Boebert Is Target of Rivals at Debate for New-to-Her District

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Representative Lauren Boebert, the far-right firebrand, faced off against eight Republican opponents on Thursday night in a debate in the new Colorado district she is seeking to represent in Congress.

After barely managing to win re-election in Colorado’s Third Congressional District against a Democrat in 2022, she is running this year in a much more conservative district, the Fourth. On Thursday evening, Ms. Boebert appeared at ease delivering fiery rhetoric and espousing her pro-Trump, hard-right stances among similarly conservative peers at the debate in Fort Lupton.

“Everyone will talk like a Freedom Caucus member, but there is only one who governs as a Freedom Caucus member,” Ms. Boebert said in her opening statement, adding that she did not expect a “coronation” in her new district and that she looked forward to “earning your vote.”

But Ms. Boebert also faced steady criticism from her rivals about switching districts — having relocated to the other side of the state to improve her chances after a strong primary challenger emerged in the Third District.

State Representative Mike Lynch suggested that Ms. Boebert was a “carpetbagger” after she brought up a drunken-driving arrest that forced Mr. Lynch to step down on Wednesday as the minority leader for Republicans in the statehouse.

The candidates mostly avoided mentioning what had landed Ms. Boebert in their district in the first place: an incident in September in which Ms. Boebert — then in the midst of completing her divorce with her husband — was caught on a security camera vaping and groping her date at a performance of the musical “Beetlejuice.”

Ms. Boebert said at the debate that she needed a “fresh start” after her divorce. “My boys need some freedom from what has been going on,” she added. “And this move is the right move for me and for them.”

At one point, candidates were asked to raise their hands if they had ever been arrested. Six of the nine candidates onstage raised their hands, to cheers and applause from the audience. Trent Leisy, a Navy veteran and business owner, high-fived Mr. Lynch and Ms. Boebert while their hands were raised.

Ms. Boebert said in that segment that she had been arrested only once, for failing to appear in court for careless driving, what she called in the debate “a simple traffic violation that was unpaid.” But the local news media have reported at least two additional arrests. In one incident in 2015, Ms. Boebert told police officers who were arresting her that she “had friends at Fox News” and that the arrest would be national news.

The candidates in the race — 11 in total — are competing to succeed Representative Ken Buck, the Republican incumbent, who announced he would not seek re-election in November. Mr. Buck cited election denialism — the widespread belief by many Republicans that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald J. Trump — as part of the reason for his decision, as well as the refusal of many of his Republican colleagues to condemn the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob.

Ms. Boebert, in contrast, has fervently promoted those false claims about the 2020 election. In the debate on Thursday, she was one of a few candidates onstage who raised their hands when asked if the 2020 election had been stolen from Mr. Trump.

Colorado’s Fourth Congressional District is significantly more conservative than the Third, and Ms. Boebert’s move is expected to make it easier for a less divisive Republican to win in her old district. An analysis by the Cook Political Report after Ms. Boebert’s district switch said her old seat would lean Republican in the November election.

And the winner of the primary in her new district is likely to be in a strong position to win a district where Mr. Buck earned 60 percent of the vote in 2022. Ms. Boebert barely won re-election that year, pulling ahead of her Democratic opponent, Adam Frisch, with roughly 500 votes.

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