The next big election may be more than a year and a half away, but the Colorado Democratic Party is already gearing up to try and flip the state’s 3rd Congressional District from red to blue.
In 2022, Democrats narrowly failed to oust Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, whose no-compromise conservative stances and headline-making public fights have polarized voters in the district and beyond.
“Running campaigns in rural Colorado, we've all seen what happens when the party infrastructure writes off rural seats as unwinnable,” said Democratic State Party Chair Shad Murib. He added that thousands of Democrats in the 3rd Congressional District who usually vote decided to sit it out in 2022.
“Most of them are young, many of them are women, and nearly half are Latino voters. And had these voters turned out like they usually do, Lauren Boebert would be a footnote in Colorado political history.”
Instead, Boebert won reelection by a mere 546 votes. The razor-thin margin was a shock to political observers given Boebert’s national profile and Republicans’ 9-point advantage in the district.
In an effort to increase voter turnout enough to get a different result next year, Democrats on Monday officially launched what they’re calling Project 546.
“We're ready to hit the ground running, starting tonight,” said Pueblo County Democratic Party Chair and former State Rep. Bri Buentello. She said the goal is to listen to voters and connect with them in places like Pueblo earlier than ever before. “Pueblo is gonna show up and Pueblo is gonna make the difference. Pueblo is gonna fire Lauren Boebert.”
While Murib described the effort as an unprecedented investment by the party in Western and Southern Colorado, he didn’t give an exact dollar amount the party is dedicating to it.
The traditionally working class city of Pueblo occupies an unusual place in Colorado politics. While the city is majority Democratic, it went for President Donald Trump in 2016, even as he lost statewide.
Four years later, while Trump again handily lost Colorado, this time by more than 13 points, he only narrowly lost in Pueblo.
Colorado Republican Party Chair Dave Williams blasted the Democratic project to unseat Boebert, calling it delusional, unrealistic and a “waste of time, energy, resources and donor dollars” to try to win the rural seat which spans southern and western Colorado.
“When the dust settles after Democrats are done tilting at windmills, voters on the front range will deliver them losses in 2024 alongside the same rural voters who won't forget how Democrats have been at war with them for years," said Williams in a statement.
A Democrat has not represented the 3rd District since Rep. John Salazar was unseated by Scott Tipton in 2010. The most recent round of redistricting was expected to ensconce Republicans even more deeply in the district, making the close 2022 outcome even more of a shock.
For her part, Boebert said she is not surprised by the Democratic party’s move. “There is no doubt Democrats will give their all to steal this seat. History will prove once again our District does not want a tax-hiking, Green New Deal, far-left, extreme, Aspen Democrat to represent them,” she said in a statement.
Democrat Adam Frisch, who was a former Aspen City Council member, has already announced he is making a second run at the seat. But he’s not the only one. Debby Burnett is also seeking the Democratic nomination. And at least one Republican, Carbondale financial advisor Russ Andrews, wants to challenge Boebert for the nomination. Still, Boebert and Frisch are considered the frontrunners in their respective primaries.
Boebert, who’s made a national name for herself for things like heckling the president during the State of the Union and opposing Kevin McCarthy’s Speakership, touted her record in the Republican-controlled House, including getting some Democratic votes on her bills and amendments.
“I will win in 2024 for the same reason I've won every race I've been in: my policies are right for our District, our state, and our country,” she said.
But that is also why some Democrats think she may be vulnerable again, given how polarizing her congressional career has been
“If [Boebert] would spend less time speaking at rallies in Texas — not even Colorado — she'd know that Colorado cannot afford her far right MAGA policies,” said state Rep. Barbara McLachlan, a Democrat from Durango, which is in the 3rd Congressional District.
Fellow Democratic state Rep. Dylan Roberts from Eagle county, who also represents part of Boebert’s district, added that voters want someone who can put party aside on issues important to the region, like water.
“Congresswoman Boebert has voted against important bills that fund water projects in our state and in the region to protect the Colorado River. Her climate change denialism is not helpful in facing this ongoing drought that confronts the Colorado River and the Western region,” he said.
Aside from targeting Boebert’s district, the state Democratic Party said it would also take similar steps to defend Democratic Rep. Yadira Caraveo in the newly created 8th Congressional district, a seat Republicans are hoping to flip in ‘24 although that party lacks any declared candidates yet. Democrats also said they want to take a more hands-on role in local elections around the state, including for county clerks, sheriffs and commissioners.
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