It’s been less than two weeks since Republican Lauren Boebert took office.
But in Washington, she’s already found herself in the middle of a maelstrom of political anger and praise, from herself making unfounded claims of election fraud, to a gun-packing controversy, to what some say was an incitement to violence. And already there are calls for her to resign or be expelled from Congress.
The political newcomer, who has vowed to carry a gun while walking around in Washington, has long inspired excitement and anger. But since the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol last week, she’s come under new scrutiny — especially from voters in her district. Some are standing behind her, and some are worried about the representative they have sent to Congress.
Shortly before the siege on the United States’ seat of power on Jan. 6, Boebert was one of many Republicans taking a stand in the Capitol against the certification of the electoral college results that found Joe Biden had won the presidential election.
“Madame speaker, I have constituents outside this building right now. I promised my voters to be their voice!” Boebert said, quickly and loudly objecting to the counting of Arizona’s electoral college votes, which were upheld in federal court, and ultimately, by Congress itself. “Are we not a government, of, by and for the people? They know that this election was not right, and as their representative, I am sent here to represent them. I will not allow the people to be ignored.”
It was Boebert’s first speech before Congress, and it made a big splash with her supporters. Critics roasted the debut, but focused more on a tweet she sent that morning that they said helped spark the day’s violence.
It read, simply, “Today is 1776.”
Two days after the deadly insurrection, a trio of protests sprung up across her large district, which is spread across much of western Colorado and extends into the southern part of the state, including Pueblo.
Outside Boebert’s Grand Junction office at last week’s protests, a small group of demonstrators and counter-protesters sometimes argued but were peaceful. Debbie Fisk and her husband, Robert, drove the 40-some miles from Delta County to speak out against their new congresswoman.
“She's actually got blood on her hands now for doing what she's done,” Debbie Fisk said.
“I agree, I agree,” her husband replied. “She's part of that, part of it.”
Behind them, protestors had unfurled a homemade banner with the words “Benedict Boebert” painted in red across it.
The Fisks insisted Boebert helped create the contentious atmosphere that led to the attack, and that she needed to be held accountable for it. Some elected officials in their district agree, and nearly 70 of them have sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other U.S. House leadership condemning Boebert.
Robert Fisk said he wasn’t surprised how her first days in office had gone.
“She kind of did what I expected her to do, say a bunch of dumb stuff, because she was saying a bunch of dumb stuff before,” he said.
He added that “not everybody likes this stuff” on the Western Slope.
But about half the crowd was there to support Boebert, including Doug Thompson, of Grand Junction.
“I find it just incredible that somebody’s going to be so upset by this young lady that they’re out here making accusations against her already, and it’s just wrong,” he said, waving a Thin Blue Line flag. “And she is a great American. And a great American story.”
Boebert’s story is part of what helped captivate voters: a young mom of four who bootstrapped her way to owning her own gun-friendly restaurant in Rifle — and to unseating a five-term congressman.
As for the “1776” tweet that touched off the protest, Thompson said he hadn’t seen it, but thought people were reading too much into it.
“I guarantee, if she said it, I support it,” he said, “because I know where her heart is.”
Boebert did not respond to CPR’s requests for an interview, but she’s been highly visible — nationally — since last week’s siege. On Twitter, she denounced the day’s violence and also doubled down on baseless claims of voter fraud.
During President Trump’s impeachment proceedings following the storming of the Capitol, she lambasted Democrats.
“Rather than actually helping American people in this time, we start impeachments that further divide our country,” she exclaimed before 10 of her Republican colleagues joined Democrats in impeaching Trump. “I call bullcrap!”
Meanwhile, voters on the Western Slope seem more divided over Boebert than ever. Ray Langston, chairman of the Republican Party in Montrose County, has faith in her, and believes she’ll learn to work across the aisle.
“"And especially being in the minority party, she will have to,” he explained. “One congressman can’t accomplish anything unless 217 others agree with them. So, I really think she will do well, and I really hope she does."
That’s even though, Langston said, he didn’t initially support her run for Congress and voted for her predecessor. Now, Langston is all in on Boebert, after seeing how much energy she has brought into the party.
But, Kim Culver, a Democrat in the small town of Crawford, thinks Boebert is in over her head.
“And it’s more about attention, and ‘Look at me, look at me,’ than actually trying to help her constituents,” she said.
But Culver said she still holds out hope that Boebert will move beyond all that, and listen to what the district really needs.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correctly identify the Thin Blue Line flag carried by Doug Thompson.