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Colorado’s closest congressional race pits political vet and rising star with fringe ties

Newcomer Republican Lauren Boebert is taking on Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush after defeating incumbent Scott Tipton.

COLORADO, USA — The race to represent the sprawling Third Congressional District, which covers the Western Slope and Southern Colorado, offers a clear ideological choice for voters who have elected both Democrats and Republicans to that seat.

Democrats view the contest as competitive after Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton lost the GOP primary to political newcomer Lauren Boebert, best known as the owner of Shooters restaurant in Rifle where the staff openly carries firearms.

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Former state legislator Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs is the Democratic nominee for the second consecutive cycle. She lost to Tipton by eight points in 2018.

Boebert entered the Republican primary pledging to “annihilate socialism,” saying she was running against progressive New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and not Tipton.

"I don't believe there are many people who can take her on the way that I'll be able to,” Boebert said.

>>> Watch the video above to see Lauren Boebert's interview with 9NEWS Anchor Kyle Clark.  

Boebert told 9NEWS the impetus for her run was when she saw that Tipton did not lead a House committee.

Republicans do not currently lead House committees because Democrats hold the majority in the House. Informed of this fact, Boebert was nonplussed.

Her primary campaign promised Republican voters a more vocal and confrontational Trump-style populism, compared to Tipton’s reserved, often invisible, presence on Capitol Hill. 

Boebert has expressed enthusiastic support for the QAnon conspiracy theory, which is rooted in the unfounded belief that President Trump will soon round up and execute his political opponents for drinking the blood of children.

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The FBI identified QAnon as a potential domestic terror threat.

Appearing on the internet show of a QAnon believer, Boebert said she was “very familiar” with QAnon and said, “if this is real, then it can be really great for our country.” 

Trump quickly embraced Boebert upon her primary win, despite an earlier endorsement of Tipton. In a clear sign of her rising stardom in Republican circles, Boebert was in the select crowd attending President Trump’s Republican National Convention acceptance speech on the lawn of the White House.

Boebert’s unapologetically conservative agenda is outlined in ALL CAPS on her campaign website, “PRO-FREEDOM, PRO-GUNS, PRO-CONSTITUTION, PRO-ENERGY, PRO-LIFE, PRO-COLORADO, PRO-AMERICA.  HEADING TO CONGRESS TO DRAIN THE SWAMP, STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS, AND TELL ALL THE LEFT-WING LUNATICS WE DON’T WANT MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROL, WE WANT OUR FREEDOM!” 

Mitsch Bush contrasts that approach, claiming she’s “led calmly” in her time as a state legislator and Routt County Commissioner.

Health care is among Mitsch Bush’s focuses on the campaign trail. She has said she supports a universal, single-payer system that retains private insurers while stopping short of endorsing Sen. Bernie Sanders’ Medicare-For-All plan. Republicans have criticized her stance as flip-flopping. 

National Democrats are signaling a willingness to devote resources to Mitsch Bush’s campaign, naming the race as one of 34 targets in the National Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s “Red to Blue” program.

While the district, which stretches from Grand Junction to Pueblo, has elected both Republicans and Democrats in recent decades, it went strongly for President Trump in 2016. 

Trump carried the congressional district by 12 points in 2016, double Mitt Romney’s margin of victory there in 2012, and quadruple John McCain’s winning margin in 2008.

Tipton leaves Congress after eight years. He defeated incumbent Democratic Representative John Salazar by four points in 2010. Two years earlier, Salazar had been re-elected by 24 points as McCain eked out a relatively slim three point win in the congressional district in 2008. 

Salazar, a moderate Democrat, first won the seat in 2004 in an open race after Republican Rep. Scott McInnis left office after six terms. 

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