Colorado Democrats aren’t waiting for the state’s new congressional district lines to be finalized to start raising money for their races, and many of them are turning to the same name to help bring in donations: Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert.
Colorado’s independent redistricting commission is still debating congressional maps so it’s not yet clear who may compete against Boebert in 2022 – or even what district she’ll be in once the lines are settled.
But even candidates who don’t have a chance of running against her are using her as a foil to raise money.
“I’m running for Congress to hold dangerous conspiracy theorists like Boebert accountable, and I can’t do it without your help,” said a recent fundraising email from Democratic state Rep. Yadira Caraveo with the title, “Let’s talk about Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.”
Caraveo’s chances of ever competing head-to-head with Boebert are slim. Caraveo lives in Thornton and is running to represent the newly created 8th congressional seat, which is expected to encompass the northern part of the Front Range.
Meanwhile, Boebert lives three hours away, in the town of Silt and currently represents the 3rd Congressional District on the Western Slope.
The most recent proposed map drafted by nonpartisan commission staff members moves Garfield County – Boebert’s home county – into the 2nd Congressional District, which is anchored by Boulder. About an hour after it was released, 2nd Congressional District incumbent Rep. Joe Neguse, a Democrat, had his own pitch ready.
“BREAKING: It’s me vs. Lauren Boebert,” announced the fundraising email from his campaign.
“Under this new map, Lauren Boebert and I reside in the same district,” the email said. “There’s now a strong possibility I will be facing off against Lauren Boebert, and make no mistake ... that campaign would be extremely expensive and hard-fought.”
Even Colorado’s Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet is jumping in on the Boebert fundraising trend. On Wednesday, Bennet and Neguse sent out a joint fundraising email from Bennet’s campaign, with the subject: “Lauren Boebert?”
“Michael and I need your support so we can take on whatever comes next,” said Neguse in his request. “So I have to ask: Will you split a $10 donation between Michael and my re-election campaign so we can keep Colorado blue?”
While Bennet is up for re-election next year, Boebert has so far signaled no interest in entering the Senate race.
Boebert rose to prominence after unexpectedly ousting a five-term Republican incumbent in the GOP primary race in 2020. Since taking office, her confrontational brand of politics and large social media following have catapulted her onto the national stage.
“It’s hard to argue that she’s anything but the most prominent Republican in the state now, which is a meteoric rise on her part, to her credit,” said Republican political consultant Ryan Lynch. “Obviously, some controversy surrounds her so I don’t think it’s any surprise that Democrats use her to fundraise.”
However, it’s unlikely Boebert and Neguse will end up running against each other. The map is expected to change as commissioners negotiate their way toward a version enough of them can agree on.
And even if they approved it as is, members of Congress aren’t required to live in the districts they represent. Many in the political world expect Boebert would move back into the Republican-leaning 3rd District rather than try to run in a safe Democratic seat.
Still, she’s using the new proposal to raise money, too.
“Redistricting update: First it was adding part of Boulder, now it's all of Boulder. The Dems are so worried about me I suspect the next redistricting map will include Berkeley, California, too. Don't worry rural Colorado, I got your back!” said Boebert in a Tweet that linked to a fundraising page.
Ian Silverii is a Democratic political consultant who formerly led ProgressNow Colorado. He said he thinks Boebert reflects where the GOP is today, and said it’s relevant for every candidate in the state.
“I think it’s perfectly fair for any Democrat running for any office to point out that the Republican party has become an unbelievably extreme political force in Colorado,” Silverii said.
There are already about a half dozen other Democrats running in the primary race for the 3rd District, based on the district’s current lines. They include Sol Sandoval, a social worker and community organizer, and state Rep. Donald Valdez.
Valdez, who lives in La Jara in the San Luis Valley, took aim at the redistricting process itself earlier this week in a fundraising appeal of his own.
“Life is unfair, but that doesn’t mean redistricting needs to be,” tweeted Valdez with a picture of himself and Boebert and a link to his fundraising page. “Republicans are trying to gerrymander their way to a win. The best way to stop them is by growing the Dem majority. Chip in to my campaign and lets put #CO3 in the D column.”
Unlike most states, where lawmakers are in charge of redistricting, Colorado voters approved a new process that removes lawmakers from the process. The state constitution requires the independent commission to reach a supermajority vote to approve a map, including support from two of its unaffiliated members.
Through all of this, the highest-profile Democrat to declare a run against Boebert has stayed quiet about the new congressional map proposal.
Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan lives in Eagle County and announced her bid for the 3rd Congressional District last February. She has raised the most money of the candidates vying to unseat Boebert.
However, Donovan runs the risk of being redistricted out of the 3rd District as well, based on some of the maps the commission is considering. Her most recent fundraising email focused on abortion rights and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to allow Texas’ restrictive new law to take effect.
When it comes to using Boebert in their fundraising, some Democrats worry that so many emails from so many different candidates could just confuse voters.
And Ryan Lynch, the Republican consultant, warned that Democrats’ efforts to raise money off of Boebert will just elevate her profile further, and ultimately could end up boosting her overall brand.
“These attack fundraising emails probably in the end only serve to help her,” Lynch said. “Republicans have used (House Speaker Nancy) Pelosi as boogeyman for at least a decade and look where she is.”
To read more from Colorado Public Radio, visit cpr.org.