In only a few days, Western Slope restaurant owner Lauren Boebert went from being the latest in a string of Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s longshot conservative primary challengers to meeting with President Donald Trump in the shadow of Mount Rushmore, hours before the president’s combative Independence Day eve speech and a firework show.
The media-savvy gun-rights activist and first-time candidate vaulted into the spotlight overnight after she toppled the five-term Tipton by 9 percentage points, becoming only the fourth challenger this year to defeat a sitting member of Congress — and marking the first time that’s happened in Colorado in 48 years.
But even though her nomination led a national election forecaster to move the 3rd Congressional District out of the “solid Republican" column — without the advantages of incumbency or a proven fundraising record, the Cook Political Report on Friday declared the seat could be more vulnerable to a Democratic challenger — don’t expect the pistol-packing Boebert to tack toward the middle in the four months remaining until the General Election.
“(President Trump) won by being the Disruptor in chief. I will win the same way. The status quo is NOT good enough” she tweeted Friday as she prepared to meet the president and members of his family backstage at Mount Rushmore.
“The only change that we will consider making to Mount Rushmore is adding President Trump’s face to it,” she added in another tweet.
National Democrats say they’re prepared to pour resources behind the Democratic nominee, former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush — a retired sociology professor from Steamboat Springs who lost to Tipton last cycle by 8 percentage points — after Boebert’s surprise win turned the race into a top target.
Democrats immediately branded Boebert a fringe candidate after remarks she made about the far-right QAnon conspiracy in an obscure video podcast came to light, but Boebert and her campaign dismiss the attacks as off base.
"Freedom is a really great motivator, and that has been Lauren's anthem — freedom,” Sherronna Bishop, her campaign manager, told Colorado Politics.
Boebert ran against Tipton from the right, charging the Cortez Republican with being insufficiently aggressive fighting back against the “tyrannical socialists absolutely destroying our nation.” She said she was running to be “the antidote to The Squad,” a group of four progressive Democratic women led by U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, who is universally known as “AOC.”
Through the campaign, Boebert kept up the attack on the liberals and on Tipton, sometimes in the same breath. In one of her first TV ads, Boebert vowed to “stand up to all the left-wing lunatics.” Then, in her closing TV ad, she named Tipton an honorary member of The Squad, accusing the Republican of “teaming up with AOC” and her cohorts to bail out Boulder by co-sponsoring legislation with U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat who represents Boulder, to make federal coronavirus relief available to cities and counties in the 3rd District.
"Say no to Tipton's Boulder bailout. Say no to Scott Tipton," the ad said.
Boebert, 33, grew up in what she describes as a "Democrat home" in the Denver suburbs. She and her husband, Jayson, who works in the oil and gas industry, have four sons. Following a downturn in the natural gas industry, they opened Shooters Grill, a gun-themed Rifle restaurant famous for featuring a pistol-packing wait staff.
“We’re armed and ready to feed you,” says the restaurant’s menu, which boasts the "Swiss and Wesson" and "Guac 9" burgers as well as sawed-off eggrolls.
Boebert drew national attention in May when she defied public health officials by opening the restaurant to sit-down service before a state order banning in-person dining to slow the spread of the new coronavirus had been lifted.
She also garnered headlines last fall when she confronted then-presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, over his proposal to confiscate firearms.
“Hell no, you won't take away our guns!” she said at a town meeting O’Rourke held on the steps of Aurora’s city hall.
“We are in this race to win it, and we are in a fight for freedom,” she said in a video posted to her Facebook account Wednesday after noting that she had gotten congratulatory calls from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and other conservative House Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, who doubles as Colorado’s GOP chairman.
Trump’s embrace of Boebert marks a shift from his earlier, repeated expressions of support for Tipton, who joined the president on stage at a February rally in Colorado Springs.
Within days of her announcing her candidacy in December, Trump tweeted his “complete and total endorsement” of Tipton, a co-chair of his state re-election campaign, calling him a “great supporter of the #MAGA agenda.” Trump repeated the endorsement in another tweet the day before the primary.
Undaunted, Boebert claimed that she was the stronger Trump supporter and touted her endorsement by the Boots on the Ground Bikers for Trump.
After Tipton petitioned into the primary, Boebert scored top line on the primary ballot with a win at the virtual congressional district assembly. On primary election night, she carried 12 of the district's 29 counties but won by a large enough margin — 30 percentage points — in the largest, Mesa County, to account for her roughly 9,000-vote lead district-wide.
“As a Christian I see this victory being a sign and a wonder to many people,” Boebert told Colorado Politics. “I’m not supposed to win. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have the typical experience or so-called qualifications.”
She added that her favorite Scripture verse has always been Isaiah 8:18 — “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion” — and said she’s “seeing the phrase ‘signs and wonders’ much differently than I have in the past.”
Out of the gate, Democrats pounced on remarks Boebert made in an online interview with Ann Vandersteel, when Boebert responded favorably to the Steel Truth host’s question about the QAnon movement. The elaborate conspiracy theory involves Trump waging a secret fight against the “deep state” and a liberal child-sex trafficking ring that includes leading Democrats and Hollywood stars.
“That’s more my mom’s thing; she’s a little fringe,” Boebert told Vandersteel, before adding: “Everything I’ve heard about Q, I hope that this is real, because it only means America is getting stronger and better and people are returning to conservative values, and that’s what I am for.”
She told Colorado Politics that she’d only had a “glancing acquaintance” with QAnon — basically, her mom had mentioned it to her without going into detail a couple times — and shrugged off Democrats’ attempts to link her to it.
“I don’t follow the Q movement. I know very little of it,” she said. “I have plenty of my own reality to focus on right now.”
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos on Tuesday called on Republicans to “immediately disavow Lauren Boebert and her extremist, dangerous conspiracy theories,” but her GOP counterpart, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Emmer, said the next day that Boebert has the group’s support.
“This is a Republican seat and will remain a Republican seat,” he said.
The district, which covers most of the Western Slope, Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley, leans Republican, and Trump carried it in 2016 by 12 percentage points.