Lauren Boebert, co-owner of Rifle's famed Shooters Grill, is a new political star in Colorado as a result of her unexpected primary victory over Scott Tipton, the incumbent U.S. Representative for the state's 3rd Congressional District, which moves her into a November contest against Diane Mitsch Bush. And that's made her a target of progressives, who've tagged Boebert as a QAnon conspiracy theorist and a lousy restaurateur owing to three-year-old accusations that involve bloody diarrhea.
Boebert dismisses these tactics as "fake attacks" by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "I'm not moved by them," she says. "My opponent is a far-left socialist. She's left of her party's platform, even. She's too extreme for our district, and I'm not going to allow fake attacks from the DCCC to deter me."
Fortunately for her, Boebert has plenty of support from other quarters. The Colorado Republican Party, whose leaders were quietly furious when she went after Tipton in what was perceived to be a safe GOP district, is now solidly in her corner, as is a certain resident of the White House. President Donald Trump congratulated Boebert on her win by phone in the days following the primary and met with her in person during his appearance at a July 4 fireworks extravaganza at Mount Rushmore.
The resulting conversations were "very exciting," Boebert recalls. "He told me he had been watching the race from the beginning and said, 'I knew something big would happen.' And I thanked him personally for the sacrifices he's made for our country. He's laid so much on the line that he didn't have to, and I offered my personal gratitude on behalf of my country."
Trump's response? "He said, 'I used to have a very nice life, and I'm fighting these maniacs every day. But now I have you to fight along with me.'"
She's ready for the challenge. "Voters see I'm a fighter. It's not just lip service when I say I'm going to fight for the people. I've done that as a citizen already. I've fought against the National Popular Vote to make sure someone like Hillary Clinton can't steal their way to the presidency," she notes, referring to the compact between a number of U.S. states, including Colorado, that have pledged to award their electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote.
And during a Colorado rally featuring the vocal gun-control activist and then-presidential candidate, "I stood up to Beto O'Rourke," she recalls, "because no one else was doing it. I stood up for the liberties of Americans, and it became a national rally cry for our Second Amendment."
The waitstaff at Shooters Grill open-carries firearms. Boebert confirms that the guns are real and loaded.
In addition, she continues, "I stood up to Governor Polis and his strangling executive orders" by opening Shooters Grill before statewide restrictions on in-restaurant dining were lifted "because of what it was doing to small businesses throughout Colorado. And that spurred the City of Rifle into motion. Now we have patios that were built outside the restaurant by the city, because they saw they could aid in the reopening of small businesses. My actions prove to voters here that I will fight for them, and I don't care what I have to put on the line to do it."
Republican powerhouses in Colorado who may have initially viewed Boebert as an unnecessary suck on resources quickly changed course after she bested Tipton. She recalls that "some of the Republican chairs who were most aggressively against me reached out the night of the primary to tell me I had their full support, and that they were sending contributions and emails to their county parties telling them to get on board. They're excited about the race, and so is Senator Cory Gardner. He sees the enthusiasm and the momentum behind my campaign and sees that as a positive. I have [Congressman] Ken Buck fully supporting me and connecting me with members, and we also met with [fellow Congressman] Doug Lamborn and his wife; they are tremendous. And I also got a call from Vice President Mike Pence, from Air Force Two."
This bandwagon-jumping makes sense. Boebert is a fresh face on a political scene lacking in them, and her personal story seems custom-made for the likes of Fox News, on which she's likely to become a regular should she prevail in the November election, whether Trump does likewise or not. But she's also come in for a new level of scrutiny, as epitomized by a recent article by The Daily Beast headlined, "A Run For It: QAnon-Curious House Candidate Gave Her Customers Diarrhea." The piece cites documents related to an episode of food poisoning at the Rifle Rodeo on June 5, 2017, that was traced to meat provided by Smokehouse 1776, a previous Boebert business that served as a supplier for Shooters Grill.
"The main culprit was found to be the pork sliders, and those who ate them reported symptoms including bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea and chills," an excerpt reads. "Health authorities determined that the tainted pork was caused by 'improper food safety practices of the unlicensed food providers.'"
Among those who seized on the story was Bush, Boebert's Democratic rival, who labeled a fundraising pitch "Avoid the Pork Sliders." But Boebert argues that the account leaves out a lot of context.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I don't read The Daily Beast, so I don't know what they said about me," she allows. "But there was an incident with Smokehouse 1776, a restaurant I used to own, and not a lot of investigative work went into it. A lot of people who got sick didn't eat our food, and there were never any fines and no punishment toward me for that. I'm the one who called the health department to see what was going on, and my food was never tested, and there was no testing of the fairgrounds where it happened, even though this kind of thing happens all the time where animals are present."
Whatever the case, "I'm not going to focus on any attacks on me," she stresses. "This is not personal. I'm what's in the way of Democrats expanding their control in Colorado and expanding their control in the U.S. I understand that — so I'm here to stand and defend the people in my district from their government control. They want to control the people in my district, and I'm not going to let that happen."
She credits the staff at Shooters Grill for keeping things going while she's campaigning, an army of volunteers getting the word out about her vision, and husband Jayson for offering his support. "Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota, took the time to speak to and encourage him," Boebert recalls. "She said, 'I understand the sacrifice you're making in this as well' and gave so much of her time to make sure he was encouraged about all of this."
As Boebert puts it, "I'm in this fight for freedom and prosperity, and I'm going to work diligently every single day for the next four months. We have the support from the GOP all the way from here locally to our county Republican parties to the President of the United States. I'm thrilled and honored to have so much support, and that's going to keep our ground game going. We turned out a lot of voters who don't usually come out in the primaries to vote, and I expect even more in November to do the same thing."