The Democrats are circling Lauren Boebert.
Just weeks into her first term — and nearly a year and a half until next year's primary — a veritable cavalcade of candidates is emerging, ready to challenge the freshman Republican whose every tweet sets off tiny explosions in the heads of thousands of Democrats nationwide, at the same time fueling what appears to be a fundraising machine of small-dollar donors for Boebert's likely 2022 run for a second term.
Barely a day goes by without Boebert, who owns a restaurant in Rifle where the waitresses are armed, generating an outraged headline somewhere.
The outspoken Second Amendment advocate has garnered coverage for everything from a video declaring she planned to pack heat while strolling around Capital Hill in Washington, D.C., to getting in a Twitter feud with gun-control activist David Hogg, a student three years ago at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
On Feb. 18, Boebert set social media ablaze when she appeared for a remote hearing of the House Natural Resources Committee in front of a pile of guns stacked on bookshelves to denounce the chairman's plans to ban firearms from committee hearings.
Boebert, the Gun Owners of America tweeted, "gave a POWERFUL speech defending the right to keep and bear arms when it was challenged by a committee chair. Gun owners are lucky to have Lauren in Congress!"
From across the aisle, Aurora Democrat Jason Crow, a decorated Army Ranger, tweeted a photo of a gun safe with a stern message attached, in response to a story about Boebert's zoom background and committee testimony.
"Let's call this what it is — a political stunt," Crow said. "I never stacked guns on a bookshelf when at war, let alone on a Zoom in my living room. Unless you're on patrol in Afghanistan, this is the right way to store a gun."
Meanwhile, national Democrats are seeing if they can make Georgia Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene the face of the House GOP after the freshman lawmaker survived an attempt by fellow House Republicans to deal with news that she once called for the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and theorized that Jewish space lasers were behind devastating California wildfires, among other unsettling revelations.
Instead of disciplining Greene, she was reportedly greeted with a standing ovation at the closed-door caucus meeting, though the Democratic majority in the House later stripped her of committee assignments.
Roll Call reported his week that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was touting a poll that found more Americans view Greene as representative of Republicans than Wyoming's Liz Cheney, the No. 3 House Republican who has been criticized by her own party for backing then-President Donald Trump's impeachment.
“We will continue to remind voters that Marjorie Taylor Greene and violent, dangerous views like hers have infected her entire party,” Christine Bennett, a DCCC spokeswoman, told Roll Call.
Think of Boebert as Marjorie Taylor Greene Lite — or it might make more sense to think of Greene as Extra Strength Lauren Boebert.
Either way, Democrats are piling over each other to declare their candidacies in the 3rd Congressional District, even though the district's boundaries ahead of next year's election might not be firm until this fall and possibly even later.
As it stands, the district encompasses most of the Western Slope, the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado and Pueblo County — basically the configuration the district has had since the 1980s, give or take some mountain counties along the Interstate 70 corridor west of Denver.
Colorado stands to gain an eighth congressional district after the 2020 Census, though the latest word is the detailed data might not be available until the end of September, six months later than originally envisioned in state constitutional amendments governing how legislative and congressional lines will be drawn by independent commissions.
That isn't stopping potential challengers from launching bids, with seven at last count filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission, including two new candidates this week — state Rep. Don Valdez, who lives in La Jara and ran for the seat for a while in the last election, and Sol Sandoval, a Pueblo community organizer with a background as a social worker and growing support from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.
Expect more candidates to join the fray in what's sure to be one of the highest-profile and most expensive races in Colorado next year, possibly including state Rep. Dylan Roberts, a young prosecutor from Steamboat Springs.
At this point, the most prominent candidates in the field are probably Valdez, Sandoval and state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who flirted with a run last cycle before rejecting the move. She jumped in the 2022 primary at the beginning of February.
In the aftermath of Boebert's firearms-themed committee appearance this week, Donovan tweeted: "Lauren Boebert spends a lot of time chasing headlines. If she spent just a fraction of that time working to get vaccine supplies to Colorado, we'd all be better off."
As the maxim goes, you know you're over the target if you're taking flak, and so far Donovan has drawn the most fire from Republicans, though it's still quite early and the attacks have been relatively tame.
The day Donovan declared her campaign, the state GOP hauled out Donovan's 2020 endorsement of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ahead of Colorado's presidential primary just over a year ago, in an attempt to saddle the legislator with the East Coast lawmaker and her lefty proposals.
Then this week, Republicans trained their attack on Donovan's residence, trying to drum up umbrage that she lives just outside the current district's boundaries, in the portion of Eagle County that includes Vail and falls in the 2nd Congressional District — which also contains Boulder and Larimer counties in its current configuration.
Donovan for years has lived in Vail, which was in the 3rd Congressional District when she was growing up but got moved into the 2nd CD ahead of the 2002 election and stayed there after the 2012 redistricting process.
She works on a family-owned ranch in Eagle County which straddles the two congressional districts, and Donovan listed a residence in Wolcott, a small town about 20 miles west of Vail that's represented by Boebert, technically placing Donovan in striking distance for a CD3 run. The state senate district she represents also covers land mostly in the 3rd CD.
Colorado Politics reported Donovan didn't live in the current 3rd CD — not when she's at her home in Vail, anyway — weeks ago and asked her about the boundary issue. Donovan said she wasn't concerned about the chances both of her listed residences might be drawn into another district than Boebert's.
"No one knows what the maps will look like," she said. "I'm worried about the people in the 3rd Congressional District now."
It isn't that unusual for Colorado congressional candidates to announce a run in a district despite living in another — and the U.S. Constitution only requires that a representative must be “an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.”
Of course, one party's stellar recruit is the other party's carpet-bagging opportunist.
In the past decade, both major parties nominated congressional candidates who didn't live in their district when they started to run three times, though only one of them — a Democrat — wound up winning and going on to Washington, D.C.
The suburban 6th Congressional District, covering Aurora and points north and south in Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, drew three Democrats who previously lived in Denver — just west of district boundaries — as challengers to entrenched Republican incumbent Mike Coffman. Coffman fended off two of the one-time Denver residents, former state Reps. Joe Miklosi and Andrew Romanoff, in 2012 and 2014, respectively, only to lose his first election in decades to Crow, who moved about a mile east from the former Stapleton neighborhood in northeast Denver into Aurora in 2018.
At the same time Colorado Republicans were blasting Crow for moving into the district, they were nominating Aurora resident Casper Stockham for a second time in the neighboring, Denver-based 1st Congressional District, where he lost again — by a record-setting margin — to Democrat Diana DeGette. Then in the last cycle, the GOP nominated Stockham in yet another district, to challenge Democrat Ed Perlmutter across town in the 7th CD, where he also lost.