DENVER (AP) – Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert’s race remained extremely close Thursday and could be headed for a recount in the GOP firefighter’s bid for re-election against Democrat Adam Frischa former city councilman from the upscale ski town of Aspen, Colorado.
Boebert is falling short in the state’s sprawling 3rd congressional district, which poll forecasters and pundits widely viewed as a bar for the incumbent. The close race has drawn national attention as Republicans hope to gain control of the US House of Representatives.
In Colorado, recounts are initiated automatically when the margin is less than 0.5%. With votes still rolling on Thursday, the race hovered around that recount zone, with Boebert holding a slim lead.
Boebert, a staunch Trump loyalist, presents herself as a combatant in a broader cultural crusade for the soul of the nation, and has earned a spot on the so-called “MAGA Squad” alongside Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Even as a freshman representative, Boebert’s bold style garnered her national television appearances, widespread notoriety, and a loyal following.
During President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address in March, Boebert cut through a somber moment about Biden’s son blaming the president for 13 service members killed during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Fresh was expected to face long odds after the reshuffle made the already conservative district, which elected former President Donald Trump by a 15-point margin in 2016, more Republican. But the Democratic challenger, who downplayed his political party and promoted a pro-business and pro-energy platform, remained adamant that Republican voters were fed up with what he called Boebert’s “anger entertainment” and were betting that part of the GOP voters would drop out.
Voters in the district have not elected a Democrat to Congress since 2008, but the close race indicates Frisch’s ability to build a coalition of Republican, Democratic and nonpartisan voters by touting himself as moderate.
If Boebert loses, it would be another blow to Tuesday night’s disappointing results for the GOP after the expected red wave never reached the shore.
But Boebert and her supporters didn’t consider that option Thursday.
“We are confident that Lauren Boebert will win re-election,” said Courtney Parella, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, whose job it is to elect Republicans to the House of Representatives.
On Thursday morning, Boebert tweeted “Winning!”
Shortly after, Frisch wrote in a statement, “The closeness of this race is proof that the people of western and southern Colorado are fed up with the angertainment industry, of which Boebert is a part, and want a representative who fights for nonpartisan solutions.”
During the campaign, Boebert and Frisch clashed less on political issues and more on character. The incumbent claimed that Frisch was a closeted leftist who would throw out his conservative platform once in Congress, while the challenger emerged as a competent and moderate alternative.
Both the Frisch and Boebert campaigners said they are watching the race closely in anticipation of more ballots being cast from counties that are still counting votes and that neither have contacted attorneys.
In closely watched Pueblo County, exhausted poll workers processed about 3,200 mail-in ballots Thursday and 1,800 in-person ballots last day, said Gilbert Ortiz, the county clerk and clerk.
In Colorado, county election officials have until Nov. 30 to certify their election results and submit them to the Secretary of State’s office, which has a Dec. 5 deadline to issue its own certification or order mandatory recounts. Any recounts requested by a candidate or other party must be paid for by that candidate or other party and completed by December 15th.
Election officials urged the public to be patient and said vote counting was proceeding according to the established procedure with no irregularities reported.
The sprawling district encompasses much of western and southern Colorado, including ranches, ski resorts, and the national forest area, as well as the cities of Pueblo and Grand Junction. Grand Junction is in Mesa County, where county clerk Tina Peter was charged with allegedly allowing outsiders to infiltrate her voting system. She was forbidden to monitor elections there.
In Pueblo County, the count would take all day, Ortiz said. And under state law, officials have nine days after Election Day or until Nov. 17 to receive foreign and military ballots, as well as to “heal” or screen ballots in hand that have voter signatures that are not immediately screened can become. he said. Some of Pueblo County’s bipartisan election judges who open and review ballots and feed them into the machines have left because of other commitments or exhaustion, meaning fewer people are available to process ballots, Ortiz said.
“We just want to make sure our numbers are accurate, and we’re not willing to sacrifice accuracy for speed,” Ortiz said. “At this point we just want to finish today.”
Associated Press contributors James Anderson and Colleen Slevin contributed to this report.
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 brings journalists into local newsrooms to cover undercover topics.