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Why Lauren Boebert’s House Race May Be the Most Closely-Watched of 2024

5 minute read

Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado has been in the national spotlight ever since she unseated a member of Congress in 2020. After nearly losing re-election in what was considered a safe Republican seat in 2022, the MAGA firebrand's 2024 bid was already near the top of races drawing outsized attention. And that was before she got caught on tape vaping and groping her date at a local performance of Beetlejuice

Since news of the scandal broke in September, the race has only gotten more dramatic. Democratic frontrunner Adam Frisch, the candidate who nearly defeated Boebert in the midterms, has continued to raise eye-popping sums. Yet it’s not clear he will get to face off against Boebert again, as her most formidable Republican challenger, attorney Jeff Hurd, has racked up endorsements in recent months. Even President Joe Biden, whose State of the Union address Boebert once heckled, has gotten involved, stopping by the district in November for a campaign event and mocking her voting record. 

It’s all setting the stage for Colorado’s Third District to be perhaps the most closely-watched House race of 2024, as voters in the district and around the country watch how the money and time the players have poured into the race pays off. 

No one may be more ready to see how it pays off than Frisch, who has now been traversing the district for years and tells TIME that he’s seldom home more than five days a month. In 2022, Frisch came within 546 votes of defeating Boebert. This cycle, polls have shown the two once again deadlocked. He has raised more than any non-incumbent running for the House, and indeed, more than any member of the House besides former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, according to FEC data. Frisch is likely to make national news again when he reports his year-end fundraising numbers in January. 

“I’m confident we're going to report very strong fundraising numbers yet again,” he says. 

Boebert, who owned an open-carry restaurant in the Colorado town of Rifle when she first won her seat in Congress, had become a favorite of the right and a villain of the left even before the so-called Beetlejuice incident produced weeks of headlines. When Biden visited the town of Pueblo in November to highlight a wind tower manufacturer that is expanding because of the Inflation Reduction Act, he was happy to point out whose district he was in. 

“She is one of the leaders of this extreme MAGA movement,” Biden said. “She, along with every single Republican colleague, voted against the law that made these investments and jobs possible. And that’s not hyperbole, that’s a fact. And then she voted to repeal key parts of this law. And she called this law a massive failure. You all know, you’re part of a massive failure?”

Frisch did not take the opportunity to stand by Biden during his visit. He says he was scheduled to be in another part of the district that day and declines to talk much about the head of his party.

“I'm not getting involved in the presidential election,” Frisch says. “Whoever people voted for in 2016 or 2020 or who they vote for in 2024 is not a concern of mine.”

But Frisch does admit that, even as he concentrates on local issues and voters’ needs, people around the country have nationalized his race after he came so close to unseating Boebert in 2022.

“I remain laser-focused on Colorado water, Colorado jobs, Colorado energy,” Frisch says. “But I appreciate there's a lot of people around the country, media and elsewhere, that have interest in the race. And I think it's just a combination of, you know, people are hitting peak exhaustion in national politics and they see that this is a unique place to see change.”

But the Frisch-Boebert rematch is not guaranteed. First, Boebert, whose office did not provide a comment for this story, will have to make it through the Republican primary, in which Hurd is also eager to suggest he is the candidate of normalcy. He has collected endorsements from a former governor, a former senator, and numerous local elected officials—exactly the sort of people who would usually back a sitting member of Congress but were put off by Boebert’s behavior at the local theater. Some Republicans worry that the incumbent won’t be able to hold the seat if she faces off against Frisch, and see Hurd as the safer choice. The candidates still have six more months to prepare for the June 25 primary, which is scheduled months after Coloradans vote on their presidential nominees in March. 

A spokesperson for the Hurd campaign said in a statement that the outsized attention the race has gotten is due to Boebert’s “poor personal conduct” and her “profound underperformance in addressing the needs of our district.”

Boebert, for her part, has been trying to move past both her Beetlejuice scandal and her image as a controversial ultra-MAGA lawmaker. For much of the past year, she has attempted to buckle down and show how she is working to address the practical concerns of her constituents. She has recently seen some success. This month, she had her first bill, the Pueblo Jobs Act, passed by Congress as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation is expected to add more than 1,000 jobs in the district. Only time will tell if it’s enough to help Boebert keep hers. 

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Write to Mini Racker at mini.racker@time.com