How Lauren Bobert ended up in one of the closest races in the country

RRepublican Rep. Lauren Bobert, a controversial far-right push from Colorado, is 1,000 votes away from losing her re-election bid in a red district that supports Donald Trump.

The race wasn’t expected to be this tight, let alone one of the closest races in the entire country. Redistricting this cycle had made the district even more Republican than it was before. But Democrat Adam Frisch, who has served eight years on the Aspen City Council, could unseat one of the loudest voices in the MAGA faction after just one term.

Since upsetting a Republican president two years ago, Boebert has drawn media attention for owning the now-shuttered Shooters Grill, a restaurant where employees were encouraged to open carry firearms; promoting conspiracy theories about the “deep state” and the 2020 election; mockery President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address; and wearing a dress that says “Let’s Go Brandon,” which has an offensive double meaning to Biden. One of the reasons Boebert’s race became so close, experts say, is that Frisch was able to use her behavior against her.

“If you put somebody as an ‘R,’ they’re going to vote for them unless there’s some reason not to,” said Democratic strategist Michael Stratton, a native of Durango, a small town in Bobert’s district. “I think she gave Republicans a lot of reasons not to. Pride, humility, politeness. Her outrageous behavior everywhere – I think it disturbs a lot of people.

To contrast Bobert’s antics, Frisch campaigned as a moderate who would keep a low profile and work with both Democrats and Republicans. He said he hopes to join the Problem Solvers Group, which is made up of members of both parties looking for common ground. He won the endorsement of Bober’s Republican primary opponent. His campaign video touts him as a “conservative businessman” who supports the Second Amendment, securing the border and reducing government regulations, along with images of a man in camouflage carrying a rifle and a patrol car driving along the border wall. He vowed not to vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. He promised to protect Colorado’s water supply and supported oil and gas drilling in Colorado. One of the few policy positions that aligns him with much of his party is his full support for abortion rights; his website notes that his father was an OB-GYN and his sister still is.

Read more: How abortion helped blunt a red wave in midterms

Republican strategist Zach Roday, who served as Senate candidate Joe O’Dea’s campaign manager, TThe candidate, who lost this year’s Colorado Senate race to incumbent Democrat Michael Bennett, says that while campaigning for O’Dea in Colorado’s 3rd District, he found that people viewed Bobert as a Trump-like figure. Some voters felt she was fighting for them; others thought she focused too much on being an artist. “The Republican brand is deeply damaged,” Roday says. “This is a non-debatable seat … Too many people went to the polls in Colorado and across the country, given inflation, the economy and crime. And then they voted directly against their interests by voting for the Democrats. And there’s only one explanation for that, and that’s cancer. This is Donald Trump.”

Overall, Republicans did not perform as well in the 2022 midterm elections as they had hoped. Control of both the Senate and the House is still up for grabs, and while Republicans may take the House, it will likely be by a smaller margin than expected. Strategists in both parties have blamed Trump, who has endorsed the wrong candidates across the country and tarnished the party with his false claims of election fraud. During his tenure in Congress, Bobert was one of Trump’s most vocal and extreme supporters.

Read more: As Republicans jump to blame, Trump is the obvious target

Bobert’s district is one of the largest in the country, covering the southwestern half of the state, covering mountainous red sections as well as bluer resort towns like Aspen and Glenwood Springs. It is home to farmers, ranchers and tourism workers. A quarter of the residents are Hispanic. According to new York times dataFrisch currently outperforms Biden in nearly every county in the district.

Although Frisch led Boebert by 64 votes at one point Thursday morning, she led by 794 votes by afternoon, according to the Colorado Secretary of State. The data also shows that more than 3,000 voters who voted in the district refused to vote for either candidate.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were still thousands of votes to be counted. In Pueblo County, where Frisch leads, uncounted votes include about 5,000 mail-in ballots and 1,800 in-person ballots. Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz says he hopes to have those counted by the end of Thursday.

However, even after all available votes are counted, the race may still be too close to call. Colorado accepts ballots from military and overseas voters for eight days after the election. Voters can also “cure” ballots that were not counted due to signature discrepancies for the same period. In Pueblo County, the combination of those could add up to 1,138 more votes, which could be consistent given the incredibly tight margins in the race.

Finally, state law requires a recount if the margin of victory is less than 0.5%. Until election day saw only minor voting issues and many election deniers lose their bidsBoebert’s campaign had previously refused to commit to accepting her election results if she lost.

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Write to Mini Rucker at [email protected].

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