebert, the Republican congresswoman, sat with her 6-month-old grandson on her knee. She expressed her thoughts on the upcoming election, stating, “The election’s still a ways away,” as guests slowly arrived for the Montezuma County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner. Boebert mentioned that she’s noticed a lot of mercy and grace in her conversations with people at events like this.
In the previous month, Boebert, who was in the process of finalizing her divorce at the time, was caught on a security camera vaping and engaging in inappropriate behavior with her date. This incident took place shortly before she was ejected from a performance of the musical “Beetlejuice” at the Buell Theater in Denver for causing a disturbance. The footage contradicted her initial claims about the incident, and the venue’s statement that she had demanded preferential treatment only added to the outrage.
This incident has had lasting consequences for Boebert, a politician who has embodied the provocative and unapologetic politics of the party’s right wing in the Biden era. Several local Republican officials have since endorsed Jeff Hurd, a more conventional Republican challenger, for the nomination this year.
Hurd’s candidacy represents a frustration among some Republicans with the perceived excesses of the party’s MAGA wing. Party stalwarts such as former Gov. Bill Owens and former Senator Hank Brown have endorsed Hurd, along with Pete Coors, the brewery scion, former Senate candidate, and 2016 Trump fund-raiser. These endorsements reflect a desire for principled leadership and behavior that won’t lead to regrets.
Some Hurd supporters are primarily concerned with preventing further defeats for the party in the state. They were once supporters of Boebert but feel that her political celebrity has changed her for the worse. One activist at the dinner expressed his displeasure with Boebert over the theater incident and told Hurd that he finds it difficult to support her.
Polls have yet to be released for the primary race, so it is still uncertain whether Boebert has lost favor among the party’s voters. However, during interviews in the district, there were still supporters who stood by her. One supporter praised her aggressiveness, youth, and better ideas compared to other politicians. He shrugged off the theater incident, comparing it to what they did to Trump.
Despite her district’s solid Republican lean, Boebert won re-election in 2022 by a margin of just 546 votes. This makes her the most vulnerable of the party’s base-beloved politicians and a coveted target for Democrats this year. Adam Frisch, a Democrat who previously ran against Boebert, hopes to challenge her again next year. But first, he faces a primary contest against Anna Stout, the mayor of Grand Junction. Frisch has raised nearly $7.8 million in donations, surpassing most other House candidates.
Within the primary contest, some Colorado Republicans see it as a battle between the old guard of politicians and donors and the right-wing grassroots activists who have gained control of the party’s state and county organizations. Election denial from the 2020 election is a major dividing line in this conflict.
In the race for Boebert’s seat, some Republicans are worried that she could be easily defeated by Frisch, a conservative Democrat. They recall the near-victory Frisch achieved in the previous election, which surprised many who didn’t expect the race to be competitive. This time, Frisch has significantly more financial support, with over $1.2 million in advertising already reserved for the race.
Boebert’s campaign manager is confident that things will be different this time around. He believes that many voters who sat out the midterm election will return to vote in this cycle. Boebert is making an effort on the campaign trail to show her supporters that she values their votes and isn’t taking them for granted.
In her speech at the Montezuma County dinner, Boebert made just one comment before leaving the stage, leaving the audience wanting more.