Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is in a closer-than-expected race against Democrat Adam Frisch.
But that shouldn't be much of a surprise, given the nature of her district and her political brand.
Her Colorado district backed Trump by less than 10 points in 2020, unlike other hard-right Republicans.
Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert is locked in a tight race with Democratic candidate Adam Frisch despite representing a largely rural Colorado district recently rated safely Republican.
It's a result that's taken observers across the country by surprise, particularly given Boebert's apparent confidence going into election night. Polling before Election Day showed Boebert with a comfortable lead and Frisch, a former Aspen City Council members and businessman, had received little help from the national Democratic party.
—Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) November 8, 2022
As of publication, the ballots were still being counted. If the candidates finish with 0.5% of one another, an automatic recount will be triggered.
Earlier on Thursday, the congresswoman told Politico that she felt "great" about her re-election prospects and argued a strong performance by the top of the Democratic ticket in Colorado had down ballot effects.
But Boebert's weak showing shouldn't be too surprising, given certain aspects of the race.
A 'postcard of Colorado'
Colorado's third congressional district, encompassing large swaths of the western and southern part of the state, isn't exactly ruby-red — former President Donald Trump won the district by just 5.5 points in 2020. The newly-drawn version of the district would have backed Trump by 8.2 points, according to an analysis by Daily Kos.
By comparison, districts held by other far-right firebrands — including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar of Arizona, and Matt Gaetz of Florida — all went for Trump by over 25 points in 2020.
Boebert's district is more ideologically heterodox.
Kerry Donovan, a Democratic state senator from Vail who launched a campaign against Boebert before abandoning it due to being drawn out of the new district, told Insider in a phone interview that there's more to the region than a basic glance at the map might suggest.
"It's like the postcard of Colorado," she said of the district, referencing the region's national parks and the towering Rocky Mountains. "But within there, there's ski communities, there's traditional ranching communities, there's mining communities, there's industrial communities."
The vast district is home to well-known liberal enclaves like Aspen and Durango, as well as the city of Pueblo.
"When we pull the conglomerate together, you know, it's a moderate leaning part of the state, who I think really value things like hard work, the environment, kind of that Western ethic of truthfulness," she added. "I don't think we take very kindly to people who are more interested in politics and fame than just getting stuff done."
A viral lawmaker with extreme views
Granted, Donovan is a Democrat who represents some of the district's more liberal towns. But Boebert undoubtedly falls into a category of GOP lawmakers who've achieved viral fame via social media and cable news appearances, often for controversial outbursts.
That's the second reason why Boebert's re-election wasn't always assured.
Boebert is perhaps best known for flame-throwing in Washington. During her first days in elected office, she set off metal detectors outside the House chamber after pledging to carry a firearm onto the House floor.
Boebert faced calls for censure by Democratic lawmakers last year after she insinuated that Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota was a suicide bomber. And as President Biden spoke during his State of the Union address about his son Beau's exposure to toxic burn pits, she heckled the president. Recently, she faced scrutiny for saying she's "tired of this separation of church and state junk."
Frisch, whose campaign did not respond to Insider's request for an interview, told Semafor on Wednesday that he decided to challenge Boebert when she "made some comments" a year ago that "were not helpful" and "were disrespectful," presumably referring to her remarks about Omar.
Nodding to Boebert's relatively modest victory in 2020, Frisch described the district as "the only place in the entire country where there's any mathematical chance to see one of these extremists defeated." And he ran as a "pro business, pro domestic energy, moderate person who wants to go join the Problem Solvers Caucus" who's a "fairly successful, middle-aged, straight white guy," in his own words.
"His campaign was clearly committed to getting on the road, and that's really important in any rural race," said Donovan.
But Donovan also attributed the slim margin to a national environment in which Democrats generally outperformed expectations, saying she would be "more shocked if it wasn't this close" given that reality.
Despite polling pointing to a tighter race, Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet trounced his opponent on Tuesday night. Other statewide Democrats also saw strong results.
When it came to fundraising, Frisch also kept it close, raising $5.2 million for his campaign versus Boebert's $6.7 million haul. But he told Bloomberg the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn't send him any cash.
And anti-Boebert outside spending helped make up some of that gap, even as House Democrats' official campaign arm did not get involved.
According to ProPublica, two outside groups affiliated with the conservative House Freedom Caucus, of which Boebert is a member, spent a combined $136,000. But that was dwarfed by nearly $690,000 in overall outside spending from a handful of Democratic-aligned super PACs — including People For Good Sense, Colorado United PAC, and Operation 147 — that went mostly towards television, digital, and radio advertising.
Frisch also benefited from the endorsement and backing of GOP state Sen. Don Coram, who represented a far-southwest Colorado district and unsuccessfully challenged Boebert for the GOP nomination this year.
"Adam and I differ on various policies and issues. However, I know that he is the type of person who will come to the table and have a conversation. That is what we should expect from our representative," wrote Coram in his endorsement letter. "Lauren spends her time jet-setting around the country promoting herself and extreme rhetoric that only divides this country further. It's disgraceful and we should expect more from our United States Representative."
Regardless of which way the results shake out in the end, the closer-than-expected result could serve as a wake up call for Boebert.
For now, the congressman appears to be waiting for the count just like the rest of us.
—Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) November 10, 2022
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