Rep. Lauren Boebert wins top billing at the Congressional District Four assembly

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Colorado GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert waves to supporters at the 2024 Republican 4th Congressional Assembly as she learns she’s topped the ballot to be the party’s candidate in that district’s upcoming primary. April 5, 2024, at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

Updated 7:25 p.m.

GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert won the topline at the 4th Congressional District assembly meeting in Pueblo on Friday. The vote cemented her role as the favorite going into the June primary race.

With their votes, the delegates also dashed the hopes of former state Sen. Ted Harvey. He was the only candidate trying to make the ballot solely via appealing to the most ardent Republicans in the district. He received 135 votes, falling 24 delegates short of the 30 percent he needed to stay in the race.

Boebert received 215 votes, or just over 40 percent. 

Former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg received 96 votes or 18 percent, and state Rep. Richard Holtorf received 81 votes, or 15 percent. Under Colorado’s somewhat convoluted primary rules, that is enough to keep both men in the field. Sonnenberg and Holtorf have also submitted petitions, but are waiting to hear from the Secretary of State whether they have enough signatures to get on the primary ballot.

After netting the votes, Boebert told the assembled delegates she was glad to have earned their support. 

“I’m so honored today to have these numbers showing that the efforts are working,” she said. “I don’t have to argue my record. I have that track record of doing exactly what I say. You know where I stand on the issues. And it’s not a wonder to you what I will do as your representative in Colorado's 4th district.” 

A total of 527 Republican delegates, the activist grassroots of the party who spent their Friday at the assembly in Pueblo, had the final say.

Friday’s assembly doesn’t quite settle the question of how large the final GOP primary field will be, though. Four other hopefuls — state Rep. Mike Lynch, businessman Peter Yu, former congressional staffer Chris Phelen, and retired oil and gas consultant Floyd Truilljo — skipped the assembly entirely and are also still waiting to see whether their petitions are deemed valid.

Deborah Flora, who has already earned a place on the ballot through the petition process, told delegates in a letter that not gambling on the assembly was “the best way to be responsible” and “ensure that we remain on the ballot, as the Conservative Fighter you can be proud of.”

A day of courting grassroots support

During her pitch to delegates, Boebert highlighted her conservative record and also mentioned her endorsement from former President Donald Trump. 

She also took a swipe at the former holder of the seat Ken Buck, who resigned early in frustration at the current state of Congress. Describing herself as a ‘RINO hunter,’ Boebert claimed, “I hung me a last buck.”

When it was Harvey’s turn, he did it with the backing of a large crowd of supporters, who stood along the stage as he spoke. The former state Senator stressed his decision to get on the primary ballot solely through the delegate process: “Every candidate you see today and the candidates you won’t see today, everyone one of them petitioned on. I am the only one that did not, because I value each and every one of you.”

State Rep. Richard Holtorf  kicked off his speech with a professional video touting a message of veteran leadership and saying the “old guard needs to go.” He also took shots at other Boebert and Sonnenberg, noting he’s not “a carpetbagger from Rifle, Colorado” or an “establishment candidate from the Eastern Plains.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
GOP state Rep. Richard Holtorf at the 2024 Republican 4th Congressional District Assembly. April 5, 2024, at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

“We need new leadership and we need veteran leadership,” Holtorf said, referring to his military service. “We need veteran leadership. We need somebody from the outside that’s going to come in and start cleaning up.”

Holtorf said he’d support making the Trump tax cuts permanent and that he’d stop green energy mandates. “You send me to Washington D.C., you’ll have a congressman who will meet you where you live.”

Sonnenberg, a Logan County commissioner who also spent 16 years in the state legislature, also had a big crowd line up in front of the stage. He described himself as a fighter and an advocate, someone who knows how to represent both the suburbs of Douglas County and the farming and ranching communities of the Eastern Plains.

He talked about his “deep roots in the district” farming and ranching on a Centennial Farm.

“Many of you have never had the opportunity to vote for me, but I voted for you,” he told the delegates, pointing to votes in the legislature to reduce taxes and defend TABOR. “I have the integrity and the character, as well as the leadership skills and experience to go to work for you.”

Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
Former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg at the 2024 Republican 4th Congressional District Assembly. April 5, 2024, at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo.

And, he told the room, it’s time the fourth district had a congressman who supports Donald Trump and would “finish the wall and secure our border,” as well as reduce the debt and push for U.S. energy independence.

Sonnenberg also took a swipe at Buck. “I’m not going to Washington D.C. to be popular with CNN or pal around with the liberal media,” he said. “I’m not a show horse. I’m a workhorse.”

In the third district, assembly assures two candidates ballot spots

Delegates also winnowed the Republican field in the race to take over Boebert’s seat in the next Congress at the third district assembly, which was also held in Pueblo Friday

Stephen Varela received the top line with 190 votes or 33.5 percent, trailed just barely by Ron Hanks, who got 182 votes, or 32 percent. Carbondale financial advisor Russ Andrews received 17.8 percent of the vote and will be on the ballot so long as his petitions are deemed valid. 

Varela said in a statement that he was grateful for the support. “Our momentum is real, and it’s growing every day. I cannot wait for the opportunity to take this fight to Joe Biden and (Democratic congressional candidate) Adam Frisch this fall.”

Tom Hesse/CPR News
Five of the candidates running in the Republican primary for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District attend a forum hosted by the Grand Junction group, Stand For The Constitution, Feb. 12, at Appleton Christian Church in Grand Junction. From left, Russ Andrews, Stephen Varela, Ron Hanks, Curtis McCrackin and Joe Granado.

Five candidates — Hanks, Varela, Robin Heid, Sampson Ramirez, and Austin O’Connell — all sought to access the ballot through the assembly process alone. The other candidates did not make the cut. 

Hanks hails from outside the district’s boundaries in Canon City, but is renting a place in Grand Junction. He won the region when he ran in the GOP Senate primary two years ago and said he was encouraged to run by locals who told him, “we need a strong conservative fight for America first and the MAGA agenda.” 

Hanks also highlighted his conservative record during his one term in the state House and said he would be a conservative in Congress, from voting against continuing funding resolutions to abolishing the Department of Education.

One hopeful, Heid, used his time to praise Boebert and to endorse fellow candidate, O’Connell, a teacher. Heid also criticized other leading candidates in the race. He said Hanks’ support of a national abortion ban would boost Frisch, likely Democratic nominee. He dinged Andrews for saying he would bring home the bacon to the district, accusing him of supporting government spending. Lastly, he called Varela a “Democrat in an elephant shirt.” 

Varela, who has switched his party affiliation numerous times over the past decade, responded during his time.

“Like Donald Trump, I too was a Democrat…But I'm here to tell you today that we are going to take the fight to the Democrats because nobody can fight them better than us in this room, ,” he told the delegates. “I’m tired of being called a RINO, far right… Today, if we are going to hold this seat, we are going to hold it only together as Republicans and Americans.”

Republican Jeff Hurd petitioned onto the ballot, but he was at the assembly to talk with delegates even as he chose to bypass the process.

Curtis McCrackin also had his petitions approved and is on the primary ballot. The other candidates waiting to find out if they will make the ballot via petition are Joe Granado and Lew Webb, who both entered the race in February.

Republican field taking shape in congressional races around the state

GOP assemblies held earlier this month also picked the candidates in other races. 

Small business owner Sergei Matveyuk got the nod from delegates to take on Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen in the 7th Congressional District.

In the 8th Congressional District, the state’s lone toss-up seat, Republicans at the assembly backed current state Rep. Gabe Evans and former Rep. Janak Joshi for the primary ballot.

At the 5th Congressional District assembly, for the district in El Paso County, current GOP State Chair Dave Williams got top line on the ballot. He’ll face Jeff Crank in the primary; the former radio host gathered enough signatures to get on the ballot via petition. GOP state Sen. Bob Gardner also submitted signatures to get on the ballot but is awaiting a ruling.

Valdamar Archuleta got the GOP nod for the heavily Democratic-leaning 1st Congressional District, which covers Denver. Marshall Dawson got the assembly backing for the 2nd Congressional District, another solidly blue seat. In the 6th Congressional District, John Fabbricatore received Republican support at the assembly to go up against Democratic Rep. Jason Crow.