ALAMOSA – Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert and Democratic challenger Adam Frisch squared off at Grand Junction’s Club 20 debate at Colorado Mesa University on Saturday night in what looks to be their first and only match up before the Nov. 8 election.
The event, slated last on a schedule featuring more than 15 debates, was expected to be contentious, drawing an estimated 200 people in person and 1,000 people online with more than 2,000 comments made on Facebook
But sparks flew before the debate even started when Boebert attacked the moderator, Edie Sonn of the Colorado Behavior Health Council, over a tweet Sonn allegedly posted in 2020 voicing support for Boebert’s opponent. First interrupting and then speaking over Sonn, Boebert accused the moderator of being partisan.
“This is not about me,” Sonn fired back, stating that she was “the traffic cop” and was “respectfully asking” Boebert to agree to the rules of the debate.
“If you will not, then we can close this thing down right now.”
Boebert agreed to follow the rules, adding, “I’m glad everyone is aware that Club 20 did not choose a non-partisan moderator.”
Candidates debate topics, Washington politics
The candidates’ opening remarks that followed were a preview of points that would be made repeatedly during the debate.
Boebert, who was first up, stated she went to Washington to “stop socialism”, “stop liberal extremism” and to “fire” Nancy Pelosi.
“Nancy Pelosi is running a con game in Washington D.C., and we are all paying the price for it,” she said.
Over the next 55 minutes, Boebert would invoke the Pelosi’s name more than 25 times.
After stating, “I’m Adam Frisch. I’m not Nancy Pelosi” – something he would repeat six more times in the debate – Frisch focused on legislation that Boebert has voted against that would have helped “farmers and ranchers, small business owners, veterans, teachers and health care workers.” He also highlighted Boebert’s “zero for 39” record in introducing legislation that made it out of committee.
Three panelists asked the candidates a total of six questions, starting with what they would do to protect Colorado’s water resources.
Boebert said her first priority has always been “water, water, water”, citing she has worked to deliver funds for more water storage, secured appropriations for a pilot program to address the water hungry salt cedar and claiming she “led the charge to stop the RWR proposal”.
“California and Nevada are after our water,” Frisch said. “Who do you want sitting in the halls of Congress when there are 52 members in the California delegation and only eight from Colorado?”
Citing water health, Frisch then called out Boebert for being one of only nine in Congress who voted against H.R. 7283, the STREAM Act that would help prevent acid tailings from abandoned mines polluting rivers and streams.
Boebert described the STREAM Act as another one of “Pelosi’s con games.”
When asked about bringing federal funding to Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, such as what was in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act, Frisch said he would vote for infrastructure legislation, adding that Boebert claimed to have secured nine funding victories for the district but voted against the legislation that made the funding possible.
“I won’t vote one way in Washington and then lie to my constituents,” she said.
Boebert described the infrastructure bill as being another “Pelosi con game”, criticizing a bill that was “2,000 pages long” that was given to members of Congress without providing adequate time to read its contents.
Boebert also repeated the claim that only 9% of the bill was devoted to infrastructure, a popular conservative criticism based on a narrow definition of “real” infrastructure that only includes surface transportation projects such as repair of roads and bridges.
Candidates talk forest management
When asked about forest management, both candidates agreed on the importance of responsibly managing forests and watersheds through the thinning of forests and removal of dead and fallen trees.
Boebert said one of her first pieces of legislation was on forest management, which she said was “the most expansive legislation on forest management in decades.” Her legislation would prevent catastrophic wildfires and protect watersheds which help in providing water to 80% of municipalities in Colorado.
The bill, introduced in July of 2021, drew on previous legislation from both sides of the aisle but failed to get any Democratic co-sponsors.
“You talk about bringing legislation but, once again, zero out of 39 getting your legislation out of committee and on to the floor,” Frisch said. “It’s one thing to talk about something. It’s another thing to get something done.”
Frisch agreed that healthy water systems rely on healthy forests and advocated for using “technology” to remove dead trees and “getting people into the forests doing the work that needs to be done.”
When asked about how he would address aridification and increasing temperatures from a changing climate, Frisch stated “we are in a climate crisis” and reiterated the need to focus on healthy forests and watersheds to capture “all the water that falls from the skies and down the mountains and into our rivers and streams.”
Boebert, who has not acknowledged that climate change is real, stated that “we all want cleaner water, cleaner air and a healthy environment” and “energy production is part of that.” She said the United States “leads the world in reducing greenhouse emissions because of our natural gas which is the cleanest in the world”, advocating to “unleash the power of the roughneck.”
She then accused “the left” of outsourcing energy development to adversaries instead.
Candidates talk about diverse constituency of CO-3
When asked about reaching out to a diverse constituency, including those with differing opinions, Boebert spoke of the number of times she has “traveled this district for more than two years” meeting with people and getting results such as “connecting a radar system” in the San Luis Valley connected to the National Weather service system” and “leading the charge at stopping” the RWR export of water. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, we can all agree that the Constitution is the way to go.”
Frisch spoke of traveling 8,000 to 9,000 miles during the primary campaign, going to every school district in CO-3. He then referenced a ranking system of effective legislators in Congress where Rep. Boebert ranked 433 out of 435.
“Effective legislators may not be on television or Twitter but they get things done and are not going to be zero out of 39,” Frisch said.
Boebert said she “didn’t go to Washington to play Nancy Pelosi’s con game” and touted her 100% conservative voting record on “life, guns, the economy and immigration.”
Energy independence key to both campaigns
Another area where both candidates agreed was on energy independence.
Frisch said he’s in favor of an “all the above” approach, and the country is going in the right direction when 24% of energy comes from renewable resources compared to 10% in 2010. He supports domestic energy production because he said it’s better for the planet and cleaner than energy produced in other parts of the world and will be necessary until renewable energy can provide what’s needed.
Boebert said a candidate couldn’t be “all of the above” and not support nuclear energy, “which is the cleanest energy there is.”
Frisch said he would support a conversation that included nuclear energy.
Barbs traded in final cross-examinations
In the final, cross-examination portion of the debate, Frisch asked Boebert why she missed the Club 20 “steak fry” the night before. It was reported that Boebert was attending a far-right Christian event elsewhere.
Boebert said “dinners aren’t really (her) thing” and some people go to Washington specifically to go to dinners.
“The problem in Washington is that there isn’t enough of me,” she said.
Asked if she supported abortion in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother is at risk. Boebert said she is pro-life and opposes late term abortions.
Boebert attacked Frisch for claiming to have been unaffiliated all his life but registered as a Democrat in 1992 while attending Colorado University in Boulder. Frisch said he doesn’t remember doing that thirty years ago. She also criticized him for asking to delay an affordable housing fee required of people in Aspen who live in the home they are remodeling. Frisch said he had recently paid that off.
The candidates are scheduled to appear on the same stage one more time in October at a candidate’s forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters.