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U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Garfield County, speaks to supporters during a watch party held at the Warehouse Bar and Restaurant in Grand Junction on Tuesday, November 8, 2022. (William Woody, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert blames her much-closer-than-expected race with Democrat Adam Frisch, a former Aspen city councilman, on turnout levels and a lack of enthusiasm for the GOP’s Colorado candidates for U.S. Senate and governor. 

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Boebert was leading Frisch by about 1,100 votes, or less than 1 percentage point, on Friday afternoon. More results are expected to trickle in through the end of Friday, Nov. 18., the deadline for county clerks to count ballots from military and overseas voters and to accept ballots with signature discrepancies that have been “cured” by voters

The race will likely be too close to call until all of the votes are counted.

“I don’t know if there wasn’t enough enthusiasm for our top ticket candidates for governor and Senate or what happened there,” Boebert told reporters in Washington, D.C., this week, according to The Wall Street Journal, “but there was a lot of shifting in the votes.”

She’s not wrong.

The Colorado Sun analyzed returns and results in Boebert’s 3rd Congressional District to get a better sense of how turnout and enthusiasm for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Joe O’Dea and Republican gubernatorial candidate Heidi Ganahl, who lost their races Tuesday by large margins, may have affected the race.

Here’s what the numbers tell us:

What you should know about the district

The 3rd District spans the Western Slope and stretches into Pueblo and southeast Colorado. It’s made up of 26 counties, as well as a small sliver of Eagle County with about 6,000 voters in the Roaring Fork Valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs. 

The district’s boundaries were redrawn last year as part of Colorado’s once-in-a-decade redistricting process, so keep that in mind when comparing election data in the district from previous election cycles to 2022. For instance, Democratic-leaning Routt County was in the district in 2020, but not in 2022. GOP-leaning Otero and Las Animas counties are now in the district whereas they weren’t two years ago.

The 3rd District leans heavily in Republicans’ favor. It hasn’t elected a Democrat to Congress since 2008.

Boebert won in 2020 by 6 percentage points, and when the district’s boundaries were changed slightly last year it was made only more favorable to the GOP. 

Voters in the new district backed Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s unsuccessful reelection bid by 11 percentage points in 2020. In 2018, a year that was devastating for Colorado Republicans, voters in the district backed Republican Walker Stapleton’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid by 6 percentage points. And former President Donald Trump won in the district by 14 percentage points in 2016 even as he lost statewide.

Republicans also have a voter registration advantage in the 3rd District. About 44% of active registered voters in the district are unaffiliated, while 31% are Republicans and 24% are Democrats. 

There were 493,214 active, registered voters in the new 3rd District as of Nov. 1, 2022. There were 460,556 active, registered voters in the old district on Nov. 1, 2018.

Turnout 

County clerks, as we mentioned above, are still counting ballots. But based on reliable estimates from the Colorado County Clerks Association, a nonpartisan group, there are likely only a few thousand ballots left across the 3rd District to be tabulated through Friday, Nov. 18.

So far, about 323,000 votes have been counted in the race between Boebert and Frisch. That’s more than 100,000 votes fewer than were cast in the district in 2020 (440,604), and down about 5% — or roughly 20,000 — from the number of votes cast in the district in 2018 (341,453). 

(Again, remember that the district’s lines have been redrawn.)

Close ups of Lauren Boebert on the left and Adam Frisch on the right.
Rep. Lauren Boebert and challenger Adam Frisch are seen at their respective election night watch parties.

It makes sense that fewer votes have been cast in 3rd District this year compared to 2020, which was a presidential election year. There’s always higher turnout in years when a presidential race is on the ballot. Additionally, there are about 50,000 fewer active, registered voters in the district now than there were on Nov. 1, 2020, under its old configuration.

In Pueblo County, the largest population center in the 3rd District, there have been about 65,600 ballots counted so far in the race between Boebert and Frisch. In 2018, a similar number were cast in the 3rd District race, at about 67,500 votes cast. 

Mesa County, which tends to support Republican candidates, has counted about 72,000 votes in the 3rd District race so far, a few thousand votes more than in 2018, when 68,762 were cast in the 3rd District race. 

In Garfield, Montrose, Pitkin, Delta, La Plata and Montezuma counties, other larger population counties in the 3rd District, 2022 turnout in the Boebert-Frisch race is on par with or just slightly above what it was in 2018.

Boebert is faring worse in some key 3rd District counties than she did in 2020

While turnout in the 3rd District may not have changed much in key counties since the last midterm election, Boebert is faring much worse — in terms of percentage of votes cast — in some 3rd District counties than she did in 2020. 

Pueblo County, for instance, backed Boebert’s 2020 opponent, former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, by about 200 votes, or less than 1 percentage point. In 2018, Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, whom Boebert beat in the 2020 3rd District GOP primary, won in Pueblo by 2 percentage points over Mitsch Bush. 

This year, Boebert is losing Pueblo County to Frisch by 6 percentage points.

In Mesa County, Tipton won 63% of the vote in 2018. In 2020, Boebert won 62% of the vote there. This year, she is winning 58% so far.

Boebert lost Garfield County — her home county — by 6 percentage points in 2020. This year, she is losing to Frisch by nearly 14 percentage points, or roughly 3,200 votes. 

How Boebert fared compared to the GOP’s 2022 U.S. Senate, governor candidates

The number of votes cast for races at the top of the ticket always tends to be higher than races lower down. That was the case in the 3rd District this year. 

Voters in the 26 whole counties in the district — so not counting the Eagle County voters — cast about 3,500 more ballots in both the gubernatorial and U.S. Senate elections this year.

Still, Boebert picked up more overall support from voters in the district than both O’Dea, the Republican Senate candidate, and Ganahl, the GOP gubernatorial candidate. 

Boebert received about 2,000 more votes than O’Dea and about 7,100 more votes than Ganahl.

Frisch, meanwhile, picked up nearly 5,200 more votes than O’Dea’s opponent, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, but nearly 700 fewer voters than Ganahl’s opponent, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis. 

Here’s a table of ballots counted through Friday morning:

CORRECTION: This story was updated at 2:30 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022, to correct the number of active, registered voters in the 3rd Congressional District as of Nov. 1, 2018. It was 460,556. The story was also updated to clarify the margins by which Republican U.S. Reps. Scott Tipton and Lauren Boebert won in Mesa County in 2018 and 2020.

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — jesse@coloradosun.com Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The...

Sandra Fish

Special to The Colorado Sun Twitter: @fishnette

Elliott Wenzler

Elliott Wenzler is a reporter for the Colorado Sun, covering local politics, the state legislature and other topics. She also assists with The Unaffiliated newsletter. Previously, she was a community reporter...