The numbers that explain their close race in Colorado

US Republican Representative Lauren Boebert blames voter turnout and a lack of enthusiasm for Colorado’s GOP candidates for the US Senate and governor for her much closer-than-expected race with Democrat Adam Frisch, a former Aspen councilman.

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Boebert led Friday afternoon by about 1,100 votes, or less than a percentage point, ahead of Frisch. Additional results are expected to arrive by the end of Friday, November 18, the deadline for county officials to count ballots from military and overseas voters and to accept ballots with signature discrepancies that voters have “healed.”

The race will probably be too close to announce until all votes are counted.

“I don’t know if there wasn’t enough enthusiasm for our lead candidates for governor and for Senate or what happened there,” Boebert told reporters in Washington, DC this week, according to The Wall Street Journal, “but there were a lot of shifts in the votes .”

She’s not wrong.

The Colorado Sun analyzed returns and results in Boebert’s 3rd congressional district to get a better sense of how turnout and enthusiasm are shaping up for Republican US Senate nominee Joe O’Dea and Republican gubernatorial nominee Heidi Ganahl, who are holding their races lost by a wide margin on Tuesday may have impacted the race.

This is what the numbers tell us:

What you should know about the district

The 3rd District spans the Western Slope and extends into Pueblo and southeastern Colorado. It consists of 26 counties plus a small portion of Eagle County with about 6,000 voters in the Roaring Fork Valley between Aspen and Glenwood Springs.

The district’s boundaries were redrawn last year as part of Colorado’s ten-year redistribution of districts. So keep that in mind when comparing district election data from previous election cycles to 2022. For example, pro-Democrat Routt County was the district in 2020 but not in 2022. GOP-leaning counties of Otero and Las Animas are now in the district, while two years ago they weren’t.

The 3rd district leans heavily in favor of the Republicans. She has not elected a Democrat to Congress since 2008.

Boebert won by 6 percentage points in 2020, and when the district’s boundaries changed slightly last year, things only got more favorable for the GOP.

Voters in the new district backed Republican Senator Cory Gardner’s unsuccessful 2020 re-election bid by 11 percentage points. In 2018, a devastating year for Colorado Republicans, voters in the district backed Republican Walker Stapleton’s unsuccessful gubernatorial bid by 6 percentage points. And former President Donald Trump won by 14 percentage points in the district in 2016 despite losing nationally.

Republicans also have an advantage in voter registration in the 3rd Circuit. About 44% of active registered voters in the district are nonpartisan, while 31% are Republicans and 24% are Democrats.

As of November 1, 2022, there were 493,214 active, registered voters in the new 3rd district. In the old district there were 458,649 active, registered voters on November 1, 2018.

Turn out

As we mentioned above, district secretaries still count the ballots. But based on reliable estimates from the Colorado County Clerks Association, a nonpartisan group, there are likely only a few thousand ballots left in the 3rd Circuit to be tabulated by Friday, Nov. 18.

Around 323,000 votes have so far been counted in the race between Boebert and Frisch. That’s more than 100,000 fewer than the number of votes cast in the district in 2020 (440,604) and about 5% – or about 20,000 – fewer than the number of votes cast in the district in 2018 (341,453).

(Again, remember that the district’s lines have been redrawn.)

Close-ups of Lauren Boebert on the left and Adam Frisch on the right.
Rep. Lauren Boebert and challenger Adam Frisch are seen at their various watch parties.

It makes sense that there were fewer votes cast in the 3rd Circuit this year than 2020, which was a year of presidential elections. There is always a higher turnout in years when a presidential campaign is coming up. Additionally, the borough now has approximately 50,000 fewer active, registered voters than there were on November 1, 2020 under its old configuration.

In Pueblo County, the largest metropolitan area in the 3rd District, around 65,600 ballots have been counted in the race between Boebert and Frisch. In 2018, a similar number were cast in the race for the 3rd district with approximately 67,500 votes cast.

Mesa County, which supports more Republican candidates, has so far counted about 72,000 votes in the 3rd district race, up a few thousand votes from 2018, when 68,762 were cast in the 3rd district race.

Garfield, Montrose, Pitkin, Delta, La Plata, and Montezuma counties, other major populations in the 3rd Ward, have participation in the 2022 Boebert Frisch race at or just slightly above 2018 levels.

Boebert is doing worse than 2020 in some key counties of the 3rd district

While 3rd Circuit turnout may not have changed much in key counties since the last midterm election, Boebert — measured by percentage of votes cast — is faring much worse in some 3rd Circuit counties than it was in 2020.

Pueblo County, for example, backed Boebert’s 2020 opponent, former Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, by about 200 votes, or less than a percentage point. In 2018, Republican US Rep. Scott Tipton, whom Boebert defeated in the 2020 3rd Circuit GOP primary, won in Pueblo by 2 percentage points over Mitsch Bush.

This year, Boebert Pueblo County loses fresh by 6 percentage points.

In Mesa County, Tipton won 62% of the vote in 2018. In 2020, Boebert won 61% of the votes there. So far this year she’s gaining 58%.

Boebert lost Garfield County — her home county — by 6 percentage points in 2020. This year she loses almost 14 percentage points or around 3,200 votes to Frisch.

How Boebert Fared Compared to the GOP’s 2022 US Senate gubernatorial nominees

The number of votes cast for races at the top of the ticket always tends to be higher than for races further down the ticket. That’s how it was this year in the 3rd district.

Voters throughout the district’s 26 counties—not counting Eagle County’s voters—cast about 3,500 more ballots in both the gubernatorial and US Senate elections this year.

Still, Boebert received more overall support from district voters than O’Dea, the Republican Senate nominee, and Ganahl, the GOP gubernatorial nominee.

Boebert received about 2,000 more votes than O’Dea and about 7,100 more votes than Ganahl.

Frisch, meanwhile, received nearly 5,200 votes more than O’Dea’s opponent, Democratic US Senator Michael Bennet, but nearly 700 fewer votes than Ganahl’s opponent, Democratic Gov. Jared Polis.

Here is a table of ballots counted through Friday morning: