Kerry Donovan’s message to voters in campaign to unseat Boebert: Results, not headlines
State senator from Vail is the biggest name so far among Democratic challengers for CD3 seat
Kerry Donovan knows exactly how Republicans will try to cast her in a campaign to challenge Lauren Boebert in 2022 for the 3rd Congressional District seat.
In the sprawling, red-leaning, rural district that encompasses 29 counties in western and southern Colorado, Donovan being a Democrat from the swanky resort town of Vail will be red meat for attack ads if she wins the nomination.
But the rancher, educator and two-term state senator who got her start in politics by serving on the Vail Town Council said those characterizations won’t work.
“They’ve tried that before,” she said in a phone interview Thursday. “I think it shows a real ignorance about what the district is. This district is about ski boots and cowboy boots. You have to know both sides of those communities in order to be able to represent western Colorado and southern Colorado. And if anyone wants to question if I’m a rancher, they can come build fences with me any day this summer.”
Building fences, Donovan said, is what got her to the state Capitol in the first place and kept her there after she decisively beat Republican Olen Lund in 2018 by more than 20 percentage points in her re-election campaign.
“I’ve won a tough race before,” she said. “My constituents overwhelmingly voted to re-elect me in 2018 and that wasn’t because of the letter that was next to my name, I think it’s because I’ve proven I can work with anyone to deliver results. We’ve lowered the cost of health care. We’ve expanded rural broadband. These were real issues for the people in Senate District 5 and I’ll bring that same commitment to this job.”
Vail isn’t in the 3rd Congressional District but could be when Colorado redistricts later this year. Donovan, who has previously listed her address as Vail, listed a Wolcott mailing address when she submitted her Federal Elections Commission filing, as first reported by Colorado Politics.
Donovan has been an outspoken critic of Boebert, and with only two years left in her second and final term in the state Senate, she said she threw her hat into the ring because she believes Boebert is the wrong voice for Coloradans in this part of the state. In a district that has been ravaged economically by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said constituents deserve a representative in Congress who “cares about getting results, not headlines.”
But the ad launching her campaign in which she states “real toughness isn’t what you wear on your hip” has certainly grabbed headlines around the state and country in what will be one of the most closely-watched races in 2022.
Boebert, who operates Shooter’s Grill in Rifle, a gun-themed bar and restaurant where the wait staff openly carry sidearms, is a staunch gun-rights advocate who launched her path to the Capitol when she confronted then-presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke at an event in Sept. 2019 in Aurora to tell him “Hell, no,” he wouldn’t take way her AR-15.
Boebert also vowed to bring her Glock into the Capitol during her campaign to defeat incumbent Republican Scott Tipton, a reliable Republican vote and Trump supporter who’d riddled five previous Democrats gunning for his seat before Boebert upset him in June. She then had a stand-off with Capitol police when the sidearm in her bag set off metal detectors on Jan. 12.
“Just yesterday, Lauren Boebert called the COVID recovery plan a boondoggle and a pipe dream,” Donovan said. “I don’t think it’s a pipe dream to pay your rent. I don’t think it’s a boondoggle to figure out how to keep your coffee shop open. I’m running for Congress because our part of Colorado needs a congresswoman who’s more concerned about getting those results than getting the headlines. We have such big problems to solve.”
Issues in the district
Among those problems Donovan singled out: Recovering from the economic toll wrought by the pandemic, lowering health care costs, getting vaccines out to remote parts of the district, helping farmers and ranchers, and protecting the Western Slope’s water.
“We need to have a robust economic recovery,” she said. “That’s going to take someone who’s willing to fight for the people, not their own selfish reckless agenda.”
Donovan isn’t the only Democrat itching to take on Boebert, but she’s certainly the most well-known brand in Western Slope politics to enter the race so far. Gregg Smith, a former marine who runs a ranch in Westcliffe and previously worked as a high-powered consultant in Washington D.C. where he was once a business partner to Erik Prince, the owner of the shuttered international security firm Blackwater, has entered the race, along with Glenwood Springs lawyer Colin Wilhelm.
After her FEC filing was leaked, Republicans wasted no time teeing off on Donovan.
“Kerry Donovan is simply a knockoff version of Elizabeth Warren, the candidate she endorsed for president,” said Joe Jackson, a Colorado GOP spokesman, in an email blast. “Donovan’s support for Warren and her far-left policies would guarantee that hardworking families would see their taxes increase and ensure the Democrat’s anti-energy, job destroying Green New Deal would finally become law.
“We look forward to beating Sen. Donovan in the general election, if she manages to get that far.”
Donovan said she looks forward to the challenge herself.
“What I bring to this is deep ties into the community — track record of getting things done,” she said. “And I think a reputation for being available and getting out and talking to people. Hearing what they need help with and then carrying their voices with me to the work that I do. … These are tough times. But my record in the state Senate includes bills for young farmers and ranchers. Rural economic development has been something that I’ve worked on every moment that I’ve been in the state Senate. And that’s the same commitment that I will bring to the Congress. I want to help people, I don’t want to grandstand.”
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For the first time in 18 months, the Moffat County High School auditorium will fill with music and singing from students, as the school performs MCHS’s musical, “Beauty and the Beast.”