Lauren Boebert, the owner and operator of a Western Slope restaurant where all staffers openly carry guns, announced on Sunday a conservative primary challenge to Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton.
“Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, The Squad and the rest of these left-wing lunatics are taking a wrecking ball to our country while our current representative stays utterly silent,” Boebert said in a statement announcing her candidacy in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.
“The Squad” is a group of four new, liberal Democratic congresswomen of color that includes Ocasio-Cortez, a U.S. representative from New York.
“Hard-working, patriotic Americans like you and me don’t want the Green New Deal and socialized medicine,” Boebert said. “Every time AOC and the rest of The Squad pipes up with another crazy idea, I will remind them that our belief in God, country and family are what built the United States of America into the greatest nation the world has ever known.”
Boebert’s restaurant, Shooters Grill in Rifle, has been the subject of media attention because its employees openly carry firearms while serving customers. Boebert is a gun rights activist, recently showing up – a pistol strapped to her waistband – at a gun-control event for then-presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in Aurora to confront him about his pledge to take away people’s assault-style weapons.
Boebert says she is an active supporter of President Donald Trump, and the district she is running in backed Trump in 2016. “There is a battle for the heart and soul of our country that I intend on helping win,” she said in her announcement.
In an interview with The Durango Herald, Boebert, who was raised in a Democratic family in Denver, said her political views changed after she moved to the Western Slope at age 12. She got her first paycheck at a McDonald’s in Garfield County and realized she could do a better job taking care of herself than the government.
“Being raised in a poverty mentality, you kind of were raised believing everything (is) a struggle, and it is, but there’s hope in that struggle, and you have to have vision to get out of it,” Boebert said.
Boebert and her husband, Jayson, an oil and gas worker, realized “failure and government assistance were not an option.” She began advocating for the Second Amendment after a violent fight in the alley at Shooters Grill.
“There was an altercation in our back alley where a man was physically beaten to death, and it immediately prompted the question, ‘How will I defend my people?’ So I began to carry that day,” she said. Some of her employees asked if they too could carry their guns, “and we all agreed that none of us were comfortable having our guns unattended in our purses in the back.” She then began offering gun training sessions.
“I knew that we have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and if you don’t have a way to defend your life, what good are the rest of your rights?” Boebert said.
If elected, Boebert said she would oppose regulation of natural resources and advocate for lower health care insurance by “allowing it to be sold across state lines.”
“If Congressman Tipton was doing an effective job, I wouldn’t feel the need to run,” Boebert said. “But AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and the rest of The Squad are going unchallenged. Conservatives want a fighter who will put these people back in their place and stand up for what we believe in, and I believe that over the years, I’ve been pretty darn good at that.”
In an interview with The Colorado Sun, Boebert said the laws passed by Democrats in Colorado’s 2019 legislative session were also a big part of her decision to run. She felt that Tipton was not vocal enough in opposing those measures, including the “red flag” gun bill.
“If I felt that we were being represented properly, I would not have stepped up to run for this position,” she said.
Boebert also opposes full-term abortions and is “tired of representatives shying away from these issues and remaining utterly silent.”
Asked why she decided to run for Congress and not the Colorado Legislature, where those measures were passed, Boebert said she wanted to have the most impact as quickly as possible. “This is not a career move for me,” she said.
The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the first to report on Boebert’s candidacy, says Tipton, who has served in the U.S. House since 2010, has fought off three prior Republican primary challenges. Tipton supports Trump and serves as an honorary co-chair of the president’s 2020 re-election effort in Colorado.
Tipton, who lives in Cortez, also has beaten Democratic challengers in the past.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is targeting Tipton’s seat in 2020, potentially the most competitive U.S. House race in Colorado but has struggled to recruit candidates.
The Democrats running to unseat Tipton include former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs, who ran against Tipton and lost in 2018, and James Iacino, the former CEO of Denver-based Seattle Fish Co. and a recent transplant to the Western Slope.
A spokesman for Tipton’s re-election campaign did not immediately return a message seeking comment on Sunday.
Ayelet Sheffey, an intern reporting for The (Cortez) Journal, contributed to this report. She is a student at American University in Washington, D.C.