Tipton has GOP primary challenger


Another person has entered the race for the 3rd Congressional District, but this time it isn't a Democrat or independent.

This new candidate, Rifle resident Lauren Boebert, is a Republican and intends to challenge U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in a primary race next year.

Boebert, who will turn 33 next month, said she plans to make an official announcement of her candidacy on Monday.

"If I felt we were being actively represented the way that I believe that we should, I wouldn't have rose up to take this step," she told The Daily Sentinel in an interview. "I've been patiently waiting for active representation. I just feel like we are losing Colorado very quickly. It is absolutely being stolen from us by Democrats and this social agenda that's sweeping our country."

Boebert is well known in Garfield County as owner of Shooter's Grill in Rifle, a restaurant that has drawn attention because she, her waitresses and other staff all openly carry sidearms.

That theme not only has brought her restaurant attention locally, but internationally. Its menu offers such items as sawed-off eggrolls, shotgun burritos and ballistic chicken.

She boosted her own profile in September when she traveled to Aurora with the purpose of dressing down former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, a Texas Democrat who was a candidate for president until ending that bid last month.

She was particularly incensed at O'Rourke's plan for a mandatory buyback of AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic weapons, saying he was exploiting recent mass shootings in order to boost his own profile in the presidential race.

Her comments to O'Rourke earned her immediate national attention, primarily from conservative media outlets.

"I am here to say, 'Hell no, you're not,' " Boebert told O'Rourke at a town hall meeting. "A criminal by (definition) breaks the law, so all you're going to do is restrict law-abiding citizens like myself."

She immediately was interviewed on Fox News and saw her comments reprinted in numerous other publications nationwide.

A few days after that incident, she appeared at an Aspen City Council meeting to speak against its new ordinance banning firearms in city buildings, and on Saturday she was a featured speaker at a rally on the steps of the Colorado Capitol Building to oppose the state's new red flag law, which allows judges to issue protection orders to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed to have mental health issues.

But Boebert said she didn't decide to run for Congress because of those experiences or on gun issues alone, although that clearly is a major plank for her campaign.

While she pointed to many anti-gun laws that the Colorado Legislature has passed in recent years, including the new extreme risk protection order law and laws restricting the size of gun magazines, Boebert said she's running for federal office primarily because she believes Tipton has been too quiet on advancing conservative ideals statewide and nationally.

She also said Tipton rarely interacts with his constituents, doesn't get many things of significance passed in Congress and holds few public events seeking voter input.

"He's supposed to represent me; that's what I elected him to do," she said, wearing a handgun on her belt when she arrived at the Sentinel offices to talk about her pending campaign.

"He has a position of authority, and he can absolutely influence those people (in the Legislature)," she added. "He can get behind good people and endorse them. He can throw fundraisers for people, anybody who has those conservative values. He can get behind them and be their voice. I don't see him doing that."

Tipton's campaign declined to comment about facing a primary opponent.

Boebert said Tipton should be more like U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, saying that although that New York Democrat is only one voice out of many in Congress — one elected to office just last year — she's been able to advance her progressive agenda on a national stage with such issues as Medicare for all, the Green New Deal and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Boebert said there's no reason why she can't do the same, but to advance conservative ideals on such things as the Second Amendment, abortion issues and states' rights.

Boebert said she believes winning the GOP nomination for the district is doable, in part, because Tipton's re-election numbers have slipped since first winning the seat in 2010.

Last year, Tipton won re-election to his fourth term by only 52%, his slimmest margin. In 2016, he won the general election with 55%, and, in 2014, with 58%.

This isn't the first time Tipton has had a primary challenger either, but he has easily handled them.

In 2016, he won nearly 79% of the GOP vote against Republican Alexander Beinstein. And in 2014, he easily defeated Palisade resident David Cox, garnering 74% of the vote. He didn't have a primary challenger in 2012, but in 2010, he won 56% of Republicans for the nomination over Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell.

Although the expansive 3rd District has more registered Republicans than Democrats — 33% to 27% — unaffiliated voters make up the vast majority with 37%. Those unaffiliated voters are now allowed to cast ballots in party primaries.

Boebert moved to Rifle from Aurora when she was 15 years old, and continues to live there, raising her four sons with husband Jayson, who works in the oil and gas industry.