DENVER — Two of Colorado’s most closely watched races of the 2022 election have been the closest in terms of margins over the past 24 hours, but one of them is over.
The 3rd Congressional District race between Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and Democrat Adam Frisch and the 8th Congressional District race between Democrat Dr. Yadira Caraveo and Republican Barbara Kirkmeyer were both separated by fewer than 4,000 votes for most of Wednesday.
The 8th Congressional District race being close isn’t much of a surprise, as most polling considered the race a tossup in the weeks before the election. The district is an open seat and had the least partisan divide out of all eight Congressional districts following the redistricting process. Out of an average of eight statewide elections since 2016, the district leaned Democratic by 1.3%.
And around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Kirkmeyer called Caraveo and conceded the race shortly after Caraveo's campaign manager said in a statement she felt Caraveo would win because of the outstanding votes in Adams County that still need to be counted. As of 6:20 p.m., she led Kirkmeyer by 1,489 votes.
“Our community showed up and our voices were heard. Together, we will fight to lower costs, make prescription drugs more affordable, make childcare and family leave more accessible, and fight for every person in America to, once again, have reproductive rights restored to them,” Caraveo said.
The small gap between Frisch, the former Aspen City Councilman, and Boebert, the firebrand incumbent, is much more surprising because the 3rd Congressional District leaned even more toward Republicans after redistricting.
That same average of eight statewide elections showed the newly redrawn 3rd Congressional District leans Republican by 9.3%. Boebert won the district by 6 percentage points and about 25,000 votes over Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush in 2020.
As of 1:20 p.m., Frisch led Boebert by 2,354 votes. By 2:15, that lead was down to 2,201 votes. And by 3:50 p.m., it was back up to 2,205 votes. And by 4:30 p.m., Frisch's lead was cut to 62 votes. At 5:15 p.m., after more ballots were counted, Frisch's lead was 73 votes. At 7:57 p.m., Frisch's lead was cut to 64 votes. And at 9:17 p.m., with 99% of precincts accounted for, Frisch still had a 64-vote lead.
It’s not entirely clear how many ballots remain left to be counted, but Pueblo County’s clerk said counting continues there Wednesday. An update that came in just before 1:30 p.m. was about an even split of votes for Boebert and Frisch from Pueblo County.
Boebert has been noticeably quiet on social media and the airwaves since polls closed in Colorado Tuesday. Her last tweet was congratulating a congresswoman and saying just before 7 p.m.: “The red waves has begun!” Photos taken by a Colorado Sun photographer at her watch party showing early excitement, and then the group praying as the race changed tone as the night went on.
A spokesperson for her campaign told Denver7 early Wednesday afternoon that she was in Washington, D.C. and not available for any interviews.
Laura Carno, a former spokesperson for Boebert’s campaign in 2020, says she believes Republicans in the 3rd Congressional District didn’t turn out in ways they did during the 2020 presidential election, but that late returns could favor Republicans, though the returns on Wednesday have not necessarily reflected that is the case.
“There were a certain subset of Republicans who felt that it was safe for their vote if they were to vote in public or in person on the day of the election,” she said. “So, we definitely heard that all over the state. And those are the people we would expect that should come in for Boebert.”
Carno acknowledged that the results across the country were disappointing for Republicans and that the party cannot be treated as a monolithic group.
“There will be soul searching within the factions of the Republican party,” she said. “I think what the Republican party needs to do is look at what is a winning message — and winning means not just within your own party, but within those vast numbers of unaffiliated voters.”
Frisch sent a message to his supporters Wednesday thanking his supporters and saying he was still waiting for every vote to be counted.
“We still have a lot of work ahead as ballots are still being counted. It is my deepest honor to have received so much support from the people of Colorado’s wonderful 3rd district. It took a village, lots of hours and lots of organizing, but we believe all of the hard work will pay off. None of this would have happened without you,” he said in a statement. “Hopefully soon Coloradans and Americans alike can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that there is one less extremist in office. We will keep you updated as the vote counting continues.”
Steve Welchert, a Democratic consultant, said he is hearing the outstanding ballots in Pueblo County are not mostly from the more conservative Pueblo West but instead spread throughout the country — something he said would benefit Frisch.
Welchert said he believes Frissch’s campaigning in Pueblo helped him immensely while trying to win votes over from Boebert despite the district leaning further Republican after redistricting.
“It’s a much tougher seat now for Frisch, which is why, frankly, it was written off by Democrats both in Colorado and nationally,” he said. “He didn’t get a lot of help from folks. He did this on his own and deserves a lot of credit.”
Welchert said he also believes Boebert’s persona worked against her in her first race as an incumbent.
“She was just more interested in being a TV star than she was being a member of Congress,” he said. “She was a bad member of Congress. She didn’t do constituent services, didn’t do the real work of a member of Congress, didn’t take care of her folks, didn’t travel the district enough. The truth is Adam Frisch just out-worked her.”
Caraveo and Kirkmeyer had also stayed quiet since polls closed Tuesday until the evening action and Kirkmeyer's concession. Kirkmeyer was at the Republican watch party Tuesday but never made a public speech.
Caraveo led Kirkmeyer by 1,973 votes as of 1:20 p.m. — down from 3,451 votes as of Wednesday morning, and ballots were still being counted in the 8th Congressional District. By 4:30 p.m., Caraveo led by 2,490 votes. And by 6 p.m., Caraveo was up by 1,522 votes.
Caraveo's campaign manager, Elana Schrager, said in a statement just before 6 p.m. she was confident Caraveo would win.
"With Yadira in the lead and significantly more votes left to be counted in Adams than in Weld, we are confident that once all of the votes have been counted, Yadira Caraveo will be the first Congresswoman from CO-08," Schrager said.
Weld County Clerk and Recorder Carly Koppes said Weld County would be submitting new numbers at noon and 5 p.m. Wednesday. It is also not clear how many ballots are outstanding in the 8th Congressional District.
Koppes said Weld County started the day with around 30,000 ballots that still needed to be counted because of a late push by voters to drop off ballots and vote in person.
“Getting that much of a volume on Election Day, we’re going to make sure that our process is staying true to the checks and balances and making sure that everything is working exactly how it is, which administratively, this election was very smooth,” Koppes said. “For myself and my fellow clerks across the state, we were able to continue to uphold the integrity of the election, just like we’re going to do over the next few days of counting.”
Adams County officials said they still had 36,000 ballots left to count as of Wednesday morning.
Larimer County Clerk and Recorder Angela Myers said Larimer County received a record 66,000 ballots on Election Day. Election workers stopped posting results at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday and were back counting early Wednesday morning.
But she said that the number of ballots with votes in the 8th Congressional District race was likely very small.
Races in Colorado only go to a recount if the difference between the candidate with the highest number of votes and the candidate with the second-highest number of votes is equal to or less than 0.5% of the total votes between those two candidates.
In the other congressional races, incumbents won handily. Democrat Brittany Pettersen won the open 7th Congressional District race, and Democrats swept the top statewide offices, and are poised to further their hold on the state Senate and House.
Denver7's Meghan Lopez and Bayan Wang contributed to this report.