As she barnstormed across the 3rd Congressional District last year with a pistol on her hip and a steady stream of Democrat-aimed insults rolling off her tongue, Lauren Boebert promised to make a big, loud splash in the nation’s capital if voters sent her to Congress.
Colorado’s newest U.S. representative has delivered on that – in spades – and in just one week.
Since she was sworn in on Jan. 3, Boebert has been the focus of more ink and air time than she ever racked up at Shooters Grill, her Rifle restaurant where she first took her star turn in the media for serving burgers and fries with a holstered gun and having all her waitresses do the same.
The high school dropout with a history of minor run-ins with the law has used her first tumultuous week in office to cement her far-right and extremist credentials while also setting off a widespread roar of criticism that includes calls and petitions for her resignation, her expulsion from Congress and her prosecution for alleged “sedition” connected to the riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.
Critics now include fellow congressional representatives — including Republicans — and Democratic elected officials throughout the 3rd District.
Anti-Boebert letters-to-the-editor have been piling up in newspapers across the district. Letter writers have called her “a nut job,” “a national security risk,” “a disgrace,” “a domestic terrorist” and “the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to Colorado.”
Protests have occurred at all of her Colorado offices. On Twitter, #ResignBoebert has gone viral as opponents call for her immediate resignation, along with that of her fellow Colorado Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, for “helping to incite last week’s deadly violence.”
Across the district she represents, where her constituents are struggling with the burdens of the pandemic and with perennial issues related to the land and water, residents either want to give a brand new congresswoman a break and time to get her feet on the ground in D.C. or they want her expelled now because they view her as dangerous and worthless when it comes to representing their interests.
Controversy started on Day One
The controversy began on Boebert’s first day in office, when she released a slick, campaign-fundraising video that starts with her holstering her Glock and then shows her striding down streets and alleys in Washington D.C. – a city that bans the open carrying of guns and requires concealed-carry permits. The video came after she had vowed to carry her weapon in the halls of Congress and convinced a cadre of Republicans to push for a change allowing for that.
Two days later, as the Electoral College votes were set to be tallied and a marauding mob, whipped up by President Trump’s speech at a “Stop the Steal” rally, broke into the Capitol, defaced and damaged the building, defecated in the corridors and searched menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Boebert was criticized for her controversial behavior.
The morning before the mob attack, Boebert tweeted “Today is 1776,” referring to the American revolution. Then, she made her debut on the House floor with a shouted, hand-waving tirade about why she was voting to overturn the results of the presidential election and try to keep President Trump in office. She referred to her need to support her constituents who were in the crowd outside.
“I have constituents outside this building right now! I promised my voters to be their voice! ”
During the siege on the Capitol, Boebert live-tweeted that Pelosi had been removed from the chamber, which some critics took to be a message to the mobs.
In the wake of the riot, Boebert issued a lengthy news release this week in which she defiantly asserted that Democrats and “Hollywood elites,” including Robert Deniro [sic], Madonna and Johnny Depp had called for mob violence on other occasions, including during the BLM demonstrations this summer.
Boebert wrote that Democrats act as if “the bravery or upholding the Constitutional oath is criminal, which says a whole lot more about them than it does about me or any other Republican.”
“Their hypocrisy is on full display with talks of impeachment, censure, and other ways to punish Republicans for false accusations of inciting the types of violence they have so frequently and transparently supported in the past,” her statement read.
On Tuesday, Twitter labeled as misleading a tweet by Boebert that falsely accused the Democratic National Committee of rigging elections — but not before she railed about the crackdowns on misinformation on Twitter, Facebook and Parler. Her complaints came two days after she blocked a number of her critics on her own Twitter account.
Her latest controversial action in a week of snowballing controversy came when she refused to open her bag for Capitol police after it set off a metal detector Tuesday evening as she was attempting to enter the House chambers.
Criticism is coming fast and furious
Across the 28 Western Slope and southern Colorado counties that she represents, opinions about Boebert’s incendiary beginnings in Congress are flying as fast and furious as Boebert’s storm of anti-Democrat, pro-fundamentalist-religion and pro-Second Amendment tweets.
“She is a loose cannon,” said Democrat Bruce Bartleson, a retired Western State University geology professor who lives in Gunnison. “She ran as a law-and-order candidate, but she has no respect for the law.”
“I think she is doing pretty good at standing her ground. She is a strong little fighter,” said Vicki Cook, a Republican retiree from Hotchkiss who added that those criticizing Boebert are “full of baloney.”
Sam Rushing, a veteran and retired Ouray businessman who is a 30-year fixture on the Ouray Mountain Rescue Team, called Boebert “just a dangerous person.”
“I have been in the service. I know what sedition is,” the longtime Democrat said. “This has gotten a lot more serious than her parading around the capitol with her sidearm.”
In Durango, where Boebert opponents took to a park with signs last weekend, Benjamin Waddell, a 38-year-old criminology professor at Fort Lewis College, was among them. He grew up in the conservative western Colorado ranching town of Norwood but said he felt compelled to grab a portable microphone and speak up about Boebert.
“What draws me into the streets is a genuine fear that Representative Boebert pulls us away from the American ideal,” Waddell, a Democrat, said.
He cited her “unwillingness to support stimulus support” for her constituents who are reeling from the effects of the pandemic as being the opposite of what the area she represents needs.
He said he believes she was put in office by voters who feel like mainstream politicians had left them behind, but that Boebert will prove to be ineffective in representing them because “she is not capable of reaching across the aisle.”
He doesn’t support expulsion for Boebert. He thinks it is too much of a long shot.
Instead, he said Colorado’s 3rd District needs to take a page from the playbook in Georgia, where far-right candidates were recently bested by Democrats who reached out to disenfranchised voters. He said the district needs to come up with good candidates to run against Boebert in 2022.
Claudette Konola was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for a Colorado Senate seat in 2014 and has continued as a civil rights and environmental activist as a registered Independent in Mesa County. She has been a strong critic of Boebert since she first announced her candidacy.
“She announced from the very beginning what kind of representative she was going to be.”
“She is immature. She is irresponsible. She is uneducated. She is in over her head. She is poorly informed, and she does not qualify to represent us,” Konola said. “I wish she would resign or be found guilty of sedition.”
Boebert supporters were not as forthcoming with their opinions, either not returning phone calls, emails and Facebook messages, or declining to comment.
Edward Wilks, a friend and adviser of Boebert’s who owns a gun shop near Boebert’s Shooters Grill, said he would not comment because he didn’t like how The Sun had characterized a group he belongs to in a past article. Wilks is a member of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary organization made up of current and former law enforcement officials and military veterans. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists it as one of the largest radical anti-government groups in the country.
Wilks and fellow Oath Keepers have come out in the past to serve as protection for Boebert during her campaign and reportedly were part of the crowd that turned into the mob storming the Capitol.
Boebert’s mother, Shawn Bentz, did not respond to a Facebook message asking for comment about her daughter’s first week in office. Bentz, who is an open supporter of QAnon on social media, went to Washington with Boebert for her swearing in ceremony. She was pictured with Boebert at that ceremony and mentioned that she had gone on detailed tours of the Capitol buildings with her daughter. She was staying with Boebert in her D.C. apartment that first week, according to her social media posts.
Prior to the Jan. 6 riot, using the Twitter name Shawna Roberts-Bentz, she retweeted White House political advisor Dan Scavino: “See you soon PATRIOTS.”
Days after the Capitol riots she posted — and later deleted — a link to a violent, dystopian YouTube video portraying the country’s military might under Trump, from rifles to nuclear bombs, and asserting that the military would stand with the president to keep him in office.
“Just when y’all thought My President was hiding out…He will not give up on us! In The End We Win!!” Bentz wrote after first commenting about the post: “If That Ain’t America I Will Kiss Your Ass!!!”
Bentz wiped all QAnon-related and extremist-supporting posts from her public Facebook page, leaving only family photos, medical fundraisers and links to her daughter’s official posts.
When Boebert was confronted during her campaign about expressing support for QAnon in a recorded interview, she backed off that statement and said that it was “more my mother’s thing.”
But her links to QAnon and other far-right extremist and racists groups persist on the internet with photos of her surrounded by bikers and armed supporters displaying patches and logos of these groups. In some, the heavily armed men behind her, are flashing a white-supremacist hand signal.
Some of her fellow congressional representatives are now voicing their beliefs that she is a proponent of extremism and asking for an investigation into any part she might have played in the Jan 6 riot. Nearly 70 elected officials in her district, all of them Democrats or unaffiliated with any political party, or serving in a nonpartian position, have sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for an investigation of Boebert’s alleged ties to white supremacist groups.
Mainstream issues in the district are worrisome, too
While Boebert makes waves for that extremism, her more mainstream constituents back home are expressing fears that a district beset by water woes, drought, a scarcity of COVID-19 vaccines, food pantry shortages and other pandemic-related economic problems will not have any representation from a congresswoman who appears to be focused only on gun rights and on vows to protect their “freedom.”
Cindy Cyphers, a Grand Junction retiree and Democratic activist, said she hasn’t seen any movement on Boebert’s part to actually start learning the job of being a U.S. congresswoman. “It’s Second Amendment over and over and over with her,” Cyphers said. “She has shown absolutely no interest in governing. There has not been one word out of her mouth about water or things that are important to our district.”
Cyphers said the Second Amendment and MAGA grandstanding needs to stop. “She needs to get to work.”
In Hotchkiss, Cook said she thinks 3rd District residents need to give Boebert time to grow into her new role.
“I think she will learn and improve with time. We can’t know everything up front,” Cook said. “I think if the issues are put before her, she will learn about them.”
Rushing, who said he moved to Colorado from his Mississippi Delta birthplace because he wanted to raise a family in a progressive state, said he worries because Boebert has never said that she plans to represent all the people in her district. Thus far, he said, she is only representing the extremists, and the extremists are listening to her.
“I have always been an optimist,” he said. “But I have big fears about this.”