FORT LUPTON, Colo. (AP) — Republican main candidate Mike Lynch did not sugarcoat the query to his opponent on the crammed debate stage, Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert, who hopped into the race final month partly over worry of a loss within the district she at the moment represents.

“May you give the definition of ‘carpetbagger?'” Lynch requested to low murmurs from the gang on the first Republican main debate in Fort Lupton, a neighborhood in Colorado’s 4th District.

It was anticipated. The candidate earlier than Lynch had requested the identical query, if extra delicately put. The accusation had already been lobbed at Boebert after she joined the packed main race, escaping a rematch towards Democrat Adam Frisch, who almost beat her within the final election.

With Republicans hanging onto management of the U.S. Home by their fingertips, Republicans and Democrats are wrestling fiercely over each shut race. That features the seat Boebert holds in Colorado’s third District, which was thought of solidly leaning to the GOP however modified to a toss-up for this yr after Boebert gained by solely 546 votes in 2022.

The up to date evaluation partly prompted her flight to the brand new district and the criticisms that adopted. On stage, Boebert did not hesitate in response to the assault.

“The crops could also be totally different in Colorado’s 4th District however the values should not, and I am a confirmed fighter for the values that you simply all imagine in,” mentioned Boebert, her voice forceful over the vast room in a recreation heart.

The gang, a who’s who of native Republicans and voters, sat round tables the place crimson popped amongst darkish fits, together with crimson solo cups and Boebert’s signature lipstick.

Boebert constructed herself right into a family identify with a mode of pugilistic politics that has turned in any other case tame moments in Congress into slugfests, together with hard-liner conservative stances and unwavering loyalty to former President Donald Trump.

Whereas Colorado’s congressional representatives would not have to stay within the district they signify, solely the state, Boebert is shifting to Weld County in her new district, jokingly described by the moderator as “probably the most closely Republican seat on the planet Earth.”

The nook of the Nice Plains is a sweep of prairie grass and farms damaged solely by ranching cities the place auctioneers chant the load and value of cattle close to each week. Voters supported Trump by almost 20 share factors in 2020, greater than double the margin in Boebert’s previous district.

Jerry Sonnenberg, a well-liked former state senator with a tactically deployed baritone, was among the many six of 9 candidates on stage who raised their fingers when requested if they’d been arrested, to raucous applause.

One other, Rep. Richard Holtorf, the Republican whip within the Colorado Home, has been most outspoken about Boebert’s transfer. Deborah Flora, a filmmaker and radio host, was the primary to levy her query of switching districts at Boebert on stage.

State Rep. Lynch additionally exchanged barbs with Boebert. Lynch was Colorado’s Home minority chief till he stepped down Wednesday after a 2022 arrest for drunken driving got here to mild, a problem that was largely met with forgiveness by fellow contestants.

Boebert was caught on video vaping and groping with a date in a Denver theater in September, however the embarrassing episode went unmentioned on the debate.

Nonetheless, the scandal could also be onerous to shake in Boebert’s new electoral stomping grounds, the place voters maintain tight to conservative Christian values some really feel she transgressed.

The congresswoman should depend on her nationwide identify and persuade skeptical voters that her voice is required in Congress greater than these of her homegrown opponents, a few of whom have lived within the district their whole lives and signify elements of the world in Colorado’s Legislature.

Boebert targeted on her expertise in Congress as the important thing issue separating her from the candidates on stage.

“Everybody will discuss like a Freedom Caucus member however there is just one who governs as a Freedom Caucus member,” she mentioned. “I’m right here to earn your assist, earn your vote. This isn’t a coronation.”

Boebert’s main rivals largely appeared hesitant to immediately assault her onstage, which was harking back to the Republican presidential main candidates who prevented criticism of Trump in early debates.

The talk additionally largely centered on nationwide political points together with border safety, abortion and fentanyl, on which Boebert might laud her stubbornly conservative voting document. Her opponents did not increase native points they could have thought she was unprepared to signify.

Earlier than switching districts, Boebert had been anticipated to face a rematch towards Frisch, who had already raised more cash than she had.

Political consultants typically agree Republicans have a greater probability of holding onto the third District with out Boebert within the race.


Bedayn is a corps member for the Related Press/Report for America Statehouse Information Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points.

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