Boebert fights for political survival amid stream of controversies

Boebert fights for political survival amid stream of controversies

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) is looking to overcome numerous unflattering headlines and allegations of carpetbagging as she seeks to win her GOP primary in a new House district this month.

The Colorado firebrand, who represents the 3rd Congressional District in the western part of the state, announced she would run in a new district late last year. She’s now looking to beat out a handful of Republican challengers in the June 25 primary for the 4th District in eastern Colorado.

Observers say she’s the likely front-runner, both in her primary and in November, representing a remarkable reversal of fortune for the second-term congresswoman after she was barely reelected in 2022 and has faced mounting public scrutiny.

“I think a lot of people knew as soon as she got in the race that she was the person to beat,” said Douglas County GOP Chair Steve Peck, who said he’s neutral in the primary.

“When she announced that she was getting into the race, I immediately had several candidates reach out to me and ask me what I thought, how the campaign changes, because all things being equal, she is a national figure,” he said, adding that Boebert had to “fight and earn the respect” of local Republican leaders and grassroots activists in the community.

Boebert entered Congress in 2021, ousting an incumbent Republican in the primary for a House seat in the Western Slope.

Since then, she has become one of the most polarizing figures in Congress. For several years, Boebert has drawn scrutiny and outrage over her actions, such as her insinuation Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was a terrorist — for which she later issued an apology to the Muslim community — or her heckling of President Biden during an annual State of the Union address.

Some of those antics almost cost her her House seat in 2022, when she won reelection by just more than 500 votes, prompting her to switch districts and move to the eastern 4th District after former Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) announced he wouldn’t seek reelection.

Until a few months ago, there were serious questions over whether Boebert would be back in Congress next year: Buck resigned from his seat early, prompting a special election to serve out the remainder of his term — one that was scheduled on the same day as the GOP primary for the regular two-year term.

Boebert opted against running in the special election because doing so would have required her to step down from her current seat in Congress, triggering a special election to finish out the remainder of her term — a precarious move that would have narrowed Republicans’ already slim majority. But by not running in the special election, it could have placed her at a disadvantage for the regular GOP primary because voters may have been more likely to vote for the same candidate in both races.

Adding to her woes, Boebert also was forced to publicly apologize for an incident last year when she was ejected from a “Beetlejuice” musical in Denver after she was caught vaping and being disruptive. She has also had to dodge attacks from her rivals, who have called her a “carpetbagger” in the new district.

Some of those controversies have weighed on the minds of Republicans in the district. Gregory Martin, the GOP chair for Cheyenne County, told The Hill former radio host Deborah Flora and former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg (R) were among his top picks, noting the drama around Boebert.

At the same time, Boebert has scored some significant wins: The Republican who won the GOP primary to compete in the special election, businessman Greg Lopez, said he only wanted to run to fill out the remainder of Buck’s term, giving Boebert a better chance to win the primary for the full term.

The Colorado Republican also saw another boost in April when she clinched 41 percent of the delegate vote during the nominating assembly, allowing her to be placed first on the ballot over the rest of her competitors.

“It was her audience, it was her core base,” said Jeff Hunt, a radio show host and former director of Colorado Christian University’s think tank Centennial Institute, referring to the atmosphere in the room during the nominating assembly.

Boebert also benefits from a crowded field that inevitably made it difficult for Republicans to coalesce around one of her challengers. She also has plenty of name ID and cash on hand — not to mention former President Trump’s all-important endorsement.

Some Republicans are still skeptical of Boebert. Mike Benson, who chairs the Sedgwick County Republican Committee, said the congresswoman wasn’t his “favorite.”

“I just don’t see how she’s really going to represent the agriculture community,” Benson said.

Other Republicans acknowledge some of her antics, such as the “Beetlejuice” incident, initially damaged her reputation. But many seemed to have largely moved past those incidents.

“Not knowing Lauren very well until she came over to CD4, I think that ‘Beetlejuice’ was something that definitely hurt her,” said Pamela Kuhns-Valdez, chair of the Bent County GOP, who saw Boebert at a party meeting earlier in the week and said she was “received very well.”

“But in retrospect … we’re all sinners who fall short of the glory of God,” Kuhns-Valdez said.

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