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Lauren Boebert, shown here at a July 27, 2020, campaign stop in Pueblo, is the Republican nominee for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District seat. Boebert upset five-term incumbent Scott Tipton in June's primary. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

By Patrick Armijo, The Durango Herald

DURANGO — Lauren Boebert defended herself against the latest attacks that her origin story – growing up collecting welfare in a Democratic household while learning the Republican values of hard work at McDonald’s – is misleading.

In a visit Tuesday to Durango, Boebert, the Republican candidate for 3rd Congressional District, spoke to the Southwest Republican Women at the DoubleTree hotel and gave an interview to The Durango Herald after the talk, which was held in the banquet room with only 50 people allowed in to practice social distancing.

Boebert, of Rifle, faces Diane Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs Democrat and former state lawmaker, in the race for the 3rd District, which covers the Western Slope and stretches into Pueblo.

Earlier in the day, a political action committee called Rural Colorado United sent journalists an email with documents from Garfield County indicating Boebert’s mother was registered Republican when she was growing up and noted she never graduated from Rifle High School.

“We moved here in 2000. And, my mom still voted Democrat. I don’t know about her party affiliation,” Boebert said. “I know that oil and gas was a huge influence. And so there could have been some influence there for her to register something, but my mom and I have spoken nearly every election season, and we’ve always argued about her votes.”

The Colorado Sun obtained voter records showing Boebert’s mother, Shawn Bentz, was at one point a registered Democrat.

Rural Colorado United’s website says it is “taking the fight to congressional candidate Lauren Boebert and her extreme agenda.”

But Boebert brushed off the attacks. “So, I don’t really care what someone’s trying to dig up,” she said.

This story originally appeared in The Durango Herald on Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020.

On her educational background, she said she never claimed to have graduated from Rifle High School, though The Sun found she was listed on the 2004 graduation roster. “I went to my high school,” she said.

“I was a brand-new mom, and I had to make hard decisions on successfully raising my child, or getting to high school biology class. And I chose to take care of my child,” she said.

Boebert said she received her GED — a high school equivalency diploma — after completing a four-course review.

Republican congressional candidate Lauren Boebert appeared with John Pence, second from left at a campaign event July 27, 2020, in Pueblo. Pence is an adviser to President Donald Trump’s campaign. (Mike Sweeney, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“I didn’t go through the typical education course,” she said. “I was a great student. I had great grades. I loved being there, but I was starting my family and had different priorities.”

While in high school, she said she had worked her way up the ranks at McDonald’s, eventually serving as a manager, a job that paid well. If need be and under different circumstances, she added, she might have continued with a rewarding career with the fast-food outlet – a career that would have supported a family.

“Businesses like (McDonald’s) are so vital to communities, and to helping people not only get a start, but to provide jobs that people could actually stay connected to for the rest of their lives,” she said. “And they’re often overlooked, as you know, mediocre or lesser-than, but they’re opportunity-creators, and I’m just so grateful to have had that experience.”

MORE: How Lauren Boebert rose from unknown to a candidate for Congress to someone in Donald Trump’s orbit

Boebert said her hardscrabble upbringing first in Florida, later in the Denver-metro area and finally in Rifle on the Western Slope is exactly the demographic that would add diversity in Congress.

The latest hits on Boebert come after revelations that a restaurant related to her Shooters Grill in Rifle served pork sliders that were responsible for sickening 80 people with diarrhea at the 2017 Rifle Rodeo. There’s also been recent reporting that Boebert had been arrested or issued a summons for several misdemeanors, including disorderly conduct at a country music festival and a dispute about dogs with a neighbor dating back to 2010.

“I know me better than they do,” she said in the interview. “I wasn’t trying to hide anything. I don’t think people understand that. I very well could have sealed my record. But there’s nothing in my past that I’m trying to hide from anyone. I’m not a polished politician trying to pretend to be something I’m not.”

Caleb Cade, communications director for Mitsch Bush’s campaign, said in an email that Boebert’s past arrests indicate “she thinks she’s above the law.”

Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democratic candidate in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, speaks to supporters during a rally in Montrose on Oct. 27, 2018. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

“There’s a pattern of Lauren breaking the law to suit her own interests and a willingness to put public safety at risk – whether it’s holding an indoor fundraiser with no masks in Pitkin County for campaign checks or opening her restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. Not to mention poisoning 80 people with spoiled pork,” Cade said. “People are sick and tired of Washington because of people like Lauren Boebert who think the rules don’t apply to her.”

While she may not have a background typical of people who seek seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Boebert maintains her past is something she can draw on to provide a perspective few in Congress can offer.

“I wish more members of Congress had the life experiences that I’ve had,” she said. “I’m living the American dream. I came up from welfare, standing in line waiting for government cheese, to now running for Congress.”