'A real muck-up': Democrat hoping to replace Lauren Boebert apologizes for Pueblo blunder

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This story has been updated with comments from Carl Elley of GG's BBQ.

Democrat Adam Frisch, who's hoping to run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by Rep. Lauren Boebert, said Thursday he wants to make amends with a Pueblo restaurant and other businesses that were affected by a "muck-up" during his kickoff election tour of Colorado.

Frisch planned to stop at barbecue restaurants in towns and cities in Colorado District 3, which Boebert currently represents, on a 1,100-mile campaign tour last week. But poor communication and even worse research led to parts of the tour, including the Pueblo leg, being disastrous.

Before the tour, Frisch was told that his campaign staff had spoken with the management and owners of restaurants they planned to stop at to confirm that they were OK with him meeting supporters there, he told The Chieftain.

Mail to the Chieftain: Apology from Democratic candidate Adam Frisch

Puebloans show their support for congressional candidate Adam Frisch (second from right) during a recent campaign stop in Pueblo on May 6, 2022.
Puebloans show their support for congressional candidate Adam Frisch (second from right) during a recent campaign stop in Pueblo on May 6, 2022.

But no one said anything of the sort to Lonnie Elley, owner of GG's BBQ, the restaurant chosen as the Pueblo stop, Elley said.

A member of Frisch's campaign had called GG's a week before Frisch's planned stop in Pueblo and asked to reserve a table for 10 to 20 people, "but she didn’t say what it was for," Elley said.

"She spoke to my son and he told her we don't take reservations and you're not allowed to move tables and chairs but if there's room, you're welcome to come and eat," he said.

The day after GG's BBQ received the initial inquiry from Frisch's team, Elley said he was "made aware of a flyer" mailed out by the Frisch campaign that included the restaurant's name on it. He was never asked if he agreed to be included on a flyer, which gave the impression that he endorsed Frisch, Elley said.

More: Colorado congressional candidate demands investigation into Rep. Lauren Boebert

Democratic congressional candidate Adam Frisch
Democratic congressional candidate Adam Frisch

Pueblo campaign do-over

In a letter sent to the Chieftain, Frisch apologized to Elley and other business owners whose restaurants were included on the flyer without their consent.

In a phone conversation, he said several campaign staff had been let go over the incident.

"I'm a pretty empathetic person, but this was a real muck-up," Frisch told The Chieftain. "It was horrifying to learn that what we thought was approval (from restaurants) was really just, 'Yeah, they're open,' and that there were restaurants, small business owners that were put on this flyer without their permission.

"That was a muck-up by the campaign team, and I own that because I'm the candidate," he said.

On May 6, the day Frisch was supposed to be in Pueblo, The Chieftain received reports of a protest at GG's BBQ but was unable to go to the restaurant to confirm the reports. Days later, Elley denied there was a protest at the restaurant.

But Frisch said his campaign had received a copy of a post on the Pueblo County Patriots' Facebook page, urging Boebert supporters to "pack out our BBQ friends" — meaning restaurants on Frisch's campaign trail — "with Lauren supporters," wearing hats and T-shirts and carrying banners with Boebert's name on them.

A message posted on a Facebook group, urging supporters of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert to "pack out" GG's BBQ restaurant on the day Democrat Adam Frisch was planning to campaign there.
A message posted on a Facebook group, urging supporters of U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert to "pack out" GG's BBQ restaurant on the day Democrat Adam Frisch was planning to campaign there.

Pueblo County Patriots describes itself as a nonpartisan group of Pueblo County residents that uses the Constitution as its guide to "protect our rights and fight against the Socialist Agenda."

"When that message came across the campaign's desk, we knew we might have a lively event. We spoke to the restaurant. They said to still come," Frisch said.

A person who asked not to be identified to avoid potential reprisal said Carl Elley, the chef at the restaurant and Lonnie Elley's son, had attended a Pueblo City Council meeting with the Patriots. They believe he was a member of the group at the time, the individual said.

In a voicemail message to The Chieftain Monday, Carl Elley confirmed that he was at a City Council meeting attended by the Patriots, knows people in the group, but has "never had any association" with it.

When a Chieftain reporter called Lonnie Elley to ask if his son has ties to the group, Elley denied having "any knowledge of it."

On May 6, with Frisch minutes away from GG's, his campaign team advised him not to go to the barbecue restaurant on U.S. Highway 50, Frisch said.

"They said, 'We're going to move somewhere else on short notice because there are some people that came to hear us and they're not comfortable and were not being treated very nicely,'" he said.

Colorado Congressional District 3 candidate Adam Frisch meets with supporters in Pueblo on May 6.
Colorado Congressional District 3 candidate Adam Frisch meets with supporters in Pueblo on May 6.

The campaign stop was moved to the parking lot of the vacant Kmart store near the entrance to Interstate 25, Frisch's communications manager, Sarah Shook, said. Even on short notice, around 100 people showed up, she said.

Most of the rest of the tour was uneventful, and even encouraging, Frisch said.

In Cortez, in southwest Colorado near the border with New Mexico, members of the local Republican Party attended, Frisch said.

"They were very respectful, they asked questions about the issues and spoke their minds and that was great. That's exactly the type of dialogue I was hoping to have on this tour," he said.

Frisch said he went to GG's to apologize. But Carl Elley said in his voicemail Monday that "no one has reached out and/or given an apology to us or our legal team in any shape, manner or form."

In a voicemail message left on the Frisch campaign team's phone, another Pueblo barbecue restaurant, Willie's Southern Classic Cuisine on West 13th Street, said "all those people who got turned away from GG's BBQ" were welcome to go there to enjoy some barbecue.

Frisch said he plans to return to Pueblo on Wednesday to try to make amends for the May 6 events, allow Puebloans to hear his message, and support business owners.

This time, though, the campaign will be doing a brewery tour, he said.

Zach Hillstrom contributed to this article. Karin Zeitvogel can be contacted at kzeitvogel@chieftain.com and Zach Hillstrom at zhillstrom@chieftain.com.

This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Democrat Adam Frisch apologizes for Pueblo BBQ campaign event blunder