In January, Buentello sued the congresswoman in U.S. District Court, claiming that Boebert had violated Buentello’s First Amendment rights by blocking her on Twitter, which Boebert did in response to a tweet calling for her recall after January 6.
More recently, Buentello has channeled her energies toward defeating Boebert in 2022. Earlier this year, she became co-chair of Rural Colorado United, a super PAC created in 2020 for the sole purpose of defeating Boebert and promoting her then-opponent, former state Sen. Diane Mitsch Bush. The PAC collected $314,490 from donors large and small, and some 2,000 volunteers joined in the effort, which included posting billboards that featured Boebert’s mugshot and highlighted the multiple arrests and warrants she faced before entering politics. The effort was unsuccessful; the neophyte Boebert beat Mitsch Bush by 6 points. But, under Buentello, Rural Colorado United has begun building out a 2022 door-knocking campaign to mobilize Democrats in ski towns and independent voters all across the Western Slope, the huge but lightly populated mountain and high desert region that covers most of her district.
“We were sounding the alarm a full-blown year ago that Boebert was an imminent threat to our way of life,” Buentello, who is also the government affairs director for an education nonprofit, said recently, as she sat outside Squawk, her favorite independent coffee shop in Pueblo. “As far as I can tell, we are paying her $180,000 a year for her to tweet and go on Fox News. The job she’s doing is fundamentally disconnected from [the district] and our needs.”
In addition to Buentello’s efforts, several Democrats have launched campaigns to challenge Boebert. The three in Pueblo are Democratic state Rep. Donald Valdez, whose district includes part of Pueblo County; Sol Sandoval, a Pueblo-based community activist with deep ties to the city’s nonprofits; and Susan Martinez, a certified nurse’s assistant. Boebert’s most formidable challenger so far is Democratic state Sen. Kerry Donovan, who lives in the mountains in Vail—considerably closer to Boebert’s hometown of Rifle—and who raised nearly $644,000 in two months after declaring her candidacy in February. Collectively, Democratic candidates raised $832,842 in the first quarter of the year—shy of Boebert’s $846,000.
For candidates running to defeat Boebert in 2022, winning over Pueblo’s voters is key to outweighing support in Republican strongholds on the state’s Western Slope, and Democrats are already campaigning here. At a recent listening session on a sunlit brewery patio bordering a weedy lot with an abandoned factory, Sandoval urged representatives from the city’s churches, universities, school systems, and Native American and Latino communities to help her raise money and awareness about her campaign.
“From the moment I was born, I already didn’t have the same opportunities as children who were born into a wealthier neighborhood,” Sandoval said, after 15 or so attendees had told her they needed funds to curb opioid addiction, serve transgender youth and aid immigrants. “And now I’m watching my children attend a school that is underfunded. We need to change this.”
In an earlier interview, Sandoval said that while she’s running out of a sense of commitment to public service, her candidacy is also in reaction to Boebert. “When I think of Lauren Boebert, I think of that expression ‘all hat and no cattle,’” Sandoval said. “When she had the opportunity to support stimulus funding, she chose Trump over us. It’s very frustrating.”
At least one person at Sandoval’s listening session who voted for Boebert said he had been disappointed by her, and plans to help Sandoval’s campaign. “I thought Lauren would be a great representative for small business owners because she owns a small business, and she came from a humble lifestyle,” said Gus Garcia, a political independent who also voted for Biden.