Adam Frisch is in Washington, D.C., this week, taking part in an orientation for a job he doesn't yet have — which at times requires a bit of adroitness.
"There's a handful of us, five or six from either party that are going through this kind of training ... and getting pictures taken. I try to sit on the very edge just in case they have to cut me out at the end," Frisch told Colorado Matters senior host Ryan Warner.
As the Democratic candidate in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, Frisch is in the midst of a closer-than-close race against Republican incumbent Rep. Lauren Boebert.
Facing a Wednesday deadline to receive ballots sent by the military and from overseas, as well as the tabulation of some previously uncounted votes, Frisch trails Boebert by a little more than 1,100 votes.
Both candidates are in the process of curing votes — making sure that ballots that weren't initially counted because of technical issues like a missing or rejected signature are verified.
Why is it taking so long to count votes in Colorado? Here's why — and other ballot counting questions, answered
But the uncertain outcome didn't prevent Frisch from joining other newly-elected representatives like Brittany Pettersen and Dr. Yadira Caraveo, who will represent Colorado's 7th and 8th Districts, respectively, in Congress. That group includes candidates from both parties whose races have yet to be decided.
In an interview with Colorado Matters, Frisch talked about how he's not surprised by the position he's in, saying that a year ago, he envisioned waiting for the results of an extremely close race. He also discussed the curing process, whether he was "Democratic enough" for some voters, and if he received sufficient support from the national Democratic Party.
Editor's Note: Colorado Matters also asked Boebert for an interview. Her campaign declined the request, preferring to wait until after the outcome has been determined.
Frisch on numbers indicating that the turnout from registered Democrats in CO-3 in the midterms was less than in 2020:
"Well, I think everyone thought I was a long shot. Whether that kept them away, I do not know... but obviously if we do come up short and it turns out the Democratic voter base was lower than expected, shame on them. I heard it during the election that some people might wanna wait for a real Democrat, which I'm not sure what one is, or that they didn't happen to like me or I wore the wrong shirt one day or who knows why people vote or not. But obviously, listen, it's not illegal not to vote for people, but I'm pretty sure we'll end up getting a lot more Democratic votes. We picked up a lot more Republican votes than (Rep. Boebert) picked up Democratic votes. And I'm confident, obviously, the unaffiliated vote went our way big time as well. That showed up in our polling. And I think that showed up by the definition of where we are now."
On ballot curing:
"I know a lot of people wanna scaremonger during election delays, but I'm not even sure this is a delay. The easier it is to vote, I think the longer it takes to actually count. And for Colorado and California and some other states that bend over backward to make sure every vote counts and everyone should vote, it sometimes takes longer than we'd all like to see happen. It's almost like a 'Get out the vote' operation again. And as some of that can be done on the phone, a lot of that is boots on the ground. And the vast majority of people voted, they certainly want their vote to count. So the vast majority of the people are happy to actually hear back from them that something on a technical basis might stop their vote from being counted again. It's nothing nefarious, it's just part of democracy."
On whether he'd lose to a moderate Republican in two years should he win this election:
"Obviously I made it very clear when I was running that when I win — let's assume I don't wanna serve for 40 years, but I would probably want to do it again because I think I will do a really good job. There is a path either Representative Boebert or another person that we'll call an extremist is gonna wanna run, because that's kind of where the Republican Party is. But if all of a sudden a traditional Republican runs, I'm gonna start again, seven, eight points behind (in the polls). But what I plan on having with me then is a proven track record of respect to everybody, regardless if they voted for me or not, and a legislative record that will show that I'm actually focusing on the citizens and businesses of CD-3."
This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Ryan Warner: Is it weird to be orienting for a job you don't know you have yet?
Adam Frisch: So yeah, I mean there are about a hundred people invited. There's a handful of us, five or six from either party, that are going through training and going through the motions and getting pictures taken. I try to sit on the very edge just in case they have to cut me out at the end. And we're learning. And I'm here with some presumed staff ‘cause my personal belief is that the district has been neglected the past two years with the current representative’s focus on everything but actually doing constituent services here. So while I have a strong legislative and business background, there's obviously a lot to learn about how to be one of 435 members of Congress. So people are very supportive of me on the Democratic side and Republican side.
Warner: Now you said you had Republican support?
Frisch: I've been talking to Democrats and Republicans, new members of Congress, Yes, there's definitely some Republicans that are cheering for me. But everyone understands in a bipartisan manner that every year, every cycle, there's a handful of people that are in this position where they're too close to call. So they can't define it legally, but it's so close that it's important for them to come and go through the process.
Warner: Have you spoken with Congresswoman Boebert since Election Day?
Frisch: No. And I don't think that's too strange. I think both people are waiting to see how this thing plays out and if we end up coming up short, I will call her no later than when I get certified by the Secretary of State and offer my concession. And if we end up coming up ahead, I think it would be the nice thing to do on her part, but we're not gonna wait for that before we start moving the ball forward to make sure the citizens are looked after for CD-3.
Warner: Tell me something you've learned in orientation.
Frisch: I've learned how hard we worked or how hard anyone works in CD-3. The last three months of the campaign, I slept in my bed about five or six days. The vast majority of people I've met have never had to sleep in the hotel to run for Congress because no part of the district is more than an hour or two away from where they are. CD-3 has one of the largest districts in the country. Representative Boebert went through it at some level for sure. Representative Tipton, Salazar going back. And so one of the things I'm realizing is how big our district really is. And I knew we worked really hard, but people are amazed about the 23,000 miles that we drove or the 102 stops I did on those last 11 days.
Warner: We understand election officials in Colorado are waiting for (the) deadline to receive ballots cast by military and overseas voters. There will also be tallies of some previously uncounted ballots. You have tweeted just recently. “I want to reiterate that no one needs to wear out their mouse clicking refresh on the results. More curing and ballot counting will continue this week with additional vote counts dropping toward the end of the week. Deep breaths.” Are you following your own advice?
Frisch: Yes. One of the things that's been kind of overwhelming is the amount of support and interest that this race has gotten from literally all over the country, including about 10 or 15 other countries of either foreigners living overseas because they're so shocked and they're so excited. So it has been daunting to kind of keep track and get back to everybody. And I just tell people I feel bad because from prior professions and everything else, I try to focus. If I can't change something at that moment, I try not to worry about it too much. It will play out as it's supposed to play out. But we're obviously very focused on collecting as many of those ballots as we can. The chips will fall as they may. And I don't mean to be blase, because it's a very consequential election for a lot of different reasons. It's a very serious time in the country and I'm gonna take the job very, very seriously as well. But we're just trying to focus on remaining healthy and calm and paying attention to this unique experience that I'm going through along with a hundred other people from ages 25 to 65 that I think are making up some part of this new freshman bipartisan class.
Warner: I hear you saying to let go of what you don't have control over, but both you and Congresswoman Boebert are scrambling to help people cure their ballots; that is, to fix their ballots so their vote is admissible. How familiar were you with the idea of ballot curing before this?
Frisch: Well, I've gone through a couple elections on the city council in Aspen, and so I knew what the verb meant. It's new to a lot of people. And again, I know a lot of people want to scaremonger during election delays, but I'm not even sure this is a delay. The easier it is to vote, I think the longer it takes to actually count and that's one of the things I'm looking at. And for Colorado and California and some other states that bend over backwards to make sure every vote counts and everyone should vote, it sometimes takes longer than we'd all like to see happen. And so I'm used to the curing process, but not to the level of where we are. We have people literally from all over the country helping us do the curing in addition to all the work that's been done, boots on the ground in these 27 counties.
Warner: That is, folks have come to Colorado for this work from all over the country to put a finer point on it.
Frisch: Yeah, there's two things. One, phone calls can be made as well as doors can be knocked on. It’s almost like a “get out the vote” operation again. And some of that can be done on the phone. A lot of that is boots on the ground. And the vast majority of people voted, they certainly want their vote to count. So the vast majority of the people are happy to actually hear back from them that something on a technical basis might stop their vote from being counted. Again, it's nothing nefarious, it's just part of democracy.
Warner: So what's interesting is we know unaffiliated voters played a huge role in your performance; that's sort of inevitable from the math. So when the campaigns are curing, they don't necessarily know who that person voted for. So if you're calling someone to cure their vote, it's possible that a Boebert call helps a Frisch, or a Frisch call helps a Boebert. Do you think that’s true?
Frisch: Yeah. So obviously it's public who has voted. It’s certainly not public how they voted. Listen, it's no secret. We assume the vast majority of Democrats voted for us. That's not obviously the case for Representative Boebert or otherwise we would not be in this position. We earned a tremendous amount of Republican votes and a lot of unaffiliated votes to get here. And so I think every campaign across the country for years is trying to put some science to trying to figure out who do they want to call and advocate for making sure that their ballot gets cured.
Warner: But that's a bit of a guessing game in some cases with the unaffiliated and the Republicans.
Frisch: Yeah, there's strategy to that on either side. Some of it could be luck, some of it is a guessing game. And we're excited to see how this plays out sometime (Thursday) night or maybe on Friday.
Warner: CPR’s Andrew Kenney, who's on our public affairs team, did some number crunching. While your performance in a very red district is remarkable, Democratic participation in the 3rd Congressional District was actually down a bit. Did you get enough support from your own party or did they too think you were a long shot and not invest amply?
Frisch: Well, I think everyone thought I was a long shot. Whether that kept them away, I do not know. I've seen a little bit of headline news. We've been so focused on the curing process that at some point it's always fun to dive into the data to see how people did. I knew we were gonna build this tripartisan coalition of unaffiliateds, Republicans and Democrats. But obviously if we do come up short and it turns out the Democratic voter base was lower than expected, shame on them. But that's hard to say. We'll have to figure that out again. But the only thing I'm focused on right now, is to make sure that we cure these ballots as much as possible, as well as making sure those overseas ballots get counted, which I'm sure they will. I have full faith and belief in the Secretary of State's office as well as the county clerks of these 27 counties around our district. And I know they're working very, very hard and they're under tremendous pressure a lot more than I am.
Warner: You say, “shame on them,” but you know, you rejoined the Democratic party to run against Congresswoman Boebert and you didn't run as a “dyed in the wool” Democrat. Do you think that that might have contributed to a softer Democratic turnout?
Frisch: Well, I would have to look at the statewide elections compared to just our district as well as what happened nationally before we can dive in there. But yes, there's definitely, I heard it during the election that some people might want to wait for a real Democrat, which I'm not sure what one is, or that they didn't happen to like me, or I wore the wrong shirt one day, or who knows why people vote or not. But at the end of the day, I made it very clear that I would love to have people vote for me, not just against Representative Boebert. And so we tried to run a positive campaign that was very focused, but obviously listen, it's not illegal not to vote, but we picked up a lot more Republican votes than she picked up Democratic votes. And I'm confident, obviously the unaffiliated vote went our way big time as well. That showed up in our polling. And I think that showed up by the definition of where we are now.
Warner: If you pull out a victory, you necessarily lose to a more moderate Republican in two years? And I realize that question, Adam Frisch, fast forwards a lot and makes all sorts of presumptions, but we need to be honest about the kind of electoral realities of this district and its history too.
Frisch: I made it very clear when I was running that if, when I win, let's assume I don't want to serve for 40 years, but I would probably want to do it again because I think I will do a really good job. There is a path either Representative Boebert or another person that we'll call an extremist is going to want to run, because that's kind of where the Republican party is. But I actually don't think Donald Trump's gonna get the Republican ballot. We can talk about that later on. But if all of a sudden a traditional Republican runs, I'm gonna start again, seven, eight points behind. But what I plan on having with me then is a proven track record of respect to everybody regardless if they voted for me or not, and a legislative record that will show that I'm actually focusing on delivering on the citizens and businesses of CD-3. And everyone's asking me in Washington, D.C. what my goals are. And I talk about water's number one, energy two, and agriculture, farming and ranching is number three.
Warner: That was my next question, and I’m curious what committee or committees you’d particularly like to sit on.
Frisch: Yeah, water's really number one important. Two is just domestic energy production as well as making sure we have that transition more and more into renewable energies. But I think when any president is begging Saudi Arabia for energy help, we might want to have a different energy policy so that we're not begging Saudi Arabia for help. And then the third bucket of focus is agriculture, ranching and farming. There are a variety of committees that are specifically focused on that and then there's some subcommittees that come from some pretty important things like appropriation and ways and means where those are the dream committees that people get out with more seniority, but we'll see how it all plays out.
Warner: Were you surprised by how well you did election night and will you be surprised if you pull out a victory?
Frisch: With humility? No, What I wrote down a year ago in those couple pages showed that there was a way to win by a little, little bit at the very, very end. And so whether we win by a little little bit or lose by a little, little bit, it certainly happened at the very end. So no, I mean, I say with pride that I knew we were gonna work hard. I knew that 40 percent of the Republican party wants their party back. I knew that the Democratic brand was damaged, but if I worked really, really hard and connected with enough people, I think we could have built this coalition of this paranormal party coalition. And that is a subset of a lot of Democrats and a handful of Republicans and a good chunk of unaffiliateds. And the math is that's enough to actually win.
Warner: Is that what was on those pages, was math?
Frisch: It was a little bit of just some math and a little bit of 40 percent of the Republican party, Trumpism. I think extremism is starting to come to an end, and I said this a year ago, not last Wednesday after everybody woke up. I thought that if someone could work hard, the fact that (Boebert) did not win her home district, those that know her don't care for her. A lot more people know her now than before and not for good reason. So I knew that she was building up more negatives than when she started and she only won by 5 percent. All these things kind of came together. She's never been focused on this district. Now she generates a lot of media, which attracts a lot of people, of course, by the math that plays out. But I think her Achilles Heel about how we got here is that she was not focused on this district and she was not delivering for her voters or those that did not vote for her.
Warner: You speak as if she has gotten very little support, but she's gotten as much or possibly more support than you. So there are clearly people who feel well-represented by her.
Frisch: Well, yes, without a doubt. There's some people that like what she says or how she says it, there's a combination of people that just do not care for the Democratic party. But listen, I would say with respect, FiveThirtyEight had this as an “R15” district (meaning Republicans were predicted to dominate by 15 points) and we’re basically tied. The political math said that this might be the biggest upset in the history of their model. And so I agree that we could end up losing. And certainly, to be very clear, I'm not gonna be surprised or shocked if we lose. I'll be disappointed for the district and the country, but I'm not gonna be surprised. But at the same time, I would say with humility, I'm not gonna be shocked or surprised that we're gonna win, A.) because we're so close, and B.) because this is a gut reaction that I had about a year ago, that there actually was a path.
Warner: Adam, thanks so much for being with us again.
Frisch: I like your time. Thanks, Ryan.
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