GRAND JUNCTION — Like boxers squaring off before a fight, incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger Adam Frisch locked eyes before their first — and only — debate Saturday night in Grand Junction.
Then the bout began.
Boebert jabbed even before agreeing to the debate’s ground rules. And she came after moderator Edie Sonn of the Colorado Behavioral Health Council.
Years ago Sonn, Boebert said, tweeted her support for the congresswoman’s then-challenger, former state Rep. Dianne Mitsch Busch. Boebert asserted that the debate was not a nonpartisan event, prompting boos from the a few of the perhaps 200 people in Colorado Mesa University’s Robinson Theater.
“This debate is not about me,” Sonn shot back, adding that Boebert was free to leave if she didn’t want to participate in the debate. The congresswoman relented.
The candidates then focused on each other. Frisch criticized Boebert’s legislative track record, noting that she has not managed to pass a single bill nor been willing to work with members of the opposing party.
Boebert then attacked the entire Democratic Party. There are no moderate Democrats, she said, rather the left is all part of a “con game” run by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The congresswoman frequently focused her attacks on Pelosi throughout the debate.
Repeatedly Frisch replied, “I’m Adam Frisch, not Nancy Pelosi.” He added that he would not support Pelosi for another term as Speaker if he’s elected.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re not Nancy Pelosi,” Boebert said. “Because if you get there and she’s speaker, you work for her.”
The candidates agreed on basic priorities, like the need to protect Colorado’s water supply and bolster its oil and gas industry (though Frisch said he also supports a transition to renewable energy) but both candidates fell short of offering detailed policy ideas.
The conflict heated up again when the candidates were given a chance to question each other. Frisch came first, diving into Boebert’s voting record.
He asked why she voted against bills that would fund issues like cancer research, to which she replied that Pelosi “uses the most vulnerable among us” to forward her own liberal agenda.
Frisch was referencing the congresswoman’s vote on the TRANSPLANT Act, which reauthorized the National Marrow Donor Program. Boebert was one of only two representatives who opposed the measure, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, of Georgia, was the other.
He also noted another time when Boebert was one of eight votes against the Protecting Seniors from Emergency Scams Act. That law requires the Federal Trade Commission to put together a report on scams targeting seniors.
“Our law enforcement is already equipped to do this,” Boebert said. “This was just another one of Pelosi’s con games. This was a blank check.”
Boebert, in turn, attacked Frisch’s track record while he was on Aspen City Council, noting that the group asked Congress to pass a carbon tax and saying he skirted city fees for his multi-million dollar “ski chalet.” The council also pushed for fewer cars in town and “lots of renewables.”
“You are a Green New Deal extremist,” Boebert said to Frisch. “These are extreme policies. They’re hurting Americans. You’re saying you’re (for) all-of-the-above, saying you’re a moderate. That’s another part of the con game that Americans are waking up to.”
The congresswoman also accused Frisch — without adding much specificity — of running a “covert government operation” in the “dead of night” to shut down Aspen development and to kill blue-collar jobs.
Boebert on the other hand, directed most of her closing comments toward Democrats as a whole, saying they hired 87,000 IRS agents “to come after you,” accusing them of opening the borders and shutting down energy production in Colorado.
“It is not time to help Nancy Pelosi, it is time to fire Nancy Pelosi,” Boebert said. “This election say ‘no’ to liberal extremists and their army of IRS agents.”
While Saturday night’s event was the only traditional debate scheduled between the two candidates before the Nov. 8 election, they will also appear next month in an online forum hosted by the League of Women voters.