Rep. Lauren Boebert's district-switching gambit hangs over Colorado primary race

Rep. Lauren Boebert’s district-switching gambit hangs over Colorado primary race

Washington — Rep. Lauren Boebert, facing voters in a new district on Tuesday, won the Republican primary race in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District, according to the Associated Press, showing that her district-switching gambit paid off. 

Boebert, who was first elected in 2020 and narrowly won reelection in Colorado’s 3rd District in 2022, opted to run in a district more friendly to conservatives this year following former Rep. Ken Buck’s decision not to seek reelection. She was one of six Republicans vying for their party’s nomination in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District on Tuesday, raising the profile of the race in the process.

While Boebert won her reelection bid in Colorado’s 3rd District, which makes up a large portion of the western and southern part of the state, by just over 500 votes in 2022, Colorado’s 4th District, a majority of which is made up of the state’s Eastern Plains, is far more safe for Republicans. Voters in the district backed former President Donald Trump in 2020, and Buck won reelection handily in 2022 with more than 60% of the vote. 

resignation from the House in March. And while Buck has spoken out about his party’s priorities, its leader and the direction that it’s heading with growing influence from the far-right, Boebert has been among the group — and at times stoked the chaos. 

Rep. Lauren Boebert, a Republican from Colorado, departs following a vote at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, March 13, 2024.
Rep. Lauren Boebert outside the U.S. Capitol following a vote on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. 

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The primary also marks Boebert’s first election since a handful of personal embarrassments have colored her national profile. Chief among them was an incident last year when she was escorted out of a theatrical performance of “Beetlejuice” in Denver for disruptive behavior.  Boebert released a statement apologizing for the incident, citing her “public and difficult divorce” and saying she “fell short” of her values.

When Boebert announced that she would run for a different district, she said her “difficult year” played into the decision. 

“Personally, this announcement is a fresh start following a pretty difficult year for me and my family,” Boebert said in a video announcing the move to change districts. “I had never been in politics before and I’d never been through a divorce – something I never intended to go through. I’ve made my own personal mistakes and have owned up and apologized for them.”

Despite the campaign woes, Trump endorsed Boebert in a social media post in March, calling her a “Proven Conservative” and “trusted America First Fighter,” while citing her record on the push to impeach President Biden and on immigration, among other things. 

Still, Boebert’s opponents have accused her of carpetbagging, noting that she lived hundreds of miles from some of the constituents she would represent should she win in November. But the GOP firebrand has countered that she has experience in Congress that her opponents lack. And for voters, part of the decision could come down to what they value more — Boebert’s national profile and record or a candidate with deep ties to the district.

“While these folks are in Colorado talking about what they would do, could do, maybe do, want to do, I’m actually doing the work,” Boebert said in March.

Among the other Republicans running in the primary are former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, state Reps. Richard Holtorf and Mike Lynch and Deborah Flora, a radio host and parental rights advocate. 

Whatever voters decide in the primary, the seat is expected to safely remain in Republican control come November. The district represents most of rural eastern Colorado, along with the southern portion of the Denver metro area. The last Democrat to represent the district, which otherwise has remained in GOP control since 1973, was Rep. Betsy Markey from 2009 to 2011. 

Heading into the primary on Tuesday, Boebert remained the favorite in the race. But complicating things for voters is not just one vote for Buck’s successor in the district — but two. 

Coloradans will vote in the primaries for a candidate to begin a new term in the 4th district seat. But they’ll also vote on a candidate to fill the remainder of Buck’s term due to his early departure. 

Boebert opted not to run to serve the remainder of Buck’s term, saying in March that she would not “further imperil” the slim Republican majority in the House by resigning from her current seat to fill Buck’s. She argued that the move to hold a special election at the time of the primary was made by the GOP establishment to hurt her chances, also saying it would also confuse voters.

But Boebert’s chances at winning the full term were made easier by the selection of Republican Greg Lopez to face off against a Democrat in the special election since Lopez is not running for a new term. 

Meanwhile, Boebert’s switch has teed up a contest for her former seat in Colorado’s 3rd District, where a slew of Republicans are seeking the nomination on Tuesday. 

Among the candidates is former state Rep. Ron Hanks, who was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Though he has made clear that he did not enter the building, he’s touted Trump’s election denialism. And Democrats have worked to boost Hanks and his far-right chops in the primary to bolster their chances of winning the competitive seat in November when their nominee will face off with the GOP candidate.

For Democrats, a matchup in the 3rd District with the candidate that they view as the most extreme is exactly what they’re hoping for, aiming to make for an easier win for Democratic candidate Adam Frisch who narrowly lost to Boebert in 2022. But whether the move yields dividends in November or helps send a fringe member of the opposite party to Congress remains to be seen.