FORT LUPTON — U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert got into the mix with eight fellow Republican contenders in a 4th Congressional District debate Thursday night in this Weld County city, less than a month after she announced she was moving to the eastern side of Colorado — and a new district — to run for Congress again.
Although there were a few barbs lobbed her way from competitors for her sudden move from the 3rd Congressional District to the 4th, the debate was largely civil with few personal insults thrown.
Three Republican candidates from the 8th Congressional District, Colorado’s newest district north of Denver, also debated Thursday night at the Fort Lupton Recreation Center. They reserved most of their criticism for Democrat Yadira Caraveo, the Thornton pediatrician who’s a little more than halfway through her first term in Congress.
Joe Andujo, an Air Force veteran who immigrated from Mexico when he was young, said he would be happy to compare Latino credentials with Caraveo, who is Colorado’s first Latina in Congress.
“I can even debate her in Spanish if she so desires,” he said.
He is running against Weld County Commissioner Scott James and state Rep. Gabe Evans in the 8th District.
But the bigger stage Thursday was made up of nine of the GOP candidates running for Colorado’s 4th District, the state’s most solid Republican stronghold in Congress. State Rep. Mike Lynch, until this week the minority leader in the House, made a direct dig at Boebert for her district switch.
“Can you give the definition of ‘carpetbagger’ to me?” he asked to several muted gasps in the audience of more than 100 party faithful.
Boebert responded that her sons “needed a fresh start” from the family turmoil she has gone through with her recent divorce and the arrest of her ex-husband in Silt this month.
“My boys need some freedom from what has been going on,” Boebert said. “The crops may be different in Colorado’s 4th District (than the 3rd), but the values aren’t.”
The second-term congresswoman’s new home is in Windsor.
In a straw poll taken after the debate, which was put on by the Republican Women of Weld, Lynch came in second with 20 votes while Boebert landed fifth with 12. Former state lawmaker and Logan County Commissioner Jerry Sonnenberg was the top vote-getter, with 22.
Not surprisingly, immigration took center stage Thursday, with all of the candidates in both debates saying the large inflows of migrants over the southern border was one of the biggest — if not the chief — issue facing the country.
“It is time to put Americans first,” said Peter Yu, who has run unsuccessfully for the 2nd Congressional District and the U.S. Senate.
Candidate and state Rep. Richard Holtorf, who owns a ranch near Akron, was more blunt.
“Narco-terrorists are destroying our country,” he said.
Several of the candidates, when asked, questioned the legitimacy of President Biden’s 2020 electoral victory, and nearly all of them were in favor of term limits. There was a split on the stage on support for U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, who ran into trouble with some Republicans this month for working with Democrats to keep the government funded.
Six of the nine candidates in the 4th District raised their hands — to laughs and applause from the audience — when asked if anyone had been arrested.
“We’re all sinners,” said Sonnenberg, who said he once spent a night in jail for speeding.
Lynch’s DUI arrest in 2022 came to light last week and led to his demotion from his post as House minority leader on Wednesday, as some of his Republican colleagues said they had lost confidence in his leadership.
“We need people who understand people, who are human and make mistakes,” Lynch said of his personal foibles.
Boebert still represents the Western Slope-centered 3rd Congressional District but faced daunting prospects for reelection there, as personal scandals ensnared her and energized Democratic opposition mounted. She made huge headlines in the waning days of 2023, when she suddenly announced she would be running for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep Ken Buck at the end of this year.
Her name once again went wide just hours before Thursday’s debate, after Garfield County prosecutors announced they filed formal criminal charges against her ex-husband, Jayson Boebert, after two separate alleged confrontations with family members this month.
Other candidates on the stage during the 4th District debate included Ted Harvey, who served in both chambers of Colorado’s legislature; Deborah Flora; Trent Leisy; and Chris Phelen.
In the 8th Congressional District debate, James said he could work across the aisle and had won the last seven elections he had been in.
“They do not have a voice in Washington, D.C. — they have been forgotten,” he said of the residents of eastern Colorado. “I’ll be that voice of calmness.”
Gabe Evans, a former Arvada police officer who is serving his first term in the state House representing Adams and Weld counties, lambasted Democrats and their track record in Congress.
“Watching what the left is doing to my state is why I’m in politics right now,” he said.
Evans overwhelmingly won the straw poll Thursday night, with 69 votes. James received 33, and Andujo garnered 13.
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