The word “Democrat” was conspicuously absent from a recent news release by Colorado congressional candidate Adam Frisch.
Frisch, a former city councilman from the posh, mostly liberal ski town of Aspen, instead described himself as a “conservative businessman” and avoided mentioning his political party.
Frisch’s campaign hopes that downplaying his Democrat status will allow him to pull off an upset victory in the largely rural and conservative-leaning Colorado congressional district where he will face first-term Republican Lauren Boebert. She is one of several far-right figures, including Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who have emerged as political celebrities since storming the country in 2020.
Boebert is attempting to ensure that voters don’t forget the uppercase “D” next to Frisch’s name by mockingly dubbing her opponent “Aspen Adam” and following the GOP script of portraying him as a typical liberal who would cow to what they claim is Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “radical agenda.”
Frisch understands that he will have to persuade thousands of people to cross party lines: Republican voters outnumber Democratic voters 150,000 to 115,000 after redistricting made the district more Republican.
Frisch’s strategy was on display at a recent town hall meeting in the working-class town of Pueblo, where he was dressed in a large belt buckle, jeans, and cowboy boots. He emphasized his “moderate” and “pragmatic” views, which make him pro-business and pro-energy. He asked voters if they really wanted two more years of what he calls “angertainment” from Boebert.
Frisch hopes to sway Republican voters turned off by Boebert’s bravado and unabashed support for former President Donald Trump. He doesn’t spend much time discussing Boebert’s positions on key district issues like oil and gas or health care, on which both candidates agree.
A close race in rural Colorado would be a significant development in the national fight over the Republican Party’s direction, in which Trump supporters like Boebert, Greene, and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz are challenging an old guard that has mostly accommodated Trump while trying to keep the far right at bay.
But Seth Masket, director of the University of Denver’s Center on American Politics, does not believe that will happen. Though some Republican voters dislike Boebert, he believes it will be difficult for them to cross party lines and support even a moderate Democrat.
Boebert, who energized a loyal base of right-wing voters on her way to unseating five-term GOP Rep. Scott Tipton in 2020, isn’t buying Frisch’s conservative branding. Frisch’s platform, according to the incumbent, reflects a trend of Democratic lawmakers and candidates backpedaling on issues such as the “defund the cops” movement and dealing with sky-high inflation and steep prices.
When President Joe Biden was nearing the end of his State of the Union address in March, she interrupted a solemn moment of Biden’s son to blame Biden for the deaths of 13 service members during the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan. “You inserted them. “Thirteen of them!” she exclaimed.
Boebert frequently rails against the Democratic establishment, invoking foreboding rhetoric about liberal persecution of conservatives and the displacement of Americans by illegal immigrants in the United States. She warns that the midterm elections will determine the country’s course.
Republican Scott McInnis, a former district congressman and now a Mesa County commissioner who represents Grand Junction, said Republican voters like Boebert because he’s a fighter.
Frisch avoids Boebert’s impassioned rhetoric about a larger cultural struggle, rarely mentions Boebert’s controversies that catapulted her to national prominence and uses less definitive language. When discussing broad issues like inflation, he’s nodded his willingness to find bipartisan solutions — “we need to find a way” — but avoided making grandiose promises.
His platform is conservative, favoring the private sector to iron out health-care kinks, promoting some natural gas and oil production in the district and across the country, and supporting Nancy Pelosi’s removal as House Speaker in favor of “the next generation of leaders.”
Whether Frisch will garner enough Republican votes, however, appears to be coming down to one question asked by an attendee at the town hall in Pueblo. The question, said Frisch, is one of the most common on the campaign trail: Does the adjective “Democratic” on his ticket mean he’ll bend to the party line?