The race between U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger Adam Frisch appeared to be headed to a recount Thursday after the Republican's lead narrowed through the day as most counties in Colorado's largely rural 3rd Congressional District posted final, unofficial vote totals.
Although a recount looked to be a certainty — delaying official results until mid-December — recounts in Colorado elections in recent decades have never swung the outcome as far as Frisch would need to prevail in the congressional race, making it equally likely that Boebert will have won reelection to a second term.
Boebert declared victory on Twitter Thursday night, though the Associated Press declared the race too close to call late Thursday and will await the results of a potential recount before calling the race.
We won! I am so thankful for all of your support and I am so proud to be your Representative! pic.twitter.com/4gnmflotiU— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) November 18, 2022
“Come January, you can be certain of two things,” Boebert said in a video with the U.S. Capitol in the background. “I will be sworn in for my second term as your congresswoman and Republicans can finally turn Pelosi's house back into the People's House.”
With 26 of the sprawling district's 27 counties reporting results by late Thursday, the GOP incumbent held a 551-vote lead over Frisch, a wealthy businessman and former Aspen city councilman, for the Republican-leaning seat — well within the current 818-vote margin required to trigger a mandatory recount.
The county that had yet to report had fewer than 200 ballots left to tabulate, officials said, making it mathematically impossible for Frisch to take the lead with the remaining uncounted ballots.
The race's razor-thin margin — a difference of just over 0.16% out of nearly 327,000 votes — caught nearly everyone by surprise.
While national election forecasters rated the seat as solidly Republican, Frisch released internal polling last month that showed the race against Colorado's most prominent Republican elected official in a statistical dead heat. Portraying himself as a centrist, the wealthy businessman predicted that voters had grown tired of Boebert's combative political style, which he called an "angertainment" approach.
A vocal advocate for the Second Amendment and an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, Boebert rocketed to fame last cycle when she defeated former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in the GOP primary before winning the 2020 general election by about 6 percentage points.
Spokespeople for the Boebert and Frisch campaigns declined to comment late Thursday.
Following redistricting, the 3rd CD's partisan lean shifted slightly further to the right, favoring Republican candidates by about 9 percentage points in recent statewide elections.
The district covers most of the Western Slope and much of Southern Colorado, including Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley.
Election officials paused the count late last week to await the arrival of ballots from military and overseas voters, which were counted if they arrived before midnight Wednesday night and were postmarked by the time polls closed on Nov. 8.
Voters faced the same deadline to "cure" ballots that were initially rejected, mostly due to voters failing to sign the outside of ballot envelopes. With assists from national campaign committees and both state parties, the Boebert and Frisch campaigns spent the last week in frantic efforts encouraging voters with curable ballots to fill out the required forms.
Through 7:30 p.m. Thursday, clerks posted updated results reflecting just over 3,500 additional ballots, including a small number that clerks set aside last week to ensure that votes cast in cured ballots and ballots from military and overseas voters remain anonymous.
As totals posted through the day, Boebert saw her lead reduced by more than half, sending the race into automatic recount territory.
In Colorado, a recount is mandatory if the margin between the two top-finishers is 0.5% or less of the leading candidate's vote total.
According to the Colorado Secretary of State's Office, the final determination to conduct a recount won't be made until after counties perform an audit of the results and complete an election cavass, yielding final, official results. This year, that has to happen by Nov. 30.
A recount in the race must be completed by Dec. 13.
In August, county clerks conducted a statewide recount in Colorado's Republican primary for secretary of state after second-place finisher Tina Peters requested one and agreed to pay for it, since she trailed the primary's winner, Pam Anderson, by about 14 percentage points, far outside the margin that would have triggered an automatic recount.
In that recount, Anderson and Peters each gained 13 votes, and third-place finisher Mike O'Donnell gained 11 votes, leaving the outcome unchanged.
Editor's note: This developing story has been updated.