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Jeff Hurd wins Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

Grand Junction lawyer, Jeff Hurd, talks with Allan Thayer, as his daughter Gabriella Hurd, 12, looks on Oct. 28 in Towaoc for the Montezuma County Lincoln Day Dinner at the Ute Mountain Casino Hotel. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)
Hurd’s victory in the Republican-leaning 3rd District, came amid $2 million in super PAC spending

Grand Junction attorney Jeff Hurd won the six-way Republican primary Tuesday in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, meaning he will take on Democrat Adam Frisch in November.

The race was called by The Associated Press at 8:15 p.m., when Hurd had 42% of the vote.

In Montezuma County, Hurd won 37.73% of the vote, compared with former state Rep. Ron Hanks’ 31.92%.

Hurd’s victory in the Republican-leaning 3rd District, which spans the Western Slope and stretches into Pueblo and southeastern Colorado, came amid $2 million in super PAC spending that both benefited and opposed him.

Much of the spending was aimed at propping up Hanks, an election denier endorsed by the Colorado GOP, who was in second place with 28% of the vote when the race was called.

Hurd’s victory is bad news for Frisch, who was hoping to face Hanks in November. Frisch spent more than $100,000 on TV ads attacking Hurd and promoting Hanks in the lead-up to Election Day.

Rocky Mountain Values PAC, a Democratic group, spent nearly $500,000 on ads promoting Hanks and tearing down Hurd for the same reason Frisch was doing so.

“The Democrats and Frisch do not understand western and southern Colorado,” Hurd’s campaign manager, Nick Bayer, said after the win. “They thought they could buy their way to victory. Voters are fed up with the Democrats and their cheap political tactics.”

Hurd will focus on securing the U.S.-Mexico border, fighting back against President Biden’s “disastrous economic policies” and protecting Colorado water and agriculture, Bayer said. “The election results show that voters here in the district are looking for serious, hardworking and effective leadership.”

Rocky Mountain Values PAC, a Democratic group, spent nearly $500,000 on ads promoting Hanks and tearing down Hurd for the same reason Frisch was doing so.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC tied to House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, spent $436,000 on ads in the past week attacking Hanks as too liberal on gun issues in an effort to help Hurd win.

The super PAC Americans for Prosperity Action, which is tied to the national conservative nonprofit Americans For Prosperity, spent $368,000 on canvassing, mailers and digital advertising to help Hurd.

“Democrats tried every dirty trick in the book to meddle in this race and advance their preferred candidate into the fall,” CLF President Dan Conston said in a written statement. “Their failure was Colorado’s success. Tonight’s result ensures this seat will stay red in November.”

In a statement, Frisch congratulated Hurd on his win, but attacked the Republican on abortion and for his ties to AFP.

“My presumptive opponent won’t have the backbone to stand up to Washington interests,” Frisch said.

The political dynamics at play

The 3rd District is currently represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, who is running for reelection this year in the 4th Congressional District based on the other side of Colorado. Boebert made the switch to improve her shot at retaining office after she beat Frisch by just 546 votes in 2022.

Hurd entered the 3rd District race, before Boebert’s district swap in December, and quickly drew the backing of prominent Colorado Republicans, including former U.S. Sen Hank Brown, former Gov. Bill Owens and former U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, who lost to Boebert in the 2020 Republican primary in the 3rd District.

When Boebert exited the contest, the field became more crowded, with Hanks moving to Grand Junction from Cañon City to enter the race and Colorado Board of Education member Stephen Varela of Pueblo jumping in, too.

There’s little evidence to suggest a Democrat can win in the 3rd District if Boebert isn’t the Republican nominee. The district hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 2008. And when redistricting happened in 2021, the 3rd District was made more favorable to Republicans.

Excluding Boebert’s 546-vote win in 2022, the closest 3rd District race since Republicans took control of the district in 2010 happened that year, when Tipton beat incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar by 4 percentage points.

The second-closest 3rd District race since 2010 other than Boebert’s close shave in 2022 was Boebert’s 6-point victory in 2020 over former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat.

On the other hand, Frisch has amassed a massive war chest — he had $3.8 million in the bank as of June 5 after reserving $2.4 million in TV ad time for the fall — by fundraising off Boebert’s national unpopularity. And Democrats believed Hanks’ embrace of election conspiracies could make him as vulnerable as Boebert, though his profile is much smaller than the congresswoman’s.

Hurd, on the other hand, is a more traditional Republican.

Frisch on Tuesday was already positioning himself as loyal to neither party, saying “I’ll be an independent voice of reason.”

Still, he will be listed as a Democrat on the November ballot, and that alone could make victory in the 3rd District impossible.