As the winners of Tuesday’s primary election in Colorado shift their focus to winning the general election in November, experts say it will be an uphill battle for a Democrat to win in the 3rd Congressional District.
CD-3 Rep. Lauren Boebert defeated state Sen. Don Coram by almost 30 points on Tuesday in the Republican primary, while former Aspen City Council member Adam Frisch became the Democratic nominee after beating Sol Sandoval and Alex Walker.
Former Colorado Republican Party state chairman and Republican political strategist Dick Wadhams said Boebert’s win wasn’t surprising. However, he said challenging an incumbent and still getting a third of the vote is impressive.
“If I had any words of recommendation for congresswoman Boebert (it) is to think about that 30% of the Republican electorate that voted against her and to think about what she can do these next two years to get those Republicans on her team,” he said. “I think that really does matter.”
Wadhams said a challenge that Frisch faces over the next few months will be getting support from Democrats nationally and from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“This district is not going to be on their radar screen. They’ve got a bunch of incumbents they’re trying to save and they’re just not going to pay much attention to a race with a pretty popular incumbent in what can be accurately described as a Republican district,” Wadhams said. “So you know, that’s just the brutal reality of politics for when you’re in a year like this for a Democratic candidate in a district like the third.”
Ted Trimpa, a Democratic strategist and attorney in Colorado, said it will be “very difficult” for Frisch to win the CD-3 come November, and Boebert’s win in the primary was unsurprising. For CD-3, Trimpa said Boebert is a good fit.
“The numbers are too difficult,” he said. “The district and just by the number of Republicans that you have, it would be very, very difficult. You’ve got to take a shot at it, got to make them spend money, gotta make them work; I just think it would be very difficult for them to (beat her).”
Wadhams criticized the strategy that some Democrats in the district used to try to beat Boebert in her primary by switching their registration to unaffiliated and voting in the Republican primary for Coram rather than voting in the Democratic primary, saying it sends the wrong message and admits defeat even before reaching the general election.
“If I had been a Democratic leader in the 3rd District, I would have urged people not to do that because it basically signals, ‘We have no hope in the general election, so we’ve got to try to take (her) out in the primary,’” he said. “That’s not a good message for your eventual candidate. It kind of says, ‘Democrats don’t think they can win in the 3rd (District) in a general election.’”
Wadhams said it would likely take something out of Frisch’s control to beat Boebert.
“He is going to campaign hard and he is going to make his best case against Boebert and hope lightning strikes. I mean, in a race like this, that’s all you can do.” Wadhams said. “Just work really hard, try to get a lot of earned media attention, try to engage her in debates, and just try to take the campaign to her knowing full well, it will probably take something beyond your control to maybe win. It’s going to take some kind of October surprise or some dramatic development within the race itself.”
Statewide, both Wadhams and Trimpa said they were surprised by the margins of victory in some of the Republican primaries in the state, such as the Senate and secretary of state races. Additionally, both said that focusing on everyday issues for people, such as inflation, is important as people start to think about how to win in the general election.
“Inflation is gonna be No. 1,” Trimpa said. “We can pick all kinds of issues, but when you go to the grocery store and stuff is going up more than 10%? I mean, people aren’t buying meat because it’s getting too expensive. When they go fill up their car, they look at how much it is a gallon.”
Overall, Trimpa said a big take-away from the June 28 primary was to pay more attention to unaffiliated voters. Because Colorado has open primaries, the unknowns of how they may vote can have an important impact on a race, he said.
“Even though as a Democrat I want to win, I also want something good for the state. And I think that when you have rational candidates … then you can get a real debate, you can get a sense of where your values line up and who you think would be best to lead the state or represent you,” he said.
Nina Heller is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.