The Boebert Flip

During the Holiday break, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Silt) announced for re-election as expected, but surprisingly from a different place.

Saying, "I will not allow dark money that is directed at destroying me personally to steal this seat. It’s not fair to the 3rd District and the conservatives there who have fought so hard for our victories," Rep. Boebert announced she is leaving her western Colorado congressional seat to seek re-election in eastern Colorado’s 4th CD. The 4th is open because five-term Rep. Ken Buck (R-Windsor) is retiring.

Together, the 3rd and 4th districts form a virtual horseshoe within the state’s confines. The 3rd contains Colorado’s northwest border and the state’s entire western boundary shared with Utah. The 4th encompasses the Centennial State’s northeast border and the entire eastern edge shared with Nebraska and Kansas. Together, the two districts then form Colorado’s southern border co-occupied with New Mexico and Oklahoma.

While Rep. Boebert faces difficult odds in attempting to capture the Republican nomination in an unfamiliar open district, a reconfigured seat that encompasses less than 5% of the constituency that initially elected her in 2020, her chances are likely better than winning the general election in her current CD even though CO-3 is considered a relatively safe Republican seat.

Her move is largely an admission that she would not win re-election in the 3rd District, especially with 2022 Democratic opponent Adam Frisch (D), a former Aspen City Councilman, having already raised just under $8 million through the September 30th campaign finance period. During the same period, Rep. Boebert obtained $2.4 million.

Ms. Boebert, who won with the closest 2022 re-election of any House race in the country (a 546 vote margin from 327,132 cast ballots), severely underperformed in a 3rd District that the FiveThirtyEight data organization rates as R+15. It was clear that she would be the most endangered incumbent seeking re-election in a non-redistricting political situation.

Therefore, her switch to the 4th CD, Colorado’s safest Republican seat (538: R+26; Daily Kos Elections ranks it as the 115th most vulnerable seat in the Republican Conference), not only enhances Rep. Boebert’s ability to remain in Congress but is a major boon to the Republican Party because a new 3rd District GOP candidate will begin at least on an even footing with Mr. Frisch.

Faced with a small US House majority and dwindling due to vacancies, the Republicans could not afford to hand over a seat where Donald Trump defeated Joe Biden by eight percentage points in the previous presidential election. While Mr. Frisch, with well over $4 million remaining in his campaign account, will remain a strong opponent, the political atmospherics now drastically changes, and the eventual new GOP nominee will have a fighting chance to hold the seat.

For Rep. Boebert, the focus now becomes winning the CO-4 Republican primary. With Rep. Buck departing, seven Republicans in addition to Rep. Boebert have already announced their candidacies and another, state House Minority Leader Mike Lynch (R-Wellington), is expected to soon declare. The more prominent candidates in the race are state Rep. Richard Holtorf (R-Washington County), former state Senator and Representative Ted Harvey, Weld County Councilman Trent Leisy, and Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg.

An advantage for Rep. Boebert is that she will be able to bring her entire $1.4 million treasury (according to the September 30th FEC campaign finance report) to her 4th District campaign. This will likely make her the candidate with the most resources, which is an important factor in a crowded partisan primary campaign where a plurality vote is all that is needed to claim the party nomination.

In Colorado, a candidate can qualify for the ballot through the party nominating convention or the petition process. It is possible to qualify via petition even if attending the party convention and failing to obtain the required minimum delegate support figure to secure a ballot line (30% of the congressional district delegate vote). For Colorado congressional candidates, the petition signature requirement is 1,500 or 10% of the total number of voters in the district’s last primary election, whichever is less.

As in most states with a convention process, the delegates lean to the partisan extreme, which should help Rep. Boebert, but parachuting into the rural district from across the state will not. Additionally, it will not be surprising to see Rep. Buck publicly oppose Boebert for making the move, thus forming yet another obstacle for her to overcome. Therefore, while we can expect the Congresswoman to participate in the convention process, she will also be gathering the requisite number of petition signatures in case she can’t reach the 30% threshold.

The Boebert decision to seek re-election in the 4th District is turning Colorado politics upside down. As a result, we can expect a crowded Republican field to soon begin assembling in the 3rd District. The Colorado candidate filing deadline is scheduled for March 19th, so plenty of time remains for the field to develop. The state’s plurality primary election will occur on June 25th.

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