The electoral sweep accomplished by Democrats in Colorado circa 2018 seemed to confirm the transition of the state's political color scheme from red, or perhaps purple, to blue. But Lauren Boebert isn't buying it.
The owner of Shooters Grill — an eatery in the aptly named town of Rifle where the waitstaff openly packs heat — and a strong supporter of the Second Amendment is running against 3rd District Congressman Scott Tipton largely because she feels he isn't representing his extremely conservative constituency as energetically as he should.
"My district is still very red, and I believe Colorado is still a red state," Boebert says. "But I think we needed to hear that it's become a blue state and to see how aggressive the Democrats would be with their policies for us to become activated. And we are."
Boebert's presence in the race exposes an ideological dynamic that is rarely acknowledged these days. While conventional wisdom holds that President Donald Trump's blustery approach is a non-starter in Colorado, his style hits the sweet spot in many sections of the state, including CD3, which Tipton has represented since 2010.
In 2018, Tipton defeated Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush by less than 8 percent — his narrowest margin of victory to date — and he's such a low-key lawmaker that The Onion satirically blamed him for the early 2019 government shutdown because even most news junkies beyond his district have no idea who the hell he is. But Tipton's inconspicuous nature hasn't caused Trump to turn on him. Last month, POTUS tweeted: "@ScottRTipton is a great supporter of the #MAGA Agenda! He fights for your #2A rights and the Border Wall. Scott is working hard for Colorado and has my Complete and Total Endorsement!"
Nonetheless, Boebert has the backing of Colorado Boots on the Ground Bikers for Trump, among others. And she's already shown a knack for getting national press attention, most recently by facing down former presidential aspirant Beto O'Rourke over his plan to confiscate assault weapons at a Colorado rally. Here's a video of her talking about the confrontation on Fox News.
If Tipton's minions are worried about Boebert, they're not letting on. Campaign manager Michael Fortney hasn't responded to Westword's request for comment, following the pattern of silence he perfected while overseeing the efforts of unsuccessful 2018 Colorado gubernatorial hopeful Walker Stapleton.
But Boebert isn't keeping quiet — and her biggest complaints about Tipton concern his alleged reticence.
Since the beginning of the Trump presidency, she maintains, "I've witnessed the battle that's been going on for the hearts of our nation. Now more than ever, we need conservative leaders who'll stand up and defend what's right and fight the fight that needs to be won. If I felt like the congressman was doing an effective job, I would not be stepping up. But we elected him to get our national debt under control, and it's not — and he said he would fire Nancy Pelosi, and she's now Speaker of the House. He said he'd repeal Obamacare, too, and that hasn't happened, either" — and she also contends that his vote last month for the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which provides a path to residency for undocumented workers, is tantamount to advocating for amnesty on behalf of illegal immigrants.
She insists that "I'm not here to disrespect the Congressman, and I don't want to comment on his character. But every American has a right to run for office, and I'm not going to wait for someone to step down before I take my shot — pun possibly intended. I'm interviewing for a job, and if I get the job and people don't like what I'm doing in two years, they can fire me and hire somebody else. But I believe that I will represent the people of Colorado well on a national level, and I will support our president, Donald Trump — and I think more Republicans need to be supporting him, and supporting him loudly."
Trump's critics "attack our president every single day on anything they can find," she goes on. "They don't even like the food he eats. Our elected officials need to stand up and protect our president, and a handful are. But I believe we need to do more. When the left-wing lunatics come against my president, when they pipe up with something wacky, I'll be the first to shut them down. If I need to go on national news, or if I need to go back home and rally people together, I will. And I know the people of the Western slope and people in the southern part of the state are fighters. You tell us we need to get something done, and we'll do it."
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She didn't always have this viewpoint, she admits. "I grew up in a rough part of Denver," she reveals. "We were on welfare, and my mom thought you needed the government to survive. 'Don't try to make it on your own, because it won't be enough. The kids won't be fed': My mom believed that lie. So I've lived with a poverty mentality. But after I got my first job, at a local McDonald's, and I got my first check, I felt such a sense of pride. I remember thinking I could do a much better job of taking care of myself than the government ever could. So from that point on, I rejected the policy I was raised to believe in."
When she met husband and future Shooters Grill co-owner Jayson Boebert, a former oil and gas industry roughneck who continues to work in the Western Slope energy field, "we made a decision to pursue conservative values," Boebert allows. "We knew there was something better and right and worth fighting for. It's been hard. It hasn't been easy, and we've made mistakes. But America is about redemption and opportunity. We've had the opportunity to make mistakes and better ourselves afterwards. Opening a restaurant was a risk; city officials said, 'Don't do it. It's going to cost too much money.' But we did it anyway, and now it's been open for six years. When times get tough, we get tougher. Failure and government assistance are not an option for us."
Of course, gun rights are a major part of Boebert's platform, and she's an absolutist on the subject. "We should have complete access to own whatever firearm we want and carry as many rounds as we want," she emphasizes. "The Second Amendment should not be infringed, period." Likewise, she's appalled by Colorado's red flag law, which went into effect on January 1. In her view, "People are being stripped of their right to defend themselves by the words they say. People can accuse them of being insane, and they're insane until proven otherwise — by a judge, not even a mental health professional."
She concedes that "I'm not a polished politician — and I don't want to be a polished politician. This isn't a career move for me. Congress is my aim, and I want this to be impactful, influential. I want to accomplish the job that needs to be accomplished and represent the people of Colorado and all across the nation as well, to shut down the progressive, liberal narrative that's sweeping across our country. We don't have to live by the same old politics. Just like our president is disrupting politics, we can, too."