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Lauren Boebert hosts first town hall as political opponents line up to challenge her

Heather Willard
The Pueblo Chieftain

Rep. Lauren Boebert hosted her first town hall representing Colorado's 3rd Congressional District through a virtual, phone-based meeting on Thursday night, citing 55,000 participants.

Some questions were from those opposing Boebert and what she stands for, while others seemed to be based on the presumption that she had taken part in or encouraged the violent riot in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The first question was based on this, and ultimately the caller was cut off before the end of her question.

"Your incendiary tweets have not addressed the 53,000 cases of COVID in District 3, nor have they addressed the 900 deaths in our district. It's disgraceful. You've also condoned Marjorie Taylor Greene's incendiary posts and tweets promoting anti-Semitism and racist comments. I want to know why this is. Not one ..." asked one caller, who identified herself as Kerry (spelling unknown) from Eagle.

Boebert responded by explaining her knowledge of COVID-19 business restrictions due to the global pandemic, noting she knows how difficult it is for business owners.

"I believe in targeted relief for those still struggling," she said. "But, we have a vaccine. We know who the most vulnerable are, and how to protect them ... opening our economy back up is the solution for the poor economy right now. I'm very proud of the work that's taken place in managing this, and for those who want a vaccine, we are making sure we are providing access for those. Continued lockdowns, however, will only continue deepen our economic problems, increasing inequality and it isn't good for mental health."

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Boebert also noted the educational impact COVID lockdowns have incurred, advocating to reopen schools.

In response to a separate question, Boebert addressed immigration, having recently visited the U.S.-Mexico border in a Congressional trip that included tours of facilities and interviews with Border Patrol agents.

She was not enthused with the portions of wall built along the border, mostly blaming that on President Joe Biden's order to halt construction of the border wall. She decried the current "wink and a nod" system she said was allowing immigrants to enter the U.S.

"I want people to come to America and I want them to do it the right way, I want them to do it the legal way and not cut in front of the people that are doing it the right way," she said. 

However, Boebert also criticized current security measures in Washington, D.C. despite the recent attack on the Capitol complex, which she experienced. 

She called the wall currently surrounding the Capitol "unnecessary," and called for its removal. She also commented that people protect what they care most about, and said that was why former President Donald Trump sought to build a wall along the border.

She also spoke about energy and how she would like to pursue energy legislation during her term.

"Oil and gas is a big priority for me, because it's a big priority for my district," she said. "We do such a tremendous job at providing these resources and extracting these resources. I don't want America to leave energy independence, I want to pursue energy dominance. I want to get the Jordan Cove pipeline built and export our clean liquefied natural gas to countries that are dependent on communist dictators right now."

Boebert has held jobs in the industry previously, and her husband works in the oil and gas field. She called the workers of the industry "self-regulating." 

One caller asked Boebert to speak about photos and rumors that she had been associating with white supremacists and flashing white power signs. The caller ended by asking if Boebert was cooperating with the FBI.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry you've been deceived by conspiracy theories," Boebert responded.

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The town hall came only days after Boebert cancelled an in-person event, citing safety concerns. Since then, three Democrat candidates have thrown their hats in the ring for her seat, which isn't up for election until 2022. Most well-known is current state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who announced her candidacy Wednesday after filing with the Federal Elections Commission on Tuesday.

Donovan stated in her candidacy video announcement that she is hoping to provide "honest, competent leadership in Washington." She advocated for expanding rural broadband, bipartisan cooperation and health care access. Although she did not mention Boebert by name, Donovan is seen pushing images of Boebert off screen while talking about returning to unity and "fixing what is broken."

"You deserve a congresswoman who cares more about getting results than getting headlines," she declared.

Also in the running are two relatively unknown candidates. Colin Wilhelm, of Glenwood Springs, filed for the race on Jan. 20; and Gregg Harrison Smith, of Westcliffe, filed his candidacy on Feb. 2.

Smith is running on a campaign of being a rancher, in addition to being a decorated combat Marine. He has been vocally critical of Boebert on his campaign Twitter page, saying Thursday that she "voted to embrace the same dangerous, delusional and hateful lies and conspiracy theories that led to a terrorist attack on our Capitol."

"Lauren Boebert wants to be a right-wing media star," he tweeted. "She doesn’t care how much despicable crap she has to do or say to get there. She thinks that’s her job. Now ask yourself where you and your family fit into that equation and Lauren’s quest for stardom."

Wilhelm is an established attorney in Glenwood Springs, and previously ran for the Colorado House District 57 seat in 2020. He confirmed in January to multiple media outlets that he would be running to unseat Boebert in 2022.

In pieces throughout her Thursday town hall, Boebert responded to criticisms that she was seeking media fame with her rhetoric. She spoke to wanting to be a good messenger and spokesperson for the Republican party, calling them a minority, especially in Washington, D.C. 

"I think it’s important for everyday, average citizens to have a voice in the decisions that are taking place in our country," she said. "I think that we are at a turning point where the lawyers haven’t always got it right. We’re $28 trillion in debt, so it’s time for people with real-life experiences, who know what it’s like to take a risk and open a business, create opportunities for people and sign the front of a paycheck, to have a say in America’s future."

Chieftain politics reporter Heather Willard can be reached at twitter.com/HeatherDWrites or by email at hwillard@chieftain.com