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Lauren Boebert’s extremely tight race in a safe Republican district, explained

Boebert could lose her Colorado House race. It would be a stunning upset.

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert arrives to the US Capitol for a House vote on March 18.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Conservative firebrand Rep. Lauren Boebert could be on the verge of losing her race in what would be the most stunning congressional upset of the cycle.

Boebert and her Democratic opponent Adam Frisch were virtually tied Friday afternoon in the House race for Colorado’s Third District, which includes much of the western half of the state. The Associated Press estimates about 1 percent of the votes are left to count.

The closeness of the race is surprising given the district’s Republican lean and polling that heavily favored Boebert ahead of Election Day. A loss — or even a narrow win — would signal that many voters are fed up with the controversy and antics that Boebert has trafficked in since taking office, and would be a notable rebuke of one of former President Donald Trump’s most vocal and bombastic backers in Congress. It also would nod to concerns expressed by her constituents — some of whom have said that she seems to care more about her celebrity than addressing issues in the district, including funding for infrastructure, which would bolster steel jobs in the area.

During her tenure in the House, Boebert, previously a gun rights activist, has spent much of her time on attention-grabbing stunts including Islamophobic comments targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar, attempts to carry a gun throughout the Capitol, and heckling President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address. She’s faced scrutiny for these actions as well as for controversial social media posts advancing false and dangerous theories suggesting that LGBTQ people “groom” children.

Frisch, a moderate businessman and former Aspen city council member, has attempted to appeal to voters tired of what he described as the “angertainment” Boebert provides. He’s also leaned into qualms constituents have had about the focus Boebert has put on her own image versus delivering for the district. A Frisch win would be a surprising pick-up for Democrats in a place that Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political analysis firm, has rated as Solid Republican.

His ability to unseat a high-profile and far-right lawmaker would also signal that there are still limits to the controversial approach that Boebert, and others such as former Rep. Madison Cawthorn, have taken to politics.

How Boebert’s race got so close

Polling up until this point had Boebert as the likely winner: FiveThirtyEight’s predictive model, for example, gave Frisch a 3 in 100 chance of taking the district.

And while it’s possible that Boebert could manage a victory, the unexpected tightness of this election suggests that she’s facing significant backlash from certain voters since getting elected just two years ago.

In that timeframe, Boebert has fielded pushback from her constituents for the stunts she’s pulled as well as her ultra-conservative approach to policy. Boebert has supported hardline immigration policies that would bring back the “remain in Mexico” program as well as proposals to preserve expansive gun rights. She’s also garnered criticism for evangelizing QAnon conspiracy theories on social media, sharing updates about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection, and calling for a Christian takeover of government. Plus, certain residents haven’t been satisfied with how responsive she is to their day-to-day policy needs.

Frisch, Boebert’s centrist Democratic opponent, has argued that Boebert’s interest in elevating her own profile as a social media influencer and television commentator surpasses her commitment to representing the district — calling out the fact that none of the bills she’s sponsored have passed. He’s also sought to sway Republican voters by stressing that he’d work across the aisle if he were elected and by promising to join a bipartisan group of lawmakers known as the Problem Solvers Caucus.

“I have this calm belief that that 40 percent of the Republican Party wants their party back,” Frisch has said.

This race could potentially take longer to settle, depending on if Boebert requests a recount. In Colorado, a recount is automatically triggered if candidates are within 0.5 percentage points of one another, and any candidate can request one if the margin is bigger than that.

A Boebert loss would add to Trump’s not-so-great election week

If Boebert loses, it would deal another blow to Trump this week.

Already, several of the high-profile candidates he’s backed, including Pennsylvania Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and House candidates Bo Hines and John Gibbs have lost their elections. Some of his picks, including Ohio Senate candidate and author J.D. Vance, were successful, but the overall picture hasn’t necessarily been a strong one for Trump. That’s been the case even as some of his potential 2024 rivals — like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) — had solid showings themselves.

Boebert’s struggles follow those of Cawthorn earlier this year. Much like Boebert, Cawthorn drew attention for his far-right views and a number of high-profile scandals, including trying to carry a firearm through airport security and claiming that colleagues had invited him to an orgy. He ultimately lost his primary because members of his own party turned against him and backed an alternative candidate.

If Boebert is defeated, that would be the latest development to signal that Trump’s support can only go so far, and that many voters aren’t willing to support contentious lawmakers who don’t deliver results.

Update, November 11, 2:40 pm: This story was originally published on November 9 and has been updated to reflect the most recent vote tallies.

Correction, November 9, 6:27 pm: A previous headline that appeared in search results erroneously said Boebert lost her race. The votes are still being counted.

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