If there are any signs or billboards supporting Lauren Boebert in Aspen, they’re few, far between and extremely well hidden.
In neighbourhoods surrounding the centre of the well-heeled ski town – past the Gucci and Dior stores and the famed Hotel Jerome, where chicken noodle soup costs $22 – there are indeed signs in front of people’s pricey houses; almost every single one of them, though, is for Adam Frisch, Ms Boebert’s Democratic challenger.
It’s no surprise that the Democratic candidate would hail from Aspen, a mountain enclave that stands out as a moneyed, liberal bastion in Colorado’s 3rd congressional district which encompasses nearly half the land mass of the state. (Mr Frisch’s address provides great fodder for Ms Boebert, who deridingly takes aim at his pedigree with the sarcastic nickname “Aspen Adam.”)
What is surprising, perhaps, is the support Frisch is receiving, not just from regular constituents fed up with Ms Boebert but from well-known conservatives voting across party lines to oust her. He raised more money between October 1 and October 19 than Ms Boebert raised in the three months of the second quarter, though the MAGA poster woman still far outpaces him in total campaign financing.
Frisch’s pre-general election filing with the Federal Election Commission shows that he raised $880,660.55 in net contributions in the first 19 days of October and he had $743,417.25 in cash on hand. Conversely, Ms Boebert raised only $846,899.87 and spent $1,269,668.55 in net operating expenditures between July and the end of September.
“By the book, this should be a fairly convincing win for Lauren Ms Boebert,” Justin Gollob, political science professor at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, which is in the 3rd district, toldThe Independent earlier this month.
“She is the incumbent; she represents a plus-nine Republican district; she’s outraised Adam Frisch, so she has more money to spend for her campaign,” he says. “Her name recognition is higher than Adam Frisch’s. Probably one of his biggest liabilities at this point is his lower name recognition. All those signs point to a fairly convincing win. So what’s really a surprise, at this point, is that we’re even having this conversation about the competitiveness of this race.”
Professor Gollob believes that the “key voting bloc within this election, and moving forward, are going to be the unaffiliated voters … [which] make up the largest share of the voters in district.
“The big question going into Election Day is how well her governing style matches their views of an effective representative. And if there’s a big pushback amongst independents, that’s where she could lose this race,” he continued.
Mr Frisch, 55, is going after that bloc and wooing disenchanted Republicans. A former currency trader who served eight years on Aspen City Council, he says he decided to run against Ms Boebert for several reasons. He found some of her comments “disgusting and anti-ethical to America” and opposed her brand of “angertainment,” a phrase he often uses which Mr Frisch says he borrowed from a friend.
It refers to what “Representative Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene and a lot of other people are – and there’s some on the left, as well – that use this kind of just … yelling and screaming. I mean, a lot of time on Twitter, a lot of time on the cable news networks and not really focusing on the job at hand.”
Calling himself a “numbers person,” Mr Frisch told The Independent last week that “what caught my eye and started me on this path was: Lauren Boebert only got 51% of the general electorate vote in 2020 … I was thinking, you know, if a moderate, pragmatic, pro-business Democrat could get by the Democratic primary, which wouldn’t be easy – and it wasn’t – I thought I could build a coalition.”
He describes his efforts as building “the pro-normal party.”
“We need about 10% of our prior voters,” he said. “And I think about 40% of the Republican Party wants their party back to just more traditional conversations about policy and how to pass legislation and help people. I thought I could get, you know, a fourth or a fifth of that 40% of the Republican Party, I thought I could build up a lot of trust with independents, unaffiliated, as they’re called in Colorado.”
At the same time, after redistricting, Republicans have a 15-point advantage in the 3rd, according to FiveThirtyEight. The district is predominantly white and has very few Black voters, though it has a sizeable Latino population.
The married father of two, who was unaffiliated himself for decades before joining the Democratic Party in 1992, says he was also bolstered by Ms Boebert not winning her home county in the last election.
Indeed, in 2020, Ms Boebert only won 44 per cent of the vote in Garfield County, where Rifle is located. But Garfield only cast 31,245 votes in 2020. By comparison, she won 60.6 per cent of the vote in the more-populous Mesa County, where 91,490 people cast their votes. She only lost Pueblo County, the county with the most registered voters, by 204 votes.
“My view is that those that know her best do not care for her, and a lot more people know her now than before,” Mr Frisch tells The Independent. “And not for good reason.”
One registered Republican in Rifle, where Ms Boebert’s now-closed gun-themed restaurant, Shooters Grill, sits on the main street, seems to back that up.
Diana Humphrey, a retired educator, says she’ll be voting Democrat in next week’s election.
Ms Humphrey has become an unwitting star of Mr Frisch’s campaign after answering a survey in the mail that asked whether she supported Ms Boebert. She answered with a no, and it wasn’t long before she was contacted by a staffer of Mr Frisch’s; she’s since appeared in videos and messages supporting the Democrat.
She tells The Independent that she’s seen Ms Boebert’s true colours through the representative’s behaviour in Rifle — such as when the congresswoman flouted covid laws by keeping Shooters open during the pandemic.
Ms Boebert “did all kinds of stuff that, in my opinion, was like saying, ‘I don’t have to follow the law unless I agree with the law,’” Humphrey tells The Independent. “And that hit me – and my husband came up with this: We don’t want a law breaker to be our lawmaker.”
A born-again Christian, the former teacher and dean also says she has a problem with how Ms Boebert represents (or misrepresents) herself and her values.
“Nothing she represents represents what I believe a Christian should be,” she says, adding that she doesn’t think Ms Boebert “has local support.”
“I think she’s getting her support more from the other areas of the district that don’t, for whatever reason, get the same kind of news we do about her,” she tells The Independent.
Ms Boebert’s constant presence in the news has undeniably turned off many people. One constituent who previously voted for Boebert told The Independent she’s “embarrassed” after hearing all the “crazy s***” the representative has said since taking office.
“Boebert makes the Western Slope look like a laughing stock – like we’re just idiots,” says the voter, adding that her husband would flip out if he knew she had cast a ballot for the brash mother-of-four.
She won’t be voting for Ms Boebert again. Though she says her town, two hours from Rifle, remains dotted with campaign signs supporting the Republican.
“I couldn’t tell you what Lauren Boebert did for the Western Slope as a congresswoman,” the grandmother says. “I haven’t heard anything positive; I haven’t heard anything negative. I haven’t heard anything other than … the national things, her just being a heckler.”
Ms Boebert’s legislative record has been a key target of Mr Frisch’s campaign. The candidate frequently highlights that, of the more than three dozen pieces of legislation Ms Boebert has introduced, none has made it past committee.
That’s not necessarily unusual, given that Ms Boebert is a freshman representative and a Republican when her party is in the minority. But it’s still a memorable fact when voters hear it, particularly when Ms Boebert has forged an image that is arguably better known for her personality on a national stage than for her at-home politics.
“People want the circus to stop,” Mr Frisch tells The Independent. “And that resonates with everyone, left, right, centre, conservative, liberal, rancher, farmer, ski town.”
He says: “I think three times as many people as I need to vote for me want her out. The question is, can I just build enough trust as a person and part of a party that they’re normally not used to voting for?”
Mr Frisch is hopeful, he says, because he’s heard from constituents that “the economy and jobs and inflation [are] number one, top-of-mind.
“And people know that she’s just not focused on that.”
That sentiment on the ground appears to be shared by more influential factions. The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the largest newspaper in one of the largest cities in the constituency, ran a piece on 16 October complaining that Ms Boebert’s “antics have often embarrassed this district.”
“She has said things that make us question her understanding of the Constitution and taken actions that cast Western Colorado in a negative light,” the piece says.
Headlined “Unknown v. Liability,” the piece continued: “We like her pro-energy stance and think her advocacy for gun rights, while over the top, is appreciated by many in this district. Her style, though perhaps part of a larger strategy, is a liability.”
Calling Mr Frisch “an unknown,” the paper concluded that the Democrat “talks a good game, promising to be a moderate Dem and fiscal conservative.
“We think Boebert’s conduct, like disrespecting the State of the Union ceremony, is disqualifying enough to take a chance on a newcomer. For that reason, we think anyone still on the fence should consider supporting Frisch,” it reads.
The Daily Sentinel knows its community intimately and highlighted the key issues — namely, gun rights — that will trump all others for many voters in the district and cement Ms Boebert’s continued support from certain factions. It also pointed out the biggest problems many constituents have with their representative: Her oversized personality and controversial behaviour.
The example of the State of the Union incident is spot-on; days after Ms Boebert heckled President Joe Biden during the speech and turned her back on the Cabinet in March, one tried-and-true Republican cited the representative’s behaviour as a reason she was canvassing for another candidate to replace her.
“She’s creating a reputation that we’re a bunch of wackos over here,” Kathy Hall, who’s worked in public life for a quarter-century, told The Independent in March. At the time, she was walking the streets of Grand Junction gathering signatures for Colorado state senator Don Coram, who went on to run against Ms Boebert in the June primary.
Mr Coram lost, but has since caused waves within his own party by publicly supporting Mr Frisch, not Ms Boebert, in the race. George Russ, Republican former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, endorsed Frisch, too (and he’s a fourth-generation native of Rifle, Ms Boebert’s home turf.)
Defeated in the primary when Ms Boebert received 64% of the vote to his 36%, Mr Coram toldThe Independent last week that the congresswoman is “divisive,” has “zero accomplishments” and “no redeeming qualities.” Despite backlash from the GOP, the Montrose resident is heading up Republicans for Mr Frisch.
“It was just the right thing to do,” he says of his public endorsement of the Democrat. “Because I think our nation is at risk from the extremism from both sides. And I can’t do anything about extremism in the Democratic Party, which is certainly there. But I did have a voice in the Republican Party.”
He insists he hears from constituents all the time who share his views.
“I’m hearing, of course, that ‘You’ve got to support the party no matter who it is,’” he says. “But that is in the minority of what I’m hearing. I can’t go to the grocery store or store without being thanked for standing up for what they remembered as their Republican Party.”
Mr Coram continues: “I’ve had multiple people tell me that, I’m done. I’m going to change. I’m going to become unaffiliated. And so I think I think the Republican Party is certainly at a pivot point of what their future is.”
On 16 October, 24 Mesa County conservatives signed and published a letter in the Daily Sentinel saying they were supporting Mr Frisch over Ms Boebert.
“If there was ever a time to put the 3rd Congressional District and our country before party, this is that time,” they wrote.
Unlike Ms Boebert, with her fire-and-brimstone MAGA rhetoric, Mr Frisch is positioning himself as a moderate. That could appeal to more traditional Republicans tired of the Trump-leaning GOP diehards.
“He’s trying to push a moderate message, but he’s been countered at every turn by Representative Boebert,” Prof Gollob tells The Independent. “The more that he pushes the moderate message, the more she doubles down … Representative Boebert is doing her best to tie Adam Frisch to a progressive left agenda and to Nancy Pelosi, and to really try and point out that he’s out of touch with the third district voters through her through her use of the name ‘Aspen Adam’.”
Registered Democrats horrified that Ms Boebert represents their district are hoping that Mr Frisch’s message of moderation will sway their Republican counterparts.
“There are Trump supporters who no longer support him; they’ve had enough,” says Joan Isenberg, displaying a sign for Mr Frisch in her yard a block from the main street in Glenwood Springs.
“And I think the same thing is true with her,” she tells The Independent, adding that she thinks Ms Boebert is “just looking to” promote herself.
“He is everything that she isn’t,” she says of Frisch. “He’s a decent person. He’s intelligent. He cares about the people.”
Ms Boebert, whose campaign did not respond to request for comment from The Independent, remains ahead in the polls, and there is no doubt as to her unwavering popularity in many parts of her constituency. According to Colorado’s Secretary of State registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats 149,882 to 115,070.
Heidi Ganahl, the Republican candidate for governor in Colorado, marvels at how supporters swarm Ms Boebert during appearances like a “rock star.”
The Gazette, based in conservative Colorado Springs, which is not within the 3rd district but borders it, last month endorsed Ms Boebert over Mr Frisch.
“Standing between the Western Slope and the Californicated Front Range is U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert — a woman with a gun on her hip who started a restaurant called Shooters in the town of Rifle,” the editorial board wrote. “In the urban world, that all seems pretty creepy. Progressives in Denver, Boulder and a few upscale resorts in Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District don’t understand her.
“Masses of working-class farmers, ranchers and small-business owners know exactly who she is. Boebert is their pit bull at the divide,” it stated, adding that Ms Boebert “protects their lifestyles from urbanites.”
According toThe Gazette, “Front Range and coastal pundits … don’t understand Boebert and her barely filtered defensive style. As such, they deceptively brand her as an extremist who threatens their world view.”
In its conclusion, the editorial, noting that the more urbanized Front Range “increasingly threatens rural lifestyles,” wrote: “District 3 should reelect Boebert to preserve the Western Slope, which buffers Colorado from Californication.”
It remains to be seen whether Ms Boebert will prevail after tapping into voters who feel like that, or whether Mr Frisch will win after tapping into constituents quietly sick of her and yearning for moderation.
Could the relentless MAGA megaphone have torpedoed her campaign?
“It’s possible,” says Professor Gollob, who points out the district was represented by a Democrat as recently as 12 years ago, though that may seem “like ages” in political time.
“There’s a difference between possible and likely, but it is possible.”
Eric Garcia contributed to the reporting of this story.
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