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“No such thing as bad publicity”: Lauren Boebert maintains hold over CD3, despite Islamophobic comments

Despite a video surfacing this month of Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert implying that Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a Muslim, might be a terrorist, the Western Slope firebrand maintains a strong lead over those looking to unseat her, political experts and campaign finance data indicate.

After a contentious apology attempt with Omar, a second video, first reported by CNN, spread around social media of Boebert making almost the same remarks about her colleague at a different event. She also called Omar and Democratic U.S. Rep. Rashida Talib, who is also Muslim, “black-hearted” and “evil.”

Unlike Colorado’s newest and politically competitive 8th Congressional District, the 3rd Congressional District favors the Republican incumbent. Boebert boasts a seven-figure war chest while the next best fundraiser has only a fraction of that cash on hand, campaign finance records show. The leading contender for the Democratic nomination, state Sen. Kerry Donovan, dropped out of the race in November after congressional redistricting placed her outside of the district.

Boebert appears unlikely to face any repercussions for her most recent comments, either from her own party, Democratic House leadership or those giving money to her campaign, Seth Masket, a political scientist with the University of Denver, said.

“Every day she says a bombastic thing and gets a headline for it,” Masket said. “There are some donors that see that as a positive thing. They like that she’s offending Democrats.”

Masket said he’s watching the national Democratic party and organizations like the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to see if they’ll move more aggressively to back an existing challenger or find a new one.

So far no high-profile challenger has emerged within Boebert’s party and the chances of one coming are increasingly unlikely, former GOP administrative chair for the 3rd Congressional District.

Marina Zimmerman, a crane operator in Arboles, announced her primary challenge to Boebert in August, the Durango Herald reported. But she has not yet filed any campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission.

Jenkins, who also served as chair of the Pitkin County Republican Party, said continued Republican support for Boebert indicates the electorate’s shift away from former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, whom Boebert defeated in the 2020 primary. He described Tipton as humble, quiet and effective and said ultimately voters forgot about him. He said he wouldn’t use the same adjectives to describe Boebert.

“There’s nothing soft spoken or humble about her, but what the heck?” Jenkins said. “Voters like someone who will wear their issues out on their sleeve and wear them with intensity.”

Boebert’s recent remarks or spat with Omar won’t hurt her with voters in her district or donors across the country, Jenkins said.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Jenkins said.

But the people in Boebert’s district do suffer, Donovan said, expressing regret that redistricting pushed her out of the race.

“She wears her hatred and her racism on her sleeve,” Donovan said. “And it’s very sad that an individual like that is now the voice of the Western Slope in Colorado.”

Progressive Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, of New York, did push Republican House leaders on Wednesday to remove Boebert from her committee assignments, The Hill reported.

House GOP leadership stripped then-U.S. Rep. Steve King, of Iowa, from his committee assignments after he questioned when “white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” became “offensive language.” Months later King lost his seat to primary challenger Randy Feenstra.

But at the moment Boebert likely won’t lose her committee assignments and even if she did Masket said it might not hurt her in the same way it hurt King.

“Increasingly that’s the kind of person that gets rewarded within the party,” he said. “It’s simply about saying the most eye-popping thing that will offend Democrats.”

Neither representatives of the Colorado Republican Party nor House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy returned messages seeking comment.

Challengers and cash on hand

The top two Democratic fundraisers competing for Boebert’s seat are Debora Burnett, of Jackson County, and Soledad “Sol” Sandoval, of Pueblo, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. As of the end of September, Burnett had $55,712 on hand and Sandoval had $48,965.

The next closest is state Rep. Donald Valdez of La Jara, whose reports show he had $29,182.

Only two other candidates — Colin Wilhelm and Colin Buerger — broke into five-figure territory by the end of September. Kellie Rhodes reported $2,036 on hand and Root Routledge reported $214.

All of that cash combined amounts to about a tenth of Boebert’s $1.7 million on hand.

Whoever wins the Democratic nomination will likely see an influx of money from local and national donors looking to unseat Boebert, Masket said. But even so, they’ll have a large divide to bridge.