Inside the improbable effort to bring down MAGA star Lauren Boebert

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‘Angertainment’ fatigue: Inside the improbable effort to bring down MAGA star Lauren Boebert

Rep. Lauren Boebert, the right-wing Fox News star hailing from rural western Colorado, shocked the country on Tuesday when her reelection fell into jeopardy, as Democrat Adam Frisch seemingly came from nowhere to effectively tie Boebert in a too-close-to-call race.

The race looked like a stroke of luck for Democrats who assumed they had no chance in a district that Donald Trump carried by 8 percentage points in 2020. That’s simply not accurate, said Morgan Carroll, chair of the Colorado Democratic Party.

“I want people to know this didn’t just happen,” Carroll told Grid on Wednesday, as the race appeared headed for a runoff vote. “It wasn’t just a fluke.”

Reporting from Grid found a local effort that involved a wealthy Democratic nominee, support from local Republicans, and backlash against “angertainment” as Boebert rose to cable news fame and a local county clerk got charged with 10 counts of conspiracy for her alleged efforts to prove the 2020 election was rigged. The quest to unseat Boebert, Carroll said, began two years ago among state Democrats who had “a wild theory and a big dream” that they could potentially capture Colorado’s most conservative congressional district.

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If Boebert fails to hang on to her seat, she will be one of a string of Trump allies to lose in the midterms in a year that should have favored Republicans. While key races remain undecided, Mehmet Oz lost a high-profile senate race on Tuesday in Pennsylvania, and Trump-backed Republicans failed to win elections in Michigan, Ohio, Virginia and other states. Republicans may take back the House and Senate, but the string of losses has spurred questions about Trump’s iron grip on party voters.

As of publication, the race was still too close to call.

Setting the stage for an upset

Democrats launched a project to flip the district long before election season and watched their long shot slowly turn into a competitive race. Boebert, they would come to realize, was not as popular as she seemed on TV — and her celebrity as a Trump ally appears to have been a weakness rather than a strength in the blue-collar district.

Frisch, a former banker who had run a failed bid to be mayor of Aspen, Colorado, won the primary in June and became an unexpectedly fierce contender for Boebert’s seat. Frisch poured more than $2 million of his own money into the race and embarked on extensive travel of the district that helped build him credibility with Republicans.

“Adam was out talking to the people. He made himself available,” said Colorado State Sen. Don Coram, a Republican who lost a primary challenge to Boebert and then endorsed Frisch. “Boebert was doing what she thought was the way to be popular and famous, and I think that’s her biggest downfall.”'

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Republicans and Democrats who live in Boebert’s district told Grid that Frisch’s campaign offered voters a much-desired break from the drama represented by Trump and the election denial movement. The district is home to Tina Peters, the county clerk who allegedly arranged a break-in to county voting machines to prove the 2020 election was rigged and now faces criminal charges.

Coram voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 but said he has since grown angered by Trump’s election denial rhetoric and blatant criticism of fellow Republicans, including Colorado Republican Senate candidate Joe O’Dea.

“I think this election was a referendum on Trump, and there is a lack of trust in the general populace out there in him right now,” Coram said. “If you think about it, Republicans had a golden opportunity this time to just make a clean sweep — but they continued to shoot themselves in the foot.”

A backlash against “angertainment”

Boebert’s district, which spans much of the western half of Colorado and includes both tony ski towns like Aspen and many remote rural areas, is firmly Trump territory. The district voted 52-46 for Trump during the 2020 elections, according to calculations by the website DailyKos. After 2020 redistricting, it leaned even more heavily toward Republicans, making Boebert appear safe from any Democratic challenger.

But some residents told Grid that, while their district is still a solidly Republican region, Frisch successfully tapped into frustration with what he called “angertainment” — the election-denying, Fox News-loving streak in the Republican Party embodied by Boebert.

The area has also witnessed one of the 2020 election’s most confounding cases of election fraud. Peters, the Mesa County clerk, allegedly helped people gain access to voting machines in her district and copy sensitive information in an attempt to prove the 2020 election was stolen. She was later indicted on 10 counts related to tampering with voting machines. Peters launched a campaign for Colorado secretary of state, and prominent election deniers like MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne came to her aid, helping with campaign ads and legal bills.

Scott McInnis, a previous Republican member of Congress representing Boebert’s area and a current member of the Mesa County Board of Public Commissioners, said the Peters saga tarnished support for Trumpism in western Colorado this year.

“A lot of people supported Trump, but now they’re saying, ‘Hey, in Mesa County, our recorder Tina Peters hacked our computers,’” McInnis said. “She’d show up places with the MyPillow guy, he’d fly her around in his jet. Every day there were stories about this person, and I think around here people got tired of it and said, ‘Damnit, worry about inflation, worry about the Colorado river, worry about people buying stuff in the grocery store.’”

The CD-3 Project

National Democrats paid little attention to the fight for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District until Tuesday night, and big groups like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee didn’t target Boebert as a vulnerable candidate.

But nearly two years ago, Carroll, the leader of the state Democratic Party, convened what she called the CD-3 Project. The party gathered county chairs and local organizers frustrated by Boebert, and drew up county-by-county goals for registering voters and keeping them engaged.


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They researched ways that Boebert could be viewed as out of step with the district: For example, her hard-line stance on cutting government spending seemed at odds with the area’s cash-strapped school district, where many schools operate four days a week due to underfunding. Soon, focus groups started to reveal cracks in Boebert’s popularity: While some men liked her brashness, for example, Latinas did not.

Frisch was a late entry to the primary and unfamiliar to many people in the area. A former New York City banker who currently sits on city council in Aspen, he was unlikely on paper to succeed in an area dominated by farming, ranching and oil and gas extraction.

But supporters of Frisch say that, in addition to Boebert’s weakness, his unexpected strength as a candidate helped him make a real run for the seat. He traveled the large district extensively to meet voters, presenting himself as a pragmatic moderate leaning on his childhood in rural Montana to find common ground in small towns. Frisch both poured his own money into the race and raised funds from wealthy donors, allowing Frisch to air television ads to compete with Boebert, a prolific small-dollar fundraiser.

Frisch ran ads attacking Boebert as an “embarrassment” and “a nut job that spews hate.” Boebert tried to brand Frisch as “Aspen Adam,” saying he lives in a $9 million house and calling him “one of Pelosi’s lying liberals.”

As the race tightened, Boebert’s attacks escalated: She ran an ad accusing Frisch of succumbing to blackmail by the owner of a storage facility after Frisch used the facility to meet with his mistress. (Frisch denied the allegations.)

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Winning, Democrats estimated, would require a strong turnout from Democratic voters, support from independents and around a third of Republicans crossing over to vote for Frisch. As weeks ticked by, polls commissioned by Frisch’s campaign found the race narrowing, from Boebert leading by 7 points in July to only 2 points in early October.

As of Thursday, Frisch led Boebert by only a couple hundred votes, a tally that could easily change as more votes are counted. Colorado operatives widely expect there will be a recount.

“I will honestly say I am surprised by the fact that she could lose this race,” said Craig Hughes, a longtime Democratic consultant and former campaign manager for Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). “But the fact that that district is even remotely close is a complete and utter rejection of her type of politics. That is a very red district — there is no reason it should be competitive.”

But winning the seat is only the first part of a difficult road ahead for Frisch, warned McInnis, the former congressman.

“He’s going to find himself in an interesting situation because this district has some pretty conservative views on Second Amendment rights and things like that,” McInnis said. “If in fact Adam is successful, and that’s how it looks right now, he’s either going to have to change his view or be a minority of one on some of those issues in his party. He has no idea the pressure he’s going to face.”

Thanks to Lillian Barkley for copy editing this article.

  • Maggie Severns
    Maggie Severns

    Domestic Policy Reporter

    Maggie Severns is a policy reporter for Grid covering complex policy stories and major headlines.