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Adam Frisch addresses a crowd while holding a microphone
Adam Frisch, the Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, speaks to the election night party at Belly Up downtown Aspen on Election Day. (Kelsey Brunner, Special to The Colorado Sun)

ASPEN — Adam Frisch defied political consensus when he nearly unseated Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert last year in her GOP-stronghold district. In some ways, however, the Democrat’s 2024 rematch with the controversial Western Slope congresswoman may be tougher.

That’s because Frisch’s near-win highlighted Boebert’s vulnerabilities, both to the congresswoman and to national Republicans, who are desperate to hold onto their majority in the U.S. House.

More attention on the race is a double-edged sword for Frisch: It means more money and focus from Democratic and Republican groups alike that mostly ignored the 2022 race in the 3rd Congressional District because they assumed Boebert would cruise to victory.

“The surprise factor is gone,” Frisch said in an interview with The Colorado Sun last week in Aspen. “There’s going to be a lot more money, a lot more focus on the race.”

The irony is Frisch worked hard to convince people that Boebert was vulnerable and that he could beat her in 2022, even though the 3rd District hadn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. House since 2010 and voter registration and election trends in the district were wildly in Republicans’ favor

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“I didn’t want to make it a surprise,” he said. “I tried really hard not to be the surprise.”

Colorado’s 3rd District, which spans the Western Slope into Pueblo and the southeastern corner of the state, will be one of the top attention-getting U.S. House races in the nation next year after Frisch came within 550 votes of unseating Boebert last year, making her one of the most endangered Republican incumbents despite the district’s GOP lean. The Boebert-Frisch rematch will happen during a presidential election year, which traditionally means higher voter engagement and turnout.

“Republicans will not be caught by surprise. Boebert will not be caught by surprise,” said Eric Sondermann, a Denver-based political analyst. “The time to defeat an incumbent congressperson is in their first reelection, before they get too entrenched. As a general rule incumbents don’t get more vulnerable as time goes on. They get less vulnerable.”

Boebert is an exception to that rule. She unseated five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, in the 2020 GOP primary in the 3rd District.

Ryan Lynch, a Republican campaign operative in Colorado, said most national GOP groups viewed Boebert’s 2022 reelection bid through a telescope.

“(They were) just making sure it didn’t get close enough to cause any damage,” he said, “whereas this cycle, it will be viewed from a microscope.”

Lynch said it will be “much harder” for Frisch to win in 2024. Republicans will dig deep into his past and “anything that can be used against him will be used against him,” whereas Boebert is well known by voters, for better or worse.

“I’m not sure there is anything at this point that Lauren Boebert could say or do that would shock anyone,” Lynch said. “She’s pretty well defined within the eyes of the voting public and the district. She could do herself favors by really hunkering down and focusing on important policy instead of just 15-second sound bites that rile up her base. Those aren’t going to win her new votes.”

Boebert’s congressional office didn’t respond to an interview request. The congresswoman told The Associated Press earlier this year that her slim victory “opened my eyes to another chance to do everything that I’ve been promising to do” by being “more focused on delivering the policies I ran on than owning the left.”

Still, she told the AP, “I’m still going to be me.”

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks during a House Committee on Oversight and Accountability hearing on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Frisch, meanwhile, said there are a few things working in his favor this time around, including that he’s getting started early (he didn’t announce his 2022 campaign until February of that year). He also has better name recognition in the district and a head start on fundraising. Since announcing his 2024 bid in February, Frisch said he’s already raised nearly $1 million.

Boebert had nearly $800,000 in her campaign’s bank account to end 2022. The next Federal Elections Commission campaign finance reports are due in mid April.

Frisch feels confident he can win in 2024 because the fundamental message of his campaign hasn’t changed: “People want the crazy to stop.”

Alvina Vasquez, a Democratic political consultant who helped Frisch with his 2022 campaign, said Frisch will have nearly two years to get his message out to voters. She remembers struggling to persuade people to pay attention to his first attempt to unseat Boebert. 

“It was difficult,” she said. “It was a long shot is was what everybody was anticipating.”

Frisch is not the only Democrat seeking to unseat Boebert in 2024. Debby Burnett, a Gunnison veterinarian, has already tossed her hat into the ring after failing to make the Democratic primary ballot in 2022.

Frisch believes that anyone who wants to run should, but said he’s confident he will be the Democratic nominee in the 3rd District next year. There are signs Democrats are coalescing around him, including super PAC commitments and other former primary challengers, like Pueblo activist Sol Sandoval, deciding not to run again. 

Frisch traveled to Washington, D.C., when it was unclear who would win the 2022 race in the 3rd District, making inroads with national Democrats as he attended new-lawmaker orientation events so that he would be prepared if he pulled off a victory.

Adam Frisch of Aspen, Colo., center, the Democrat who opposed Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, walks with his son Felix Frisch, left, and wife Katy Frisch, right, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Nov. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Some more-liberal Democrats in Colorado would like to see a candidate who is more aligned with their values run against Boebert, whereas Frisch is more moderate on issues like oil and gas (he believes fossil fuels will be part of the nation’s energy portfolio for years to come) and student loan debt relief (he opposed President Joe Biden’s loan forgiveness plan).

“People need to realize the district is 23% Democratic,” he said. “I don’t see how running a super progressive person would work. I just think this district is mainstream moderate, regardless if it’s a Democrat or Republican.”

As of March 1, 30% of active, registered voters in the 3rd District were Republicans while 44% were unaffiliated. 

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After his loss, Frisch said many voters reached out to him and said they left the 3rd District race blank on their ballot, including Republicans who didn’t like Boebert but didn’t think a Democrat could win, as well as liberal Democrats, who didn’t want to support a moderate candidate and who also didn’t think Frisch could win.

“The choice is not Adam, AOC and Boebert,” he said, referring to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. “It’s Boebert and myself. And that’s the choices that I wish more people would have realized.”

The Democratic primary in the 3rd District will be in spring 2024. 

Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...