Adam Frisch is down in the polls but undeterred.
The math is simple enough. There’s a way for him to beat incumbent U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, he said. That is, if he can meet enough voters in the district face-to-face, share his platform and close the about 7% lead she has, according to a recent poll.
“People want and deserve to hear more than ‘I’m not her,’” Frisch told The Denver Post. “But also some people would vote for a cantaloupe over her.”
Political experts are less optimistic about Frisch’s chances but acknowledge there’s a path to victory for him, even if it’s an increasingly narrow one.
Not only is the far-right Boebert ahead in the polls, despite a long trail of gaffes, controversies and investigations following her around the state’s sprawling 3rd Congressional District, but she also has about twice as much money to work with and a much bigger platform on social media.
The former Aspen City Councilman wants to draw a distinction between himself and Boebert, who he repeatedly says works in the “anger-tainment industry” and paint himself as a problem solver with a broad range of experience that could help represent the district’s people.
Frisch said he was born and spent the first few years of his life on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeast Montana before his family moved to Minneapolis where he spent the rest of his childhood. He went to college at the University of Colorado Boulder and then moved to New York City where he briefly waited tables before jumping into the financial industry first as an analyst and then a currency trader.
In a word, terrorism played a significant part in Frish’s decision to head back to Colorado.
Frisch said he was on the 100th floor of the World Trade Center’s north tower during the 1993 bombing. He recalled hours of waiting on the roof, unsure of what happened, before walking down 100 flights of stairs covered in soot.
He was there during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which killed three people and injured hundreds more.
And then during the Sept. 11 attacks, Frisch said he was still working in New York City, just a few miles away.
“I lost a lot of friends and former colleagues,” he said. “I needed some time to check out.”
So he moved to the Western Slope (first to Vail, then to Aspen in 2003), met and married his wife, Katie and worked in the home design and building industry. Then he decided to run for local office, winning a bid for Aspen City Council in 2011, a seat he held until 2019.
On council, Frish said he focused on affordable housing — a problem that plagues Aspen, much like other ski resort towns and the rest of the state — and education.
Enter Boebert, of Silt, who unseated then-incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton and won her seat in 2020, sweeping into Congress with a style all her own. Frisch said he took notice, especially of the first-term congresswoman’s timbre on social media, her unwillingness to work with Democrats and her failure to pass legislation.
“Unfortunately in this world loud is assumed to mean strong,” Frisch said. “Every day, every hour, it’s insane, she’s divisive, mean and petty and most importantly she’s not focused on the district.”
Rather than tweet or appear on cable news, Frisch said, if elected, he’d try to join the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and get to work.
Frisch said his top priority is the economy, particularly the inflation raising the cost of goods and services of every kind across the country. Unemployment is also a concern, he said. While the rate might appear relatively low, too many are underemployed or underpaid.
His other priorities are healthcare, education, water and the environment.
Rural portions of the country are bleeding doctors and nurses, Frisch said. Hospitals and clinics are closing.
Not only do medical providers need more money to keep them in place but so too do educators, Frisch said.
“Colorado has a lot to be proud of as a state but its education funding is not one of them,” Frisch said.
And so long as the world remains dependent on fossil fuels, they might as well be produced in Colorado, Frisch added. However, he supports a strategic transition toward renewable energy sources.
If elected to Congress, Frisch said he can do the job better than Boebert. But ousting a well-funded — if divisive — conservative incumbent as a Democrat in a district that leans to the right makes for a tall order, political scientists agree.
At the outset, the math is working against Frisch, according to Justin Gollob, a political scientist at Colorado Mesa University.
Traditionally, the party in power — in this case, Democrats — loses seats during these types of midterm elections, Gollob said.
The state of the national economy is also working against Frisch, Seth Masket, a political scientist with the University of Denver, said
“Voters that have a real problem with inflation are probably not going to turn to the Democrats right now,” Masket said.
Plus, congressional redistricting last year transformed Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District into a safer place for Republicans, Masket said. Conservative candidates might have as much as a 10% advantage.
“It’s not impossible for Frisch but it’s very, very difficult,” Gollob said. “He’s been handed no favors in this election cycle.”
Really Frisch’s success will boil down to how much he can break through to voters, the political scientists agreed. That will come from in-person events throughout the district, in which about 750,000 people live, but covering ground in person is both difficult and time-consuming. He’ll have to depend on fundraising to buy television, radio and online ads.
And he’ll have to try and confront Boebert in person, they said. Already the opponents have agreed to two debates — one in September and another in October — but Boebert can still freeze him out.
“She can choose to ignore him as much as she wants,” Gollob said. “If she doesn’t hand him the bullhorn his message can easily get lost.”
At this point in the campaign, little in Boebert’s behavior would indicate she perceives Frisch as a major threat to her incumbency, Masket said. And on a national level, the Democrats are hustling to defend the slim House majority they already have. Attempting to flip a seat held as firmly as Boebert’s likely isn’t a high priority, he said.
Still, Frisch remains optimistic about his chances, even in the midst of an increasingly divisive national political climate.
“I’m not trying to own the conservatives,” he said. “I’m trying to work with them.”
He’ll be out there in the coming weeks and months, knocking on doors, shaking hands, broadcasting stump speeches and asking for votes in Colorado’s biggest Congressional district.
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