Although his advantage narrowed to only a few hundred votes by the time all the ballots were counted, former Aspen City Councilman Adam Frisch maintained the lead he had over Pueblo activist Sol Sandoval on primary night, winning the Democratic nomination to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, according to final, unofficial vote totals posted late Friday by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office.
With just over 42.4% of the vote to Sandoval's 41.9%, Frisch finished 290 votes ahead out of more than 60,000 votes cast in the primary, though the slim margin isn't tight enough to trigger an automatic recount under Colorado statute. First-time candiate Alex Walker received 15.7% of the vote
Sandoval congratulated her primary rival and pledged to support his bid to deny Boebert a second term representing the Republican-leaning 3rd Congressional District, which covers most of the Western Slope and southern Colorado.
“I want to congratulate Adam Frisch on winning the CD3 primary and urge the voters of CD3 to know how important it is to help him win in November," she said in a statement.
The 54-year-old Frisch, who says he drove nearly 2,000 miles across the vast district in the week before ballots were due, told Colorado Politics he welcomes the support of Sandoval and other Democrats who sought the nomination in order to build what he called a "pro-normal, bipartisan coalition" to take on the incumbent
"Voters are looking for someone who’s going to take the job seriously and focus on their district, not on their Twitter feed and what I call the anger-tainment industry," Frisch said, referring to Boebert's reputation for producing a steady stream of vilification aimed at Democrats and some Republicans.
"A lot of people want the circus to stop and want their member of Congress to focus on district needs, not be judged by how many cable news appearance they can book," Frisch added.
The owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Boebert upset five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the GOP primary two years ago and quickly rose to celebrity status among supporters of former President Donald Trump.
She won election in 2020 by about 6 points over former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs Democrat, and easily won the nomination to seek a second term last week, fending off a challenge from state Sen. Don Coram of Montrose, who trailed the incumbent by more than 30 points.
Frisch said those numbers should be warning signs that his opponent is more vulnerable than many assume, adding that other brash, young Republican House members aligned with Boebert won their districts by overwhelming margins.
"None of the other extremists are so electorally weak as Lauren Boebert," Frisch said, noting that Boebert won the 2020 election with 51% of the vote, compared to the 75% share claimed by Georgia's Marjorie Taylor Greene, the 70% received by Arizona's Paul Gosar and the 65% received by Florida's Matt Gaetz. "And at the end of the day, 55% of the people who voted in the primary did not vote for Lauren Boebert."
Frisch added that while he understands his challenge to Boebert will draw national attention — he's planning to visit Washington, D.C., in the coming days — he intends to keep his campaign's focus on the needs of the largely rural district.
"My plan is to focus on water and natural resources and the conservation aspects that have to happen to make sure we have a healthy economy and a healthy planet," he said. "My issues are not going to be about national stuff. I'll be talking to voters about what is in the best interest of CD3, regardless whether they voted for me in the primary or whether they’ll vote for me in the general."
Boebert's campaign didn't respond to a request for comment.
Once the results were final, Sandoval said in a statement that she expects the issues that drove her candidacy will be part of the fall campaign.
"Working families in CD3 deserve someone who listens to them, who represents them, and who is personally impacted by the issues that impact everyday people," she said. "We need to tackle the tough issues that face our district - addressing climate change, protecting our water, affordable housing, student loan debt, and lack of affordable, accessible healthcare, including reproductive healthcare. We need a Representative who unites us so we can build a real future for all of our children."
While Frisch was declared the primary winner on election night and has been campaigning as the nominee since, Sandoval waited until Friday to concede, saying she wanted to be sure every vote was counted after Frisch's margin narrowed as clerks in the district continued counting ballots.
Frisch led Sandoval by around 2,000 votes when the Associated Press called the race hours after polls closed on July 28, but as the tally continued through the week — including ballots from unaffiliated voters that hadn't been processed by election night and mail ballots from military and overseas voters, which had until Wednesday to make it to clerks if they were postmarked by June 28 — his lead had narrowed to roughly 500 votes by July 1.
In addition to ballots still in process, final results include a small number of ballots "cured" by Wednesday's deadline to resolve signature issues and in some cases provide additional information.
Clerks from most of the district's counties didn't update results until late this week, with results from Pueblo County posted Friday afternoon closing the gap still further.
With 100% of precincts reporting, Frisch carried 15 of the district's 27 counties, predominantly in the Western Slope, while Sandoval ran ahead in 11 counties, including Pueblo and others in southern Colorado. The two tied in tiny San Juan County with 38 votes apiece.
While Frisch's roughly 0.5% margin of victory is among the closest in the state this year, it's outside the threshold to trigger an automatic recount under Colorado law. For that to happen, the difference between the top two candidates must be equal to or less than 0.5% of the leading candidate's vote total — not the total number of votes cast in the contest, as is commonly thought.
According to the statutory formula, the margin for a recount in the 3rd District primary would have had to be 128 or fewer votes, less than half of Frisch's 290-vote lead.