When Rep. Lauren Boe-bert (R-Silt) announced Wednesday evening that she would seek election to the House of Representatives in the 4th Congressional District next year, it stunned many across the Western Slope, the Centennial State and the
nation. After Boebert abandoned her reelection plans for the 3rd Congressional District, reactions continue to pour in from public figures and organizations in the district.
One common theme of these reactions is surprise.
Tim Sarmo, the chairman of Restore the Balance — an organization
dedicated to “combatting extremism” in Mesa County politics that was formed in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, as well as local officials’ responses to it — called Boebert’s decision a “pleasant surprise” and referred to Boebert as an “extremist candidate.”
“I think that Restore the Balance exists to oppose extremism regardless of party and regard-less of office,” Sarmo told The Daily Sentinel. “It certainly affects us in terms of the loss of one
extremist candidate from the 3rd Congressional District, but I understand that Boebert is planning on running in the 4th Congressional District, so Colorado voters are certainly not rid of her and her brand of extremist campaigning.
“I’m not sure exactly what that means, but as long as there’s a chance for extremist candidates to represent us in congress, I think it’s a bad situation for Colorado and the nation.”
Sarmo said the organization’s focus will remain on Mesa County, although the organization has seen a broadening of its reach in the state, having formed branches in Delta and La Plata
counties. Restore the Balance has also received inquiries from people and entities in other counties in the massive 3rd CD that stretches across the southern region of the state to Pueblo, as well as some counties outside of the district hoping to open their own branches or form new organizations emulating Restore the Balance’s approach to “opposing extremism.” He noted that the organization will offer help or advice to anyone in the 4th CD hoping to oppose “the extremism Boebert represents” at an organizational level.
Sarmo concluded his comments to The Daily Sentinel by acknowledging the Mesa County Republicans who had endorsed and supported Jeff Hurd, who was seen as Boebert’s GOP primary challenger. Those Republicans include state Senator Janice Rich (R-Grand Junction), County Commissioners Cody Davis and Bobbie Daniel, and Grand Junction City Council member Cody Kennedy. Hurd has also received campaign donations from Former Mesa County District Attorney Steve ErkenBrack, Enstroms Candies owner Doug Simons and his wife Jamee, and Former Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke. “I congratulate and offer credit to the awakening of rational West Slope Republicans and others who are beginning to reclaim the Republican Party from the MAGA cult of election-deniers, liars and fearmongers.
This is an example of that,” Sarmo said. “I think Lauren Boebert recognized that, due to the number of rational, courageous voters who stood up and spoke out, the unification of moderate Democrat and Republican and independent voters virtually guaranteed her defeat in the upcoming 3rd Congressional District election — and I would forecast that in the 4th Congressional District, as well.”
George Orbanek, a former Daily Sentinel publisher who was one of Restore the Balance’s original board members, called Boebert’s decision “hugely beneficial to voters in the 3rd CD.” “She was very, very lucky to have won when she faced (Democratic challenger) Adam Frisch,” Orbanek said. “She would have lost that race had not the legislature done their reapportionment and taken Steamboat Springs and Routt County out of the initial district she represented. I think it’s hugely beneficial to 3rd District voters that she hopes to be a representative in the 4th.” Orbanek said Restore the Balance was founded largely in response to three people: Boebert, former Mesa County Clerk Tina Peters and former President of the United States Donald Trump, who he described as a “former president who led an insurrection.” “Were it not for those three individuals and if it were not for the willingness of so many people to defy objective reality — people who believe the big lie that the 2020 election was stolen — I wouldn’t have been involved in Restore the Balance because there would have been no need to,” Orbanek said. “You know what a hot mess the Grand Valley was when the hard right was (criticizing) Janet Rowland of all people because they perceived her as being insufficiently supportive of Tina Peters.”
Orbanek agreed with Sarmo that Boebert’s decision stemmed from her vulnerability among conservative and independent voters in the 3rd CD. In 2022, Boebert narrowly defeated Frisch by 546 votes, and the foundation of her reelection campaign was damaged this year by her recorded behavior during a performance of a “Beetlejuice” musical in Denver in September. “I think evidence is starting to develop that longtime Republicans are beginning to tire of what I call this performative jackassery,” Orbanek said. “I believe Lauren Boebert recognized that and recognized that a huge chunk of her 3rd District constituency recognized that, which prompted her to try to succeed Ken Buck over in the 4th (district). I think it’s remarkable, the level of chutzpah the woman has to think she’s just going to go over there in northeast Colorado and Weld County and whatnot and say, ‘Hey, I’m your gal. Send me to Washington.’ ”
Before Boebert’s rise in politics, the norm for the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce was to endorse a candidate in the 3rd CD general election. However, the chamber broke from that protocol when Boebert became the GOP’s nominee in the district in 2020. The chamber refused to endorse any 3rd CD candidates in 2020 and 2022. Schwenke, who was the chamber’s president and CEO for more than three decades, called Boebert’s decision to change districts “a shock to everybody.” She recently donated $400 to Hurd’s campaign well before Boebert’s announcement. “On a personal perspective, I have known Jeff for a really long time,” Schwenke told The Daily Sentinel. “He was a governmental affairs intern for me more than 20 years ago. He was chairman of the board of the chamber, so I’ve worked with him in a variety of capacities and I’ve always thought that he was a very viable candidate and would represent the 3rd CD very well. I just think that it may be a much more competitive race when we get to the general election when you have two candidates trying to basically tout why they would be better vs. ‘let’s choose the one who’s the lesser of two evils.’ “I think, overall, it’s going to be much more interesting in the 3rd CD moving forward because I see both Hurd and Frisch as very viable candidates.”
Grand Junction City Council District A Seat Cody Kennedy was one of the local officials to endorse Hurd publicly before Boebert withdrew from the 3rd CD race. He describes himself as “uninvolved” and “non-partisan” when it comes to national politics, mainly focused on local issues, but he told The Daily Sentinel that he sees Boebert’s decision as a positive development for the 3rd CD. Unlike others who spoke to The Daily Sentinel to offer their reactions, Kennedy wasn’t surprised when he saw the news. “I thought she might not run,” Kennedy said. “I don’t know her. I haven’t talked to her, but I guess I’m not surprised. I think Jeff (Hurd) will do very well and I think he was going to be too much competition for Lauren Boebert after the last year or so that Boebert’s had.”