Colorado State Senator Don Coram speaks about a wide range of Western Slope topics to attendees of The Forum in Montrose Colo., Wednesday morning January 5, 2022. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Republican state Sen. Don Coram announced his primary campaign against U.S. Representative, and Colorado embarrassment, Lauren Boebert last week. Let’s hope that Coram and his allies bring more than his winning smile to the gunfight sure to ensue.

Coram is one of the most jovial, well-liked and respected members of the Colorado legislature. He is thoughtful and open-minded. He combines a conservative disposition with a sharp intellect and willingness to horse-trade for legislation he deems important.

Mario Nicolais

It has made him one of the most effective Republican legislators in Colorado over the past decade. Those characteristics would serve Western Colorado well in Congress.

But the ability to govern and the ability to campaign are separate animals. 

Former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton learned that unfortunate reality when he lost to Boebert in 2020. His decades of service to the Western Slope and 94% Republican voting record did not save him from Boebert’s oratorical barrage. Her loud, boisterous allegations against Tipton sank his political career. It did not matter most had no basis in fact or reality.

For Coram to win, his campaign cannot follow the same path taken by Tipton or Boebert’s general election challenger, the milquetoast Diane Mitsch Bush.

Kicking off his campaign, Coram pledged he would not go negative. He quickly followed it up by taking a shot at Twitter-centric candidates by noting an axiom he should “never argue with a fool. A bystander can’t tell the difference.”

It was a thinly veiled jab at Boebert, who has more Twitter followers than constituents.

Coram will need to continue to employ such folksy derision to fire up 3rd Congressional District voters who could turn out against Boebert in a primary. It is likely that there are just as many anti-Boebert votes as there are pro-Coram. Either one will do.

Of course, Coram will need a lot of help from interested outside actors as well.

For example, he could use some help from organizations that could help turn out unaffiliated voters for the primary election. Traditionally barred from engaging in the partisan selection process, recent changes opened the doors. As an unaffiliated, I took advantage and voted in the Republican primary in 2018 and the Democratic primary in 2020.

With a dearth of races on the Democratic ballot, unaffiliated voters in the 3rd District could be drawn to a Republican showdown. My gut tells me a healthy majority would prefer Coram to the divisive Boebert.

For that matter, Democrats in the district have plenty of time to re-register as unaffiliated and engage in the Republican primary. That type of gamesmanship — dubbed by Rush Limbaugh as “Operation Chaos” when he employed it — is both difficult and viewed with disdain by many. Yet, it may be politically palatable for many Democrats within the district.

After the decennial redistricting process, Democrats’ chances to win the congressional seat were so unappetizing that their best candidate, state Sen. Kerry Donovan, dropped out within weeks of the new maps being released. If Democrats really despise Boebert as much as they claim, Coram would be a welcome upgrade.

But must win the Republican primary first. 

Boebert is certainly more well-situated to win than she was two years ago. She has the power of incumbency and an ever-growing national audience. Redistricting made the seat more Republican. She boasts the blessing of an orange-hued ex-president. She also retains the “energy, enthusiasm, and on-camera charisma” I noted in 2019 and warned would make her a serious challenger to Tipton.

It will take an avalanche of outside money to combat those advantages. But with other members of the Congressional Clown Caucus (e.g. U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz) even more entrenched, Boebert may be the best target for those fed up with their antics.

Coram is the last, best chance for Colorado to move on from its worst-ever congressional embarrassment. For our sake, I hope his campaign and allies make the most of it.

Mario Nicolais is an attorney and columnist who writes on law enforcement, the legal system, health care and public policy. Follow him on Twitter: @MarioNicolaiEsq

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