As the old saying goes, “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” And the story of the ascension to Congress by the most unqualified and unabashedly fringe candidate perhaps in Colorado’s entire history began with the very much unexpected defeat of five-term incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the 2020 CD-3 Republican primary by Rifle restaurant owner Lauren Boebert. Tipton’s decade in office was a model of back-bencher irrelevance, and when Boebert came on the scene with a swashbuckling low-information no-compromise MAGA red meat message with a jolt of youthful energy, the languorous and well-paid consultants running Tipton’s campaign failed to perceive the threat until it was too late.
Boebert’s turn toward politics had accelerated in September 2019, when she appeared at a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in Aurora to heckle in response to O’Rourke’s call to ban assault weapons. A few months later, by-then candidate Boebert defied COVID-19 pandemic public health orders to keep her restaurant open–a frighteningly risky press stunt that in retrospect unfortunately did not hurt her political prospects. In interviews during the GOP primary with far-right conspiracy theorists that came back to haunt Boebert, she professed to be “very familiar” with the “QAnon” conspiracy theory and expressed “hope that this is real.”
Sneaking past Tipton’s somnolent re-election campaign to a ten-point primary victory, Boebert immediately found herself under national scrutiny as part of a contingent of Republican candidates in 2020 who openly supported or otherwise courted support from the “QAnon” movement. Boebert toed an uneven line of not-quite walking back her previous statements, much like now Rep.-elect and “Qaucus Queen” Marjorie Taylor Greene was forced to do in Greene’s much more safely Republican Georgia district. Like Greene, it was never really believable–particularly as Boebert continued to echo “QAnon” talking points to her growing social media following at every opportunity.
As Boebert campaigned in the summer and fall of 2020, it became clear she had no interest in venues which required any kind of rigorous examination of her qualifications or agenda. Boebert dodged debates, skipped meetings with editorial boards not considered fully in the Republican tank, and avoided any other event where she might be made to answer an unscripted question. The few forums in which she tried to participate went very, very badly, and resulted in a wave of editorial boards politely saying the same thing: “this person has absolutely no business in Congress.”
But just like Rep.-elect Marjorie Taylor Greene, Boebert’s Republican-leaning district let everything slide: not a profound lack of qualifications, wacky conspiracy theories, or even having infected dozens of people with clostridium-tainted pork sliders at a hometown rodeo were enough to overcome the hard partisan divide in CD-3. Boebert’s Democratic opponent Diane Mitsch Bush’s staid virtual outreach fell short against Boebert’s willingness to masklessly press the flesh with a full field campaign in the middle of a pandemic. As in races across the country, Republican willingness to “campaign dangerously” certainly gave Boebert another edge in a race that was still substantially closer than Tipton’s victory in 2018.
Since the election, Rep.-elect Boebert has thrown herself fully into the dead-ender struggle by President Donald Trump to reverse the results of the 2020 presidential election. Though not totally unexpected, Boebert has made it troublingly clear that the democratic process responsible for her own election is not sacred, and she has no intention of trying to bridge the post-election divide between fact and fiction as a member of Congress. Boebert’s complete absence of experience or education that would give her the tools to be effective in her position mean that wild grandstands on political hot-buttons will likely define her term in office, at the expense of such sundry responsibilities as serving her constituents.
The 2022 election in CD-3 is subject to a host of as-yet undetermined variables, from redistricting changing the map of Boebert’s district to the resolution of the current political crisis–and what politics looks like after Trump’s deep shock to the system is finally resolved. What we can say is that when the dust settles on the political chaos both Donald Trump and Lauren Boebert owe their success to and thrive on, Boebert’s real test will begin. Whether it’s a Republican primary or a Democratic challenger, Boebert will most assuredly be a target if she won’t, or can’t, effectively represent the interests of voters of her district.
Which as of today looks as likely as it did before Boebert won.