DENVER (AP) — Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, a renowned conservative firebrand whose combative style helped define the new right, is likely headed to an automatic recount in her bid to fend off a surprisingly difficult challenge by a Democratic businessman from the ritzy ski town of Aspen.
The Associated Press has declared the election in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District too close to call. AP will await the results of a potential recount to call the race. With nearly all votes counted, the incumbent Boebert leads Democrat Adam Frisch by 0.16 percentage points, or 551 votes out of nearly 327,000 votes counted.
A margin that small qualifies for an automatic recount under Colorado law, in a race that has garnered national attention as Republicans try to bolster their advantage in the U.S. House after clinching a narrow majority Wednesday night.
As counties finalized unofficial results on Thursday, Boebert’s already slim lead was cut in half. All but one of the 27 counties in the district had reported final results by Thursday evening. Otero County plans to finalize its numbers on Friday.
In Colorado, a mandatory recount is triggered when the margin of votes between the top two candidates is at or below 0.5% of the leading candidate’s vote total. On Thursday night, that margin was around .34%.
The updated results follow a hectic few days for both campaigns as they scrambled to “cure” ballots — the process of confirming voters’ choices if their ballots had been rejected in the initial count. Both the Republican and Democratic national campaign committees had boots on the ground in Colorado to support the efforts.
Spokespeople for Frisch’s and Boebert’s campaigns declined to comment.
Late Thursday, Boebert claimed victory in a tweeted video of her standing in front of the U.S. Capitol.
“Come January, you can be certain of two things,” said Boebert before thanking her supporters, “I will be sworn in for my second term as your congresswoman and Republicans can finally turn Pelosi’s house back into the People’s House.”
While Boebert has gained widespread notoriety and a spot on the so-called “MAGA Squad,” the race heading toward a likely recount is an indication that the Trump loyalist’s provocative style has its political downsides. Until election night, Boebert had been heavily favored to win reelection after redistricting made the sprawling, conservative district more Republican.
Her razor tight margin against Frisch surprised the political establishment as much as her 2020 GOP primary defeat of a five-term congressman that helped put her in office. The one-time owner of a gun-themed restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, Boebert comfortably won the district in 2020′s general election and swiftly established herself as a partisan flashpoint in Washington.
She filmed an ad of herself strolling the streets of the capital while packing her pistol, pushed to carry it on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, and picked fights on social media with high-profile liberal Democrats like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.
Frisch, a businessman who served on the City Council in the posh ski town of Aspen, tried to build a bipartisan coalition of supporters. The challenger’s strategy was to downplay his Democratic Party affiliation and run on a largely conservative platform in order to tap into GOP disillusionment with Boebert’s polarizing rhetoric and what he called her brand of “angertainment” — a term that he frequently repeated in public appearances and media interviews.
To Frisch, his unanticipated support points to a portion of Republicans tired of Boebert’s Trump-like style. Whether win or lose, Frisch said earlier Thursday, “I think 99% of the story is here.”
Frisch said he had expected a close race and wouldn’t be surprised if he won. But the candidate, who attended the congressional orientation in Washington, D.C., this week for newly minted representatives, added: “We obviously can’t be surprised if we lose. We’re not that wacko.”
Associated Press writer Will Weissert contributed to this report from Washington D.C.
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.