How Adam Frisch won the chance to challenge Boebert, and what’s next in the race

Narrow margin against Sol Sandoval not close enough to trigger recount

By: - July 12, 2022 11:12 am

Adam Frisch, left, then a Democratic primary candidate for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, at a debate among Democrats on May 25, 2022, in Grand Junction. (Sharon Sullivan for Colorado Newsline)

By the time all the ballots were counted in the Democratic primary in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, Adam Frisch’s lead narrowed to just 290 votes, but it was still enough for Sol Sandoval to concede 10 days after Election Day.

In the end, Frisch was victorious with 25,750 to Sandoval’s 25,460, according to unofficial results from the secretary of state’s office as of the evening of July 8. A third candidate, Alex Walker, had a little over 15% of the vote with about 9,500 votes.

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When the Associated Press called the race for Frisch on June 29, he was ahead by about 2,000 votes. That margin narrowed as more votes were tallied throughout the next week, including ballots from unaffiliated voters that weren’t processed by Election Day and ballots from overseas voters.

It was by far the closest race in the primary for a federal office, and the results show a distinct geographical divide in support among Democratic voters.

On July 8, Sandoval congratulated Frisch and said she would support him in the general election against incumbent Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert.

“This race was so very close and we lost by 1%,” the community organizer from Pueblo said in a statement.

“I promise you I will work everyday to bring people together, because we must beat Boebert,” she concluded.

Beating Boebert has been the goal of organizers in the district since the Silt Republican took office in 2021. In his communication since securing the nomination, Frisch has emphasized that about 55% of voters who turned out in the primary voted for someone other than Boebert, either by voting for her Republican opponent or voting in the Democratic primary.

“I always assumed it was going to be a fairly close race,” Frisch told Colorado Newsline. “I knew that Sol and her platform and policies and passion and what she was running on was going to resonate with a lot of people.”

Now he hopes his approach to court a coalition of voters by pitching a pragmatic strategy to bring to Washington, D.C., will also resonate.

“It’s important for us to unite as a Democratic Party,” he said. “And even broader — I’m looking at it as building a bipartisan, pro-normal party.”

He jumps in this race. Nobody knows him but he has a ton of money. Did he really think it through? Did he think through ‘I’m a rich white guy, how am I going to win areas that are primarily Latino?’

– Former state Rep. Joe Salazar

Frisch, a former Aspen City Council member who bankrolled his campaign with over $2 million of his own cash, won counties mostly along the Western Slope. In his home county of Pitkin, he walked away with over 70% of the Democratic vote. In Boebert’s Garfield County, he won over 50% of the vote. He credits his victory partly to a push to meet as many voters in person during the final weeks of the campaign, to boost name recognition and connect with people face-to-face.

While he won the Western Slope, Sandoval captured Southern Colorado and the San Luis Valley, which is home to more Hispanic and Latino voters. In Pueblo County, she received over 50% of the vote. She won over 70% of the vote in Costilla County and about 60% in Conejos County.

Former state Rep. Joe Salazar, who backed Sandoval, said Frisch should look at those results as evidence that he needs to gain name recognition in Southern Colorado and speak to those voters’ interests.

“Moving forward, he better do a good job out in the rural areas. No matter if he wins the ski towns, to beat Boebert he needs to win the San Luis Valley, Pueblo and Durango,” Salazar said. “He jumps in this race. Nobody knows him but he has a ton of money. Did he really think it through? Did he think through ‘I’m a rich white guy, how am I going to win areas that are primarily Latino?’”

Salazar also said he wonders how state Sen. Don Coram, a Republican who primaried Boebert, affected the outcome. Unaffiliated voters in Colorado can choose to vote in either party primary, and some more liberal unaffiliated voters may have chosen to vote for Coram in an attempt to oust Boebert.

Additionally, Democrats could have switched their registration to unaffiliated to support Coram. Between January and June of this year, there were about 5,000 fewer Democrats and about 11,000 more unaffiliated voters in the district, according to data from the secretary of state’s office.

“If that’s the activism that they took — to literally unaffiliate from Democrat — those individuals very likely would have supported Sol because that shows an activist spirit to go after someone who is wicked to the core,” Salazar said of former Democrats who voted for Coram in the Republican primary.

It is nearly impossible to prove whether that switchover vote hypothesis could have moved the needle by more than 290 votes.

While Frisch’s 0.5 percentage point margin of victory is slim, it is not sufficient to trigger an automatic recount. The difference between Frisch’s and Sandoval’s vote totals would need to be equal to or less than 0.5% of Frisch’s total, or 128 votes or fewer.

Frisch will face Boebert the general election this November.

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Sara Wilson
Sara Wilson

Sara Wilson covers state government, Colorado's congressional delegation, energy and other stories for Newsline. She formerly was a reporter for The Pueblo Chieftain, where she covered politics and government in southern Colorado. Wilson earned a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and as a student she reported on Congress and other federal beats in Washington, D.C.

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