Will a change of scenery save Boebert?

By Jennifer Yachnin | 01/18/2024 06:25 AM EST

The Colorado Republican has tried to shift the narrative. She also switched districts. It may not be enough.

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.).

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) at the Capitol last year. The conservative Republican is fighting for political survival. Stephanie Scarbrough/AP

In the crowded field to fill Colorado’s 4th District seat, GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert’s campaign has some enviable assets: a sizable war chest and near-universal name recognition. But the former might not be enough to protect her from the latter — even in a solidly red seat.

In a bid to save her congressional career, Boebert announced last month that she would abandon her reelection campaign in the state’s 3rd District and move east across the Continental Divide in a bid to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Ken Buck.

While the move freed her from a primary faceoff with Grand Junction-based attorney Jeff Hurd — who nabbed endorsements from state and local GOP officials — and a potential rematch with Democrat Adam Frisch, it also landed Boebert into what is now an 11-way race for the Republican nomination.


“She has never had a fight for a nomination like this one is going to be,” said Dick Wadhams, former chair of the state GOP and a longtime party strategist. “Her best shot is to have a four- or five-way primary, and she can turn that fundraising and name advantage to a victory.”

But for now, Wadhams noted that Boebert hasn’t managed to fend off any would-be challengers, including potential rivals who entered the race after she made her intentions known.

“There’s no bench-clearer. There’s no candidate who just walks in and can kind of dominate the race. Even with her strengths, even Boebert can’t do that,” he added.

While the National Republican Congressional Committee is backing Boebert in her bid — she remains an incumbent despite the district switch and reported $1.4 million her campaign coffers as of late September, after raising $2.4 million — she still faces potential rivals both from her own conservative wing of the GOP and more mainstream Republicans.

Among the contenders are state Rep. Mike Lynch, the current House minority leader; Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg, a former state senator; state Rep. Richard Holtorf; conservative radio host Deborah Flora; and former state Sen. Ted Harvey, who led the Stop Hillary PAC and its later incarnation as the Committee to Defend the President.

“This time she’s going to have opposition to her candidacy from the same place she is: They’re not going to be nice to her. You can expect some real nasty barbs thrown,” Wadhams said.

But unlike in the 3rd District, where Frisch, the Democrat, has raised $7.8 million, Boebert is expected to maintain her cash advantage.

No other Republican in the race has filed Federal Election Commission reports since Buck announced his retirement in November.

Democrat Ike McCorkle, who lost to Buck in 2022 and is again seeking his party’s nomination, reported $163,000 cash on hand in late September 2023.

Boebert’s decision to switch districts — moving from a sprawling seat that covers the state’s mountains and Western boundary to one that spans its plains and Eastern boundary — also prompted some of her would-be rivals to gift her a new moniker: carpetbagger.

“Quite honestly, I welcome her to the 4th district, and I’m looking forward to representing her in Congress,” Sonnenberg told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt earlier this month, comparing Boebert’s district switch to “a Californian come to Colorado to run for office.”

Holtorf, who touts his background as a rancher and retired Army helicopter pilot, similarly criticized Boebert, asserting in a recent interview on Denver radio station KNUS: “I feel it was a knee-jerk reaction. The people of eastern Colorado aren’t having it.”

Boebert’s campaign argued that she is a good fit for the district, pointing to overlaps in her work to date on land management concerns, oil and gas development and water policy, including support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit.

“Congresswoman Lauren Boebert has fiercely defended the freedoms of all Coloradans and consistently stood up to the Biden Regime since taking office, which is what Republicans from every part of the state want to see from their Representative,” said campaign spokesperson Drew Sexton.

“Unlike her opponents, the Congresswoman will be able to share with CD4 Republicans a proven track record of conservative wins and governance in Congress.”

Attempts at reinvention

Lauren Boebert delivers her speech at the Montezuma County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel, Oct. 28, 2023, in Towaoc, Colorado.
Lauren Boebert speaking at the Montezuma County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel on Oct. 28, 2023, in Towaoc, Colorado, which is in her current district. | Jerry McBride/AP

While Boebert gained national attention as a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, she has also alienated fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Following a September incident in which she and her date were ejected from a Denver performing arts theater for vaping and groping, Boebert sought to refine her public image and emphasize her legislative record. Even ahead of that incident, she tried to play up her bipartisan efforts on conservation and other matters.

With those attempts apparently falling short, Boebert opted to move to the state’s most conservative seat. The 4th district favors Republicans by nearly 27 points.

While the district is rural, Wadhams noted its population center includes Douglas County. The nearly 360,000-person area includes suburban Highlands Ranch, along with exurbs like Parker, Lone Tree and Castle Rock.

“These are Denver suburbs. There’s no such thing like that in the 3rd CD,” Wadhams said. “That’s a much different challenge for her. These are suburban Republicans we’re talking about.”

He also argued that Boebert will need to be careful when comparing the needs of her current seat with her would-be congressional district. In particular, he pointed to major differences in issues with water in the drought-stricken state.

“You’ve got the Colorado River — which affects the whole state — but in the 4th CD, it’s mainly around the South Platte and Arkansas River basins,” Wadhams said.

New district, better home?

Floyd Ciruli, a longtime Colorado pollster and director of the Crossley Center for Public Opinion Research at the University of Denver, noted that the 4th District is shifting and could become more welcoming to Boebert.

“It’s a seat that’s become very problematic. Buck quit because he was out of sync with the denial wing of the party that’s very strong,” Ciruli said, referring to individuals who dispute the results of the 2020 presidential contest. “A lot of that district looks like rural Iowa, which just went overwhelmingly for Mr. [Donald] Trump.”

Historically the seat hewed to the GOP’s establishment wing, electing lawmakers like Cory Gardner and Wayne Allard, before each would go on to hold Senate seats, Ciruli said.

The district could swing back to those roots, electing a candidate like Lynch and Sonnenberg, he noted, or it could shift to the conservative wing, with Boebert, Holtorf or Harvey.

“Whether or not they’re going to go with an establishment candidate, or someone like Boebert or somebody who raises as much Cain remains to be seen,” he said.

Moreover, a crowded field could benefit Boebert, Ciruli said.

“Money and name ID against multiple opponents is a strong position to be in,” he said. “She will get endorsements.”

But even if Boebert wins her reelection bid, Ciruli suggested that doesn’t mean she’s guaranteed a long career in Congress. He mused whether she’d even survive more than one more term.

“The reason why she’s getting driven out of the 3rd is not just that she probably would have lost it, but a powerful primary in which the state’s Republican establishment was giving Mr. Hurd money and accountability,” Ciruli said, referring to the endorsements Hurd nabbed.