July 12, 2024

Boebert will likely fill the House seat vacated by congressman who criticized the GOP’s extremes

FILE - U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., speaks to reporters during a primary election watch party, Tuesday, June 25, 2024, in Windsor, Colo. Boebert will likely replace Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., after she won the Republican primary election in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District on Tuesday. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

By JESSE BEDAYN Associated Press/Report for America

DENVER (AP) — Former Republican U.S. Rep. Ken Buck resigned from Congress frustrated by a flank of the GOP’s unwavering devotion to former President Donald Trump. Now he will likely be replaced by one of their most boisterous leaders, Rep. Lauren Boebert.

Boebert, who has built a name as a headline-grabbing devotee of Trump, won in Tuesday night’s Republican primary election in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District. Boebert joined the district’s race last year, escaping what would have been a tough reelection bid in the seat she currently holds and nearly lost to a Democrat in 2022.

The congresswoman’s political play succeeded. Buck’s hopes for a more tempered Congress apparently did not, at least in his former seat.

While other Republican candidates in Boebert’s vein lost their primaries in Colorado on Tuesday, Boebert has a clear road to victory in a dark red district that threw its weight behind Trump in 2020.

After her win Tuesday, Boebert donned reflective gold shoes sold by Trump and a “Make America Great Again” hat with his signature and defended her unyielding politics. While some may disagree with her style in Washington, she said, “nothing happens without force.”

But that road to victory in Tuesday’s primary wasn’t so clear. The roll of the dice to hop districts was made more dicey by an embarrassing moment when the congresswoman was caught on tape vaping and causing a disturbance with a date at a musical production of “Beetlejuice.” Boebert was also beset along her journey by accusations of carpetbagging from fellow Republicans.

Buck, a staunch fiscal conservative and alumni of the hardline House Freedom Caucus that includes Boebert, has avoided publicly airing his thoughts on his likely replacement. He declined a request for comment for this article.

But the former congressman has broadly criticized his party’s parroting of Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen, questioned efforts to impeach President Joe Biden and dismissed some in his party’s claims that those charged in the Jan. 6 capitol riots are political prisoners.

Boebert has had a hand in much of it. In a recording of Buck at a private event initially reported by Politico, the former congressman said “she makes George Santos look like a saint.” Santos was expelled from Congress last year.

Drew Sexton, Boebert’s campaign manager, said that voters backed Boebert because they saw her political obstinance in Congress as promises kept on the campaign trial and her apologies as sincere.

“She’s shown that she’s contrite. She is committed to to doing things better for her personally, and she’s absolutely making the right votes,” he said.

The replacement of more traditional Republicans with MAGA adherents is a broader trend, said Seth Masket, director of the Center on American Politics in Denver.

“Some of them have tried to fight it and some of them have just decided to resign and for the most part they are replaced with people who are much more loyal to Donald Trump. That’s very consistent with the direction of the party,” Masket said.

While Boebert stands roughly 30% ahead of the Republican runner-up with nearly all votes counted Wednesday, more than half of voters cast their ballots for one of the other five candidates.

“Boebert offers kind of a mixed lesson to other Republicans,” said Masket, pointing to her near loss in 2022 in an otherwise Republican-leaning district. “There’s maybe not that much of a price, but there is some price to be paid for acting in very brazen ways and for embracing Trump too much.”

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Jesse Bedayn is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.