‘There’s a lot of people here who don’t like Boebert’: Get ready for a seriously messy primary

Scandal-ridden congresswoman has Trump’s backing in her bid to win a district across the state from her current seat

John Bowden
Denver, Colorado
,Sheila Flynn
Saturday 22 June 2024 12:02 BST
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Lauren Boebert confronted over Beetlejuice incident during debate

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Colorado’s congressional primaries could end up bringing about the downfall of one of the US’s most scandal-plagued members of the House of Representatives: Lauren Boebert.

If it doesn’t it will be because, as one of her opponents put it, there were too many horses in the race.

Voters will decide the fate of Boebert and other races across the state on Tuesday, June 25. One way or another, they make their judgment on the long, strange road the far-right Republican congresswoman has taken since her 2022 defeat, after which she became further embroiled in scandals and fled her district.

Lauren Boebert appears outside of a Manhattan criminal courthouse in May where she and other Republicans attended the felony hush money trial of Donald Trump
Lauren Boebert appears outside of a Manhattan criminal courthouse in May where she and other Republicans attended the felony hush money trial of Donald Trump (Getty Images)

She’s now running in the fourth congressional district — across the state from the third district, which she represented for what will be two terms at the end of this year. Her flight from the third came as she was due to face her competitive 2022 challenger, Adam Frisch, in a rematch this November — a race she won by less than 600 votes last time around.

The fourth district is in a unique position this year. Left vacant by the departure of Ken Buck, one of the more conservative members of the House, there was a special election for the seat in March. Boebert chose not to run, focusing instead on her primary campaign.

Her move across the state has not been an easy one. She remains hounded by the scandals which have dominated headlines for months: a messy separation with a husband that led to an embarrassingly public incident, as well as her unglamorous removal from a theater performance of Beetlejuice after she and her date were caught vaping and engaging in lewd acts. With her move to the new district, these problems compounded with a new one: an accusation of carpet-bagging.

Richard Holtorf, second from right, poses with supporters next to his campaign sign-emblazoned cattle truck
Richard Holtorf, second from right, poses with supporters next to his campaign sign-emblazoned cattle truck (The Independent)

With no ties to the fourth district to speak of, Boebert now faces fellow Republicans who smell blood in the water. Though one poll of the sparsely-surveyed district from Kaplan Strategies in early June showed her as the frontrunner, an equal share of voters were undecided — meaning the race could be anyone’s game. Reporting of the race has generally indicated that two of Boebert’s six challengers, Jerry Sonnenberg and Richard Holtorf, are her best-positioned opponents in terms of statewide political support, fundraising and grassroots interest.

Holtorf spoke to The Independent on Thursday as the final weekend of campaigning neared. He said that he planned to be on the ground meeting voters — shepherded around the state in one of his several big-rig trucks, hauling a cattle carrier emblazoned with Trump signs — until the day of the primary. He projected confidence in his strategy, but said that he couldn’t predict Tuesday’s outcome.

“It's going to be a tough race, and we'll see who gets across the finish line first. I have no predictions,” said Holtorf, who currently serves in the state’s General Assembly.

“I will say one thing — there's a lot of people out here that do not like Boebert, nor do they want her to be our Congresswoman in the eastern plains. And I mean everywhere. So if you think she's got some little Kaplan poll putting sunshine in her skirt, she might want to be a little careful with that, because I think that’s not accurate,” he added.

Moment Lauren Boebert removed from Denver theatre production of Beetlejuice

Holtorf contended that Boebert would go the same way as another scandal-plagued, camera-obsessed former member of the House: Madison Cawthorn, who flamed out in 2022 after angering GOP colleagues in Washington DC and ending up the subject of a leaked nude video.

“Just like in high school, she's one of those girls — a lot of trouble, a lot of controversy, and it follows her because of who she is and how she behaves,” he added.

But Holtorf is far from Boebert’s only challenger, and even he conceded to The Independent in his interview that the race may be too split — with some candidates whom he said did not have a real chance at winning — for the incumbent congresswoman to be overtaken by one candidate.

How she fares will also have a lot to do with her two most important backers: Donald Trump, the Republican Party’s presumptive 2024 nominee, and Mike Johnson, Republican Speaker of the House. Boebert has also gotten a financial boost from the House Freedom Fund, a PAC related to the far-right Freedom Caucus. If she wins, it would also be thanks to Republicans in the district nominating Greg Lopez to fill the vacancy left by Buck, rather than filling the seat with one of Boebert’s primary rivals who also ran in the special election, such as Sonnenberg.

Experts within the state have echoed the speculation that the inability of Boebert’s challengers to narrow down the field could end up being what sends the congresswoman back to the House.

“There were already a number of fairly well-established Republicans in the area who were fairly well-known in their district, have had plenty of good credentials, and … she just kind of jumped in,” explained Seth Masket, a professor of political science with the University of Denver’s Center on American Politics.

“But that said, she has a lot of advantages in that she's an effective fundraiser, she has Trump's backing, and she is also very well-known,” he continued. “She's just the biggest thing. And in a crowded primary field, all those things give you just a huge advantage for voters trying to sort out the noise [amid] roughly a dozen candidates.”

Should she prevail on Tuesday, it won’t be a done deal. The congresswoman will still have to face a Democrat in November — though she’ll be doing so in a seat generally considered to be safely Republican.

Will that be the case in 2024, however? It might be less cut-and-dry than she would hope. A poll released by Ike McCorkle, the lone Democrat running for his party’s nomination in the district, in April showed McCorkle cleanly beating the Republican congresswoman in a head-to-head matchup.

He said at the time: “Our campaign is the only choice to beat Greg Lopez in the special election and Lauren Boebert in November."

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