Lauren Boebert, the Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, addresses a crowd of about 100 people on Aug. 1, 2020, at the Orvis Ranch. Boebert spoke for about 15 minutes at the meet-and-greet, saying she will work to protect citizens’ freedoms. (Erin McIntyre, Ouray County Plaindealer)
Lauren Boebert blasted into Colorado politics at an Aurora rally with an in-your-face microphone moment and a gun.
She emerged from the crowd at a rally for then presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke of Texas and grabbed the mic to shout, “Hell no, you’re not!” in response to O’Rourke’s pledge to take away assault-style weapons.
That shout from an armed, brash, 5-foot-tall woman in sparkly high heels, tight jeans and a holstered Glock would catch the attention of conservative Republicans and electrify the far-right. It would help launch a newbie political candidate with enough momentum to take down a five-term congressman – something that hadn’t happened in a Colorado primary in 48 years.
But behind Boebert’s meteoric rise — before she became known for owning Shooters Grill, before she went viral, before she entered President Donald Trump’s orbit — is a past neither she nor her campaign is willing to discuss. It’s a history that includes run-ins with the law, an eviction and a failed restaurant venture.
Boebert came on like a western Colorado version of Sarah Palin with her folksy talk about being a mom and her fealty to God and guns. The 33-year-old already knew how to handle a spotlight after opening Shooters Grill, a much-hyped restaurant in Rifle where the staff pack heat.
To move on from gun schtick to politics, Boebert had ditched her dyed-blonde and flannel-shirt persona and adopted Palin-style glasses and long, dark hair. Like Palin, she honed a steady stream of crowd-pleasing, quick-draw insults aimed at anyone who didn’t share her ultraconservative views. Those who did ate it up.
“We’ve never seen a candidate like Lauren – ever,” enthused Edward Wilks, a Rifle gun shop owner, former cop and member of the far-right, anti-government Oath Keepers group. Wilks is so high on Boebert that he is predicting she has what it takes for a shooting-star rise in politics – one that could propel her to the vice-presidency in four years and the presidency in eight.
“She would have the backing of all of America if she chose to do it,” Wilks said.
Shaping herself as a disruptor
Boebert climbed to that level of right-wing adulation with a carefully curated story of being a welfare child, an ardent Christian and a successful businesswoman; a petite woman who wears a gun for protection, not as a prop; and a fierce patriot who views herself, like her presidential idol, as a disruptor first and foremost.
She went on from her rabble-rousing O’Rourke moment — a moment she keeps front and center on her campaign website — with more splashes in the news even before she announced her candidacy. Rather than taking the usual political incremental step of running for state office, Boebert targeted Colorado’s expansive 3rd Congressional District that scoops up 29 counties from the western border of the state to encompass Steamboat Springs on the north and Pueblo on the south.
A week after the O’Rourke rally, Boebert turned up at an Aspen City Council meeting to heatedly object to a proposal to ban the carrying of guns in city-owned buildings. In the liberal enclave of Aspen, she wore a T-shirt with an assault rifle depicted on the front.
She next used her restaurant as a backdrop for petition-signing to recall Gov. Jared Polis. She was on the Capitol steps in Denver when those petitions – short of the number needed to force a recall vote — were delivered.
Then it was back to the Capitol in December for a We Shall Not Comply rally. She lined up at that rally and posed with armed 111% United Patriots and Three Percenters — groups that have been designated extremist hate entities by theSouthern Poverty Law Center.
That same weekend she showed that she had already earned some more mainstream political chops by attending U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s Christmas party at the Brown Palace where she mingled with donors and Colorado’s Republican faithful.
In January, on Martin Luther King Day, she turned up at a Richmond, Virginia, rally in opposition to gun safety legislation alongside extremist and white supremacist groups who had been at the Colorado rally.
She began vowing to stand up to “the Democrats who hate our country.” As soon as she announced her candidacy to challenge U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, she attacked him on similar grounds. She called Tipton, a mild-mannered businessman from Cortez with a career in Republican Party politics, “an honorary member of The Squad,” referring to New York Democratic U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other female progressive Democratic members of Congress.
The suggestion of Squad-ties was dubious. Tipton was a Trump-backed conservative — in fact, he was named the honorary co-chair of the president’s reelection effort in Colorado. He was not known for breaking party ranks, let alone siding with the most liberal members of Congress. But Boebert persisted, promising that Trump would come around to her side (he did after the primary) and that voters would opt for her style of politics — heavy on brazenness, light on policy.
Boebert expressed enthusiasm for the fringe movement QAnon, a wide-ranging conspiracy theory that started on the notorious internet forum 4chan and has recently pushed the idea that the pandemic is part of a government plot to control the public.
Boebert has distanced herself from some of the more extreme QAnon notions, including the idea that anyone opposing Trump are Satan-worshipping, blood-drinking pedophiles. But she has embraced the idea that there is a deep-state anti-Trump network. She has not weighed in directly on other QAnon mythology, including lies that mass shootings in America have been “false flag” operations to help the pedophilia cabal steal children.
Boebert’s extremist views and #ILoveTrump hashtags landed her on the president’s radar. The president’s reelection campaign invited Boebert to his July Fourth appearance at Mount Rushmore, where she was seated next to Trump’s former press secretary Sarah Sanders, and where she and Trump had a few moments to chat about guns. Trump called Boebert to the White House Rose Garden for his Republican National Convention renomination acceptance speech.