UPDATE: What to expect as the final votes are tallied in the razor-thin race between Lauren Boebert and Adam Frisch. >> READ
GRAND JUNCTION — Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s reelection bid in her GOP-leaning 3rd Congressional District was in doubt as her contest with Democrat Adam Frisch remained too close to call.
Boebert was expected to easily roll over Frisch, but at 9:37 p.m. Thursday, Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman, was trailing the controversial congresswoman by just 1,122 votes. Frisch had 49.8% of the vote compared to Boebert’s 50.1%.
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It was unclear how many more votes were left to count in the 3rd District, which spans the Western Slope and stretches into Pueblo and southeast Colorado. Some Republicans were waiting until the last minute to cast their votes at the recommendation of election conspiracy theorists who said they wanted to prevent tampering with machine counts of ballots.
There was a line of in-person voters and a line of cars at the drop box at Mesa County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday afternoon. Mesa County Elections Director Brandi Bantz said there were more late voters than she has seen in the past.
But some in the GOP were feeling anxious on election night about Boebert’s chances, especially after GOP candidates lost every major statewide race in Colorado by large margins.
“The results tonight are, of course, not what we wanted to see,” Kristi Burton Brown, chairwoman of the Colorado GOP, told a crowd gathered in Greenwood Village for the party’s official watch party.
At Boebert’s election night watch party in Grand Junction, her top supporters were trying to reassure the crowd. State Rep. Matt Soper, a Delta Republican, said “not to worry” and that Boebert would pull out a victory.
(Left) Incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her husband, Jayson, left, pray after greeting supporters after results began to roll in around 7:30 p.m. (Right) Boebert addresses her supporters who stayed to the end of the night. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)
Around 10 p.m., Boebert emerged from a private room at Warehouse 25Sixty-Five, where her watch party was held, and told supporters that she was confident that all the late ballots that remained to be counted would be Republicans who would put her over the top.
“We are still waiting for some big ballots to be counted,” she said from the stage, draped in an American flag. “Mesa County still has 15,000 votes to be counted. We know that Republicans were waiting to vote same day.”
She added: “I am so optimistic. It is absolutely trending in our favor. The New York Times is still saying Congresswoman Lauren Boebert is very likely to win.”
Her speech was followed by a long, revival-meeting-style closing prayer, with supporters standing with one hand over their hearts and the other raised in the air, calling out to her.
The Colorado Sun asked Boebert if she would accept the results of the election if they are not in her favor. She refused to answer before being escorted away by a handler.
Frisch spoke to the his supporters minutes after Boebert finished her speech and said he was sticking around — at the watch party and in the election.
“We assumed the votes would get tighter and the question is: Can we hold on?” he told the energized crowd. “And we’re hoping to hold on and we think we can hold on, but we’ll have to see. It will take a little bit of time.”
Frisch was always the underdog in the 3rd District race, though he maintained throughout the contest that it was possible to defeat Boebert, who has become a main character in the national GOP narrative, grabbing headlines and attention for her sharp tongue and ties to far-right figureheads, including U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida.
Recently, Boebert has shown a willingness to disrupt the bright lines between church and state. In September, she spoke at a conservative Christian conference in Woodland Park, saying, “It’s time for us to position ourselves and rise up and take our place in Christ and influence this nation as we were called to do.”
At Frisch’s election night watch party at BellyUp, a famous concert venue in Aspen, the Democrat was feeling optimistic.
“I just needed to get over the mountain town skepticism, which is all fair, especially coming from this town,” he told The Colorado Sun.
Frisch said he believed there were plenty of voters in the 3rd District who didn’t want to reelect Boebert. “It’s just convincing them that I was the safe enough choice to make them walk across the street, if you will.”
Frisch, who won a three-way Democratic primary in the 3rd District, was endorsed by Boebert’s unsuccessful Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Don Coram. Frisch received little help from national Democrats, who saw the race as unwinnable — and for good reason.
(Left) Young people gather at Adam Frisch’s Aspen election night party at the Belly Up. (Right) Patti Frisch brushes touches her son’s face while watching the updated election results alongside Mel Frisch. (Kelsey Brunner, Special to The Colorado Sun)
The 3rd District was made more favorable to Republicans when its boundaries were redrawn last year during Colorado’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process. The district leans 9 percentage points in Republicans’ favor, according to a nonpartisan analysis of election results in the district from 2016 to 2020.
Republicans also have a voter registration advantage in the 3rd District. Forty-four percent of active registered voters in the district are unaffiliated, while 31% are Republicans and 24% are Democrats.
Boebert raised and spent about $7 million on her reelection bid, compared with the roughly $5 million raised and spent by Frisch, including $715,000 he loaned to his campaign.
County clerks will resume processing ballots on Wednesday.
Colorado Sun correspondents Nancy Lofholm and William Woody reported from Grand Junction. Colorado Sun staff writer Jesse Paul reported from Greenwood Village. Colorado Sun editor David Krause reported from Aspen.