July 21st, 2024

Rep. Lauren Boebert wins GOP primary after switching Colorado districts; Hurd, Crank also notch wins

By Jesse Bedayn, The Associated Press on June 25, 2024.

DENVER (AP) – U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert won Tuesday’s Republican primary in a U.S. House race that she jumped into last year, surviving a scandal over a video of her at a Denver theater and accusations of carpetbagging after fleeing what could have been a tough reelection bid in her current district.

In two other closely watched GOP contests, Attorney Jeff Hurd won the primary for the 3rd Congressional District seat currently held by Boebert, and political consultant and talk radio host Jeff Crank defeated Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams in the 5th District.

Boebert built national hard-line conservative stardom through a take-no-prisoners political style in the House. That clout likely made it easier for her to weather the scandals of the last year, which included the video of her vaping and causing a disturbance at a musical production of “Beetlejuice.”

She beat a group of more traditional, homegrown primary candidates who had far less name recognition and generally less combative political styles: former state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg; current state Reps. Mike Lynch and Richard Holtorf; and parental rights advocate Deborah Flora.

Boebert is expected to also win the November general election in the district, which sweeps across a wide expanse of ranches, ghost towns and conservative parts of the Denver metro area that make up much of the plains of eastern Colorado. Its voters overwhelmingly backed former President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

She said she switched districts to ensure another Republican could win her seat, which she nearly lost in 2022, and she blamed outside groups for targeting her. But she had already become a fundraising magnet for that other district’s Democratic candidate, who has pulled in millions that may help him flip a seat that has leaned Republican in recent years.

Boebert entered her election night gathering in the evening toting a pair of reflective gold sneakers sold by Trump and a white “Make America Great Again” hat with his signature across the bill.

While the theater incident and district jump rattled some Republicans, Gilbert Kendzior, 68, shrugged them off, saying, “Who’s perfect?”

Kendzior said he voted for Boebert because she shakes things up. “It’s gotten too staid. Same promises, nothing happens,” he said. “We need to get rid of the old farts.”

The seat opened up after former Republican Rep. Ken Buck resigned from Congress. In a special election Tuesday to fill the remaining months of Buck’s term, Republican Greg Lopez, a former mayor of the city of Parker, beat a Democrat and third-party candidates.

Buck cited the divisiveness of today’s politics and his party’s devotion to Trump in explaining his decision to resign. That division remains a factor in the race and was also on display in another Republican House primary in Colorado Springs, about an hour’s drive south of Denver.

In the 5th District, Crank bested Williams after the latter faced condemnation from fellow Republicans over his leadership including the use of party resources to boost his own campaign.

Williams, a former state representative, has tried to realign the state GOP with the far-right flank of the national party. In recent GOP communications, he called people celebrating Gay Pride Month “godless groomers” and urged people to burn pride flags.

Crank is a more traditional Republican, less inclined toward fiery invective and the party’s hard-right wing.

Williams was already in hot water before the emails. A complaint against him with the Federal Elections Commission alleges that he used the state party email list to announce his campaign for Congress and spent party money on mailers that included an attack on Crank.

The race is to fill the seat of Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn, who did not seek reelection. As in the 4th District, the winner of the Republican-friendly 5th District will be favored in the general election.

Another GOP House race watched closely on the national level was the 8th District, newly minted after redistricting in 2021 and hotly contested with voters roughly split between the two major parties.

Republican state Rep. Gabe Evans, a former police officer, defeated former state Rep. Janak Joshi, a retired physician, in the race to challenge Democratic incumbent Yadira Caraveo. Caraveo won the 8th District, which stretches north of Denver, by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2022.

Evans will likely benefit from a windfall of support from the National Republican Campaign Committee, which is intent on defending the party’s thin House majority.

Farther to the west, among the Rocky Mountains and high desert mesas, Hurd won the GOP primary for the 3rd District, home to Boebert’s current seat.

Hurd, a softer-spoken and less hard-line conservative, will face Adam Frisch, the Democratic candidate who lost to Boebert by only 546 votes in 2022. That narrow margin was largely attributed to Boebert’s divisiveness among voters, and Hurd is considered to have the advantage in the general election in the Republican-leaning district.

Still, Frisch’s near victory in 2022, which caught national attention and showed donors he had a path to flip the seat, has helped him raise over $13 million dollars. It’s one of the biggest House campaign chests in the nation and far overshadows Hurd’s $1 million.

In the primary, Hurd defeated former Republican state Rep. Ron Hanks; Stephen Varela, a former Democrat who switched parties; businessman Lew Webb; and financial adviser Russ Andrews.

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This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Rep. Caraveo’s first name to Yadira, instead of Yadiro.

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Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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