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U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz slated to attend La Plata County GOP dinner

The divisive congressman is ‘well-liked,’ says party leader
Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert, left, is expected to be joined by Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, center, at this year’s La Plata County Republican Central Committee Lincoln Day Dinner in September. (Michaels Reynolds/Pool via AP, file)

Florida congressman and Trump-loyalist Matt Gaetz is slated to join Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District Rep. Lauren Boebert at the La Plata County Republican Central Committee’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner in September.

The pair arrested the nation’s attention in January when they played a critical role delaying the election of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Gaetz has also denied the integrity of the 2020 election and was called out by McCarthy for jeopardizing the safety of fellow Republican lawmakers after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Shelli Shaw, who was recently named chairwoman of the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, said she is confident Gaetz and Boebert will energize the party’s base.

“Matt Gaetz is a well-liked patriot and we’re very excited to have him come and spend some time with us – of course, this is pending his schedule,” Shaw said. “But we’re very excited to have him come and motivate and encourage us to continue with the fight.”

Gaetz is not the first out-of-state firebrand to headline The Lincoln Day Dinner. The party has historically invited outspoken conservatives to bolster fundraising for the party and appeal to its base.

Brad Blake, former Republican county commissioner, said past Lincoln Day Dinner guests have included former Florida congressman Allen West and conspiracy theorist Dinesh D’Souza.

Membership in the Democratic and the Republican parties has declined since 2016 in La Plata County as an increasing number of voters shy away from extremism and the two-party system.

While the number of registered Democrats and Republicans have stayed within about 5% of each other during the last 15 years in La Plata County, Democratic candidates often beat out their Republican opponents by noteworthy margins. For example, in 2010, the year that congressional Democrats suffered heavy losses in midterm elections, La Plata County voters strongly favored Democrats in the House and the Senate races.

The percentage of total active voters broken down by each party since 2008, the earliest year from which comparable data are available. Independent voters became a plurality after the 2016 election. (Reuben Schafir/Durango Herald file)

Most recently, Boebert managed to eke out a 546-vote victory in November, despite redistricting that should have given her a significant advantage. But in La Plata County, voters favored Adam Frisch, her Democratic opponent, to the tune of 26 percentage points.

Shaw pushed back against the notion that inviting Boebert and Gaetz as speakers might alienate moderate conservatives.

“I don’t think that the Lincoln Day dinner speaker is going to impact our work that we do here in La Plata County with our outreach to unaffiliated voters, and with the message that we have for La Plata County as a whole,” she said.

Shaw said other efforts are underway to reach out to unaffiliated voters in the county.

Anne Markward, chairwoman of the La Plata County Democrats, said the decision to invite Boebert and Gaetz as speakers shows that local Republican leadership walks in sync with some of the more extreme elements of the party.

Another example, she said, is the local Republican Party’s decision to appoint Shaw as its chairperson. Shaw ran for state House District 59 against Rep. Barbara McLachlan in November and lost by 26 percentage points in La Plata County.

During Shaw’s time as a candidate, the Colorado Times Recorderreported on a series of social media posts in which she said a second civil war was imminent and doubled down on her belief that President Joe Biden was elected by “dead people and fictitious book characters.”

“They are going on a different path than what voters showed them in 2022 in La Plata County, that they want,” Markward said of the party. “... So if the Republicans think that’s a winning message, great.”

Blake, former Republican county commissioner who was narrowly ousted by Democrat Clyde Church in 2018 and lost again this past November, said he is unsure of the effect Gaetz’s presence might have.

Gaetz may not be as controversial a guest as some might expect, Blake suggested.

“I don’t know what to expect,” he said.

As in the past, Blake said he remains focused on local issues.

“I guess I’m worried that there’s just a lot of Republicans that don’t show up to vote,” he said. “Does that (the guest speaker) affect them? I don’t know if it does or not.”

Seats for the Sept. 23 fundraiser cost $100 and can be purchased on the party’s website.


This article has been updated to correct a misspelling of Anne Markward’s name.

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