By JAMES ANDERSON, Associated Press
PUEBLO WEST, Colorado (AP) – It was a miniature Donald Trump rally.
Some 200 people, many of them waving flags and some with open handguns tucked into holsters or in the back of their jeans, joined a “Freedom Cruise” caravan earlier this month that roamed the streets of Pueblo West, a Democratic stronghold in southern Colorado. to cheer on Republican House candidate Lauren Boebert, the favorite to win the race to represent nearly half of the Colorado landmass in Congress.
Sporting a Glock strapped to her hip, the sassy, social-savvy, all-in-for-Donald-Trump businesswoman has electrified the race since she achieved her summer surprise by solidly defeating five-term Republican Rep. Scott Tipton. who on the day of the primaries had the support of President Trump in the third congressional district of Colorado and was honorary co-chair of Trump’s re-election campaign in the state.
In his first run for public office, Boebert’s frequent demonization of Democrats as gun thieves and job killers who are using the coronavirus pandemic to expand government at the expense of individual freedoms resonates widely in a district the size of Pennsylvania and, in many ways. , reflects the political divisions of the nation.
“Scott Tipton was a nice guy, but he just wasn’t in people’s faces. She was out there, ”said Tom Ready, 76, a retired dentist who sits on the Republican executive committee of Pueblo County. “She has defied the gun hoarders of the Democratic Party.”
And his lack of political experience?
“She will learn fast. What a thing. I’m tired of career politicians telling us how to live, ”Ready said.
Two of the county’s largest cities, Grand Junction and Pueblo, are traditional Republican and Democratic strongholds, respectively. Most of its 29 counties rely heavily on agriculture. Billions are spent on tourism in dazzling Aspen, Steamboat Springs, and other resort cities. Defenders of public lands clash with the oil, gas and coal industry that employs thousands of people.
The night at a Pueblo West park was key to Boebert’s two-front strategy to win over the largely rural district: He travels thousands of miles to catch up with constituencies of voters and is also mounting an aggressive social media campaign that he has won. to the national republicans. including the president, echoing Trump’s own tweets about socialism, riots in Democrat-led cities and reopening under the pandemic.
“Look at me. I’m the American dream,” Boebert, 33, told the crowd. She says her family grew up in poverty, depending on the welfare of the government, until a fire was lit with her first paycheck from a McDonald’s of western Colorado that led her to own the Shooters Grill restaurant in Rifle.
“I went from being a girl queuing to order cheese from the government to receiving an invitation to see the president of the United States,” Boebert said to a cheer, having attended Trump’s acceptance of his White House appointment.
Boebert’s Democratic opponent is Diane Mitsch Bush, a retired sociology professor, former state legislator and county commissioner for the modern ski town of Steamboat Springs, who is making her second run for the seat.
Mitsch Bush wants to strengthen the Affordable Care Act for a district with one of the highest insurance rates and the fewest insurance options in the nation. He wants to end surprise out-of-network medical billing, reduce prescription drug costs, and increase federal support for rural health clinics and hospitals. She has supported weaning the country off fossil fuels.
It’s an uphill battle for Mitsch Bush. The district voted overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 and Republicans outnumber Democrats among registered voters.
Mitsch Bush has her own story, raised by a single mother in Minnesota who struggled with bills and payday loans before her mother found work as an appraisal clerk and joined a public sector union. “I learned the importance of Social Security and Medicare – social contracts with working families who pay them,” he said in an interview.
Due to the pandemic, Mitsch Bush, 70, is mounting a Zoom campaign with discussions with ranchers, educators and other constituencies. She displays an in-depth understanding of the complexities of public lands, water politics, agriculture, drought, broadband, and energy.
Mitsch Bush has attacked Boebert as a political newcomer who does not support QA and who will contribute to the stalemate in Washington. QAnon, in part, focuses on the unfounded belief that Trump is campaigning against enemies in a “deep state.”
Boebert briefly commented on QAnon during an interview in May with Internet journalist Ann Vandersteel, whose site highlights conspiracy theories. Pressured by Vandersteel, she said: “If this is real, it could be really good for our country.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Boebert condemned efforts to link her to QAnon. She said the criticism comes from a playbook in which Democrats campaigning remotely due to the coronavirus are waiting for candidates like her to get it wrong.
“I made a comment: a polite ‘yes’ on a podcast,” he said. “That comment has been stretched and exaggerated. They cannot win in politics. It’s part of their frustration and it will backfire. “
Boebert argues that a “deep state” of bureaucrats is thwarting Trump’s agenda. He has criticized those, like Mitsch Bush, who campaign remotely.
“That is a ploy used by Republicans across the country,” said Mitsch Bush. “I don’t have a basement. I am trained as a scientist. I take the spread of the pandemic and the virus very seriously.”
Boebert gained publicity when he briefly defied coronavirus-related public health orders by opening his Shooters Grill earlier this year. That challenge “made her a popular hero for small businesses across the district,” said Dick Wadhams, former chairman of the state Republican Party.
Wadhams said Mitsch Bush must fight the perception that she is not a moderate Democrat. In the House of Representatives, Mitsch Bush often worked with GOP legislators in rural areas on broadband and other key infrastructure for the rural economy.
Yet Boebert has described Mitsch Bush as a “far-left socialist” who has backtracked on past statements that he supports the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. Boebert herself insists that she will never vote to end coverage of pre-existing health conditions, something guaranteed by President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but she supports repeal of the law and has yet to reconcile those points of interest. view.
Jason Bane, a Democratic consultant, said the revelations about minor arrests involving Boebert could affect her chances as a candidate for law and order, as well as the Trump campaign’s decision not to invest much in Colorado.
“If you’re honest about the race, it’s probably because it’s a noisy new face with a gun,” Bane said.
Boebert continues to press, eager to lead an “anti-squad” in Congress to confront leftist representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive Democrats.
“Pueblo, this could be the last and most important election we’ve ever had. Freedom is on the ballot. America is on the ballot,” he told the Pueblo West crowd.
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