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December 04, 2023 12:09 PM UTC

Phil Anschutz's Gazette Endorses Boebert's Primary Opponent

  • by: Colorado Pols

We told you this was coming.

Rep. Lauren Boebert on her way out of the Buell Theater on September 10th.

Early last month, we took note of a story in the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner, a news site owned by Colorado billionaire and major Republican funder Phil Anschutz along with local newspapers including the Colorado Springs Gazette, critically assessing the damage done to vexatiously vulnerable GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert by the “Beetlebert” incident at Denver’s Buell Theater in September, and wondering aloud whether “it’s time to consider an alternative to Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) as she reels from a high-profile scandal and a narrow reelection bid win last year.” The frankness of this article’s criticism of Boebert raised the question of whether Colorado’s biggest GOP donor had finally had enough of Boebert’s high-bombast low-deliverable leadership style, which had already proved costly to defend in the 2022 elections.

Yesterday, the editorial board of the Anschutz-owned Colorado Springs Gazette gave us the answer we’ve been waiting for:

To hold District 3, “grassroots” and “establishment” Republicans should unite behind Jeff Hurd in the Republican primary June 25. A Western Slope native and pragmatic conservative, Hurd might represent the only hope for Republicans to keep the seat.

Nominating Hurd, and keeping District 3, has national ramifications. The slim and divided 8-seat House Republican majority is the only thing resisting a left-wing juggernaut in the Washington swamp. Incumbent Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert has little chance of winning, even with her district’s 9-point Republican advantage and the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who polls as the district’s favorite for the White House in 2024.

Boebert has a seemingly intractable image problem, which has manifested in lackluster financial support. She appears divisive at a time when voters want peace… [Pols emphasis]

In order to understand what a massive turnabout this endorsement for Boebert’s Republican primary opponent is, it’s necessary to recall the Gazette’s positively gushing endorsements of Boebert in the 2020 and 2022 elections. In Boebert’s first run for office in 2020, the exuberance of the Gazette’s endorsement was enough to make readers a bit uncomfortable:

If Lauren Boebert lands a job in Congress Nov. 3, she will improve the brand of the Republican Party. [Pols emphasis]

A 33-year-old wife, mother of four and owner of a highly unique business, Boebert drew media intrigue even before she shocked the political establishment by defeating five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary. In addition to movie star looks, she exudes passion for freedom, capitalism and the United States that makes the socialist, anti-America sentiment of AOC + three look gloomy and sad.

Two years of Boebert’s parade of scandal and wedge-issue spectacle later, the Gazette’s enthusiasm for Boebert hadn’t dimmed:

Most of Colorado’s congressional delegation subsists in a state of obscurity. Then there’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, who breaks the mold.

Though her mildly bombastic style keeps conventional Republicans on edge, this Western Slope business entrepreneur stands as Colorado’s first nationally relevant politician since the era of Sens. Bill Armstrong and Gary Hart, and Gov. Dick Lamm in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s.

Gazillionaire Phil Anschutz, owner of the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Once you’ve finished throwing up in your mouth a little over this absurd equating of Boebert with elder statesman of generations past in Colorado, two questions arise: first, what exactly transformed Boebert from a public figure worthy of North Korean-style hagiography into a liability to be taken out with the garbage on primary day? And second, what real impact might the Gazette’s endorsement delivered six months before the primary have on the outcome?

The first question is easier to answer, considering that the Republican “establishment” in Colorado of which Anschutz is as good a representative as any has long adopted a policy of tolerating Lauren Boebert more than they became loyal to her. After Boebert caught former Rep. Scott Tipton’s consultants napping and knocked Tipton out of office in the 2020 primary, Republicans deferred to Boebert’s large base of support outside the district cultivated on social media, and didn’t complain–at least publicly–when Boebert failed to channel her high profile into supporting Republican candidates above and below her on the ticket in 2022.

While Republicans were loath to challenge Boebert while she attracted daily headlines for grandstanding on red-meat issues like abortion and impeaching Joe Biden no matter what the facts say, when the calamitous personal morality scandal of “Beetlebert” captured the world’s attention, the opening appeared for Republican insiders who never liked Boebert to begin with to publicly come out against her. “Beetlebert” was the decisive factor for the growing number of local officials in Boebert’s district who have endorsed Boebert’s opponent ahead of the primary.

Which leads to the second question: how much does the Gazette’s spurning of Boebert really matter to the June 25th CD-3 primary? For all the excitement the Gazette’s endorsement has generated in the last 24 hours, the answer to this question is less clear. The significance of this endorsement is not the Gazette’s editorial influence in Boebert’s district, but the fact that this editorial board is generally considered to reflect the opinion of the largest GOP donor in the state. The problem is, Boebert has never counted on Anschutz and the Colorado GOP’s corporate wing for support, limiting the damage they can do by withholding it. Beyond that, it’s a real question whether this endorsement, or for that matter any endorsement, is enough to dislodge Boebert’s grassroots support in a Republican primary.

If Boebert prevails in the GOP primary next June, and history still points to this as the most likely outcome, it’s because GOP primary voters in Boebert’s district don’t care what some rich guy in the flatlands thinks. If Republicans had truly wanted to oust Boebert before “Beetlebert,” there were stronger candidates who could have been tapped. The biggest problem Boebert’s intraparty detractors have despite all the metaphorical ammunition she’s given them is an alternative candidate no one has “Hurd” of.

What Democrats want most is what Republicans not named Lauren Boebert want least: Boebert limping into the general election battered on both sides.

This endorsement may make it harder for Boebert to win, but it’s the GOP “establishment” who has more to lose.


4 thoughts on “Phil Anschutz’s Gazette Endorses Boebert’s Primary Opponent

  1. Well, Wayne stabbed her with his steely knife, but I'm not so sure he killed the beast. Except to the extent that the Gazette is influential in Pueblo County, much of the CD-3 GOP primary electorate is still located in BoBo Territory, and I'd say it remains to be seen if Hurd's Grand Junction connections really translate into a primary critical mass in Mesa County. Hurd might still win but I wouldn't count the Mistress of the Opera out quite yet. 

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