New Challengers Emerge Early (Very Early) Against Lauren Boebert In Colorado

Elizabeth Warren Campaigns In Denver
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
State Sen. Kerry Donovan warmed up the crowd when Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren brought her campaign to Denver’s Fillmore Auditorium on Sunday Feb. 23, 2020.

Rep. Lauren Boebert has only been in Congress a month, and the race to replace her has already started.

Kerry Donovan, a well-known state senator from Eagle County, filed paperwork on Wednesday to set up a run for the 3rd Congressional seat in 2022. She joins two other Democrats who want to challenge Boebert in the district that sprawls across western Colorado, and others are considering jumping in, too.

“Our part of Colorado has big problems we need to solve. We have a huge drought on our hands. We need to have a robust economic recovery. These are big problems that need serious and big solutions, and I think that this district deserves to have someone fighting for them in Congress,” Donovan said the day before she filed her paperwork, explaining why she was interested in running.

Donovan grew up in Colorado’s mountains and first won election to the state senate in 2014. She runs her family’s Cooper Bar Ranch near the town of Edwards and previously served as a member of the Vail Town Council.

Another candidate, Gregg Smith of Westcliffe, describes himself as a Marine and a former CEO of Frontier Services Group, a company founded by Erik Prince of the security contractor Blackwater. Smith says on his campaign website that he “blew the whistle” on Prince at the company, and his campaign announcement on Twitter was shared more than 40,000 times. Smith has described Boebert as a “radical extremist.”

The third declared candidate, attorney Colin Wilhelm, recently ran unsuccessfully for House District 57 in northwestern Colorado. He has already announced a “listening tour” around the district.

This field of challengers is assembling much earlier than usual for CO-3, said Dylan Roberts, a state representative who is also considering a run for the seat.

“It seems like in most cycles, recruiting a candidate is a challenge — on the Democratic side at least -- because it is a more conservative district,” he said.

But he thinks that Boebert has opened an opportunity. 

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
GOP businesswoman Lauren Boebert spoke to a monthly meeting of Garfield County Republicans Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020, at Order Up in Rifle as she campaigned for Congress in Colorado’s 3rd District.

She unseated a longtime GOP incumbent, Scott Tipton, in the primary last year, and has drawn national attention for insisting on her right to carry a gun into the U.S. House chambers; taking photographs with members of militant groups like the Three Percenters; and declaring that Jan. 6 was “1776” just before the Capitol riot. (Boebert condemned the violence that happened later that day.)

“Scott Tipton had a lot of support, and an institutional base of support throughout the district. Congresswoman Beobert is different, though,” Roberts said.

But there is a major complication for anyone who wants to challenge Boebert: They have no idea what the district will look like in 2022. Colorado is set to redraw the borders of its electoral districts before the next election. 

The state is expected to gain an eighth congressional district, which could force a significant rejiggering of CO-3. Some of the would-be candidates may even find themselves drawn out of the district.

That redistricting process is getting underway now but could be affected by delays with new U.S. Census data.

In a statement released Wednesday, the state GOP attacked Donovan for supporting Elizabeth Warren in the Democratic presidential primaries and sought to frame the CO-3 race around energy issues and the Green New Deal. Wilhelm and Smith couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

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