|Lauren Boebert - Photograph: McKenzie Lange/AP|
Lauren Boebert isn’t the only pistol-packing-on-the-job restaurant owner in America, and she isn’t the first fan of QAnon to run for office, but she may be the first woman to combine those unusual elements – and they may have helped propel her to a primary win over a five-term congressman late on Tuesday.
Donald Trump congratulated Boebert on her surprise victory in a Colorado Republican primary, even after first endorsing her opponent, longstanding congressman Scott Tipton.
Congratulations on a really great win! https://t.co/rMpFiV6LvY— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 1, 2020
Boebert makes much of the fact that she “believes in personal freedom, citizen rights, and upholding the constitution of the United States”, which should normally be seen as typical, patriotic American values of a nonpartisan nature but are increasingly being given proprietorial spin by ultra-conservatives as a definitive part of their political platform.
Boebert will run in November’s general election against Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush.
Her claim to fame locally is that waiters in her restaurant openly carry guns. It is named Shooter’s Grill and is located in a town called Rifle, in a rural part of Colorado west of Denver and the state’s leading Rockies ski resorts such as Vail and Aspen.
“Our freedom and our constitutional rights are on the ballot this November and Republicans just sent a loud and clear message that they want me there to fight for them,” Boebert said in a statement, issued from her campaign watch party in Grand Junction, the Aspen Times reported on Tuesday night.
She poses with a gun in a holster on her thigh.
I am a mother to 4 boys. My husband and I are raising them to be strong men! I refuse to send my children into a socialist nation. Their freedom IS my motivator! Threaten the liberty of Americans, and I'll be there to hold you accountable! #USHouse #CO03 #HellNObeto @BetoORourke pic.twitter.com/ncuwoYLdnH— Lauren Boebert for Congress (R-CO3) (@laurenboebert) May 3, 2020
Earlier this year, Boebert said in an interview that she was “very familiar” with QAnon, but she stopped just short of saying she was a follower.
However, she did say: “Everything that I’ve heard of Q, I hope that this is real because it only means that America is getting stronger and better, and people are returning to conservative values.”
QAnon followers believe that Trump is fighting enemies within his own government, in the so-called “deep state”, a permanent, renegade “government” within a government made up of civil servants and security operatives intent on thwarting the will of the people and with the president as its latest victim. And that, more widely, followers are in a battle against darker forces of the world.
Even former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, a prime mover in the formation and propagation of the deep state conspiracy theory in recent years, has since said the concept should not be taken seriously.
But some QAnon followers even subscribe to one of the theories that disrupted Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016: that she was involved in a child sex trafficking ring run out of a pizza restaurant by liberals on the outskirts of the capital.
The QAnon name comes from online clues purportedly posted by a high-ranking government official known as “Q”.
An in-depth podcast series by the New York Times called Rabbit Hole at one point featured a former QAnon follower who finally realizes she’s been duped but explained how easily the theory and messages from online followers suck in ordinary people who would not think of themselves as rightwing radicals and are just churchgoing “middle Americans” feeling anxious, lost and down on their fortunes, and finding something to belong to that strikes such a powerful cord.
But the QAnon fanbase has been expanding, with supporters turning up at Trump rallies and edging closer and closer to party politics, with now more than half a dozen Republican candidates set to be on the ballot in November who have promulgated QAnon theories, according to a report by NBC.
Boebert won the primary for Colorado’s third congressional district after a campaign in which she accused the incumbent, Tipton, of not being sufficiently pro-Trump even though the president had endorsed him.
She will run in November’s general election against Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker who won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday by defeating businessman James Iacino.
Boebert made a name for herself after loudly protesting against the Democratic state governor Jared Polis’ orders to close businesses to fight the coronavirus pandemic. She kept her restaurant open in defiance of closure orders.
Boebert confronted the then Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke during one of his campaign stops last year, in the Denver suburb of Aurora, questioning him on suggestions he would confiscate guns – a moment that landed her on right-leaning Fox News.
“A sober look at the Tipton Record shows a back-burner representative that has failed to live up to his conservative chops that he touted on his Tea Party-inspired campaign trail,” Boebert wrote in a recent Aspen Times column, mentioning the grassroots, hard-conservative, libertarian-leaning movement of the 2010s that disrupted the Republican party and altered their caucus in Congress.
“If his record lived up to his campaign rhetoric, I wouldn’t feel so compelled to run,” she said.
Boebert’s win shocked most political observers – along with Tipton, who skipped some candidate forums and didn’t campaign like an incumbent at risk, the Denver Post reported on Wednesday.
She has vowed to do battle with liberals “for the heart and soul of our country”.
But the Post pointed out that Tipton won by eight points in the 2018 election, and conventional wisdom says the Democrats now have a better chance in the seat with a non-incumbent GOP candidate.