Tammee Tuttle ate several years ago at Shooters Grill, the Rifle restaurant made nationally famous for its armed wait staff.
But it wasn’t until last weekend that Tuttle, the owner of True Grit Cafe in Ridgway, met fellow restaurant owner Lauren Boebert, the Republican candidate for Congress who pulled off the political stunner of the summer when she defeated five-term Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District primary.
“I wanted to see if she was everything she said she was, or if she was playing a part,” Tuttle said.
Her conclusion? She likes what she sees so far. But she wants to see more, and she wants to see how Boebert stacks up against her opponent, Steamboat Springs Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush, for the right to represent a district that has voted Republican the last five elections.
More than 100 people turned out at the Orvis Ranch on Saturday to meet Boebert, who was making her first appearance in Ouray County since her June 30 victory.
In a roughly 15-minute speech, Boebert focused on popular conservative themes like gun rights and limited government.
“I entered into this race because I saw there are people that want to take away everything that we have. They want to take away our rights, our liberties, our freedoms. As the pandemic has shown us, they want to take away your right to shop, where you shop, when you can shop, what you have to wear when you shop there,” she said.
“They want to take away small businesses,; they want to take away our personal property. We just want to keep the things we have. It’s not that complicated. It’s very simple. We want control over our lives. We don’t want the government controlling everything that we do.”
Boebert got into hot water with Garfield County health officials in May when she opened Shooters Grill to dine-in customers in defiance of state health orders that at the time allowed only pickup and delivery. She was served with a cease-and-desist order, and her restaurant license was briefly pulled.
Boebert told of growing up in a Democratic household dependent on government assistance.
“My mom was a Democrat, and she believed the lies that the Democrats told her. She believed the lies of those failed policies that we depended on to survive. We were told that you need the government to be successful,” she said.
She said she got her first job at the Rifle McDonald’s when she was 15 and still remembers bringing home her first paycheck.
“The pride, the empowerment that was connected to that, it was something that has never left me,” the 33-year-old said.
Boebert railed against Democrats, claiming “they hate our country” and that the party is “full of chaos and destruction.” She told those who attended the meet-and-greet that Democrats will attack her and she’s OK with that.
“I understand that I am their problem. I am what’s in the way of them taking everything we have. I am the defender between you and them. I’m OK with whatever personal attack they throw my way, because I know they can’t win on the issues, and that’s why that’s not what they’re attacking,” she said.
Boebert touted her efforts to oppose Colorado joining the National Popular Vote Compact, noting she was the second-largest signature-gatherer in the state and helped ensure voters will have the opportunity to decide the issue in November. She also recalled another moment that gained her national notoriety — confronting then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke on his call for a mandatory buyback of AR-15 and AK-47 semi-automatic weapons during a rally in Aurora last year.
“I did that because I didn’t see anyone else doing it. I didn’t see anyone standing for freedom, but I saw a whole lot of people giving it away,” she said.
She talked about Mitsch Bush only briefly, calling the 70-year-old former Routt County commissioner and state legislator a “far-left socialist” who supports the Green New Deal and a single-payer health care system. Boebert claimed Mitsch Bush “wants to disband, dismantle, defund our police.”
“I stand with our law enforcement officers. They deserve the pay they get and more. We honor the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. We pray the blood of Jesus over them,” she said.
In a brief interview with the Plaindealer following her speech, Boebert didn’t offer any specific ideas when asked what she could do to help Ouray County as a member of Congress.
“I will fight to allow people to keep their freedoms,” she said.
She did say she thinks federal spending is “out of control” and blamed both Democrats and Republicans for that. If elected, she said she would introduce a balanced-budget amendment.
Asked what her mother thought of a TV ad in which Boebert said she “was a lifelong Democrat, stuck in the cycle of poverty,” Boebert said she ran the ad by her mother before it aired, and her mother signed off on it.
“She did the best she could. She had five children. She believed in those lies. Nobody told her she could be successful on her own,” Boebert said.
She said her mother, who works at Shooters Grill, is now a Republican who voted for President Trump in 2016.
“She sees what hard work and determination produce,” Boebert said.
Tuttle, the owner of True Grit Cafe, said while she is a fiscal and social conservative, she is an unaffiliated voter who has catered events for both parties and wants to be an informed business owner. She said she voted for Boebert in the primary because while she respects the job Tipton did, she believes in term limits.
Tuttle said Boebert is passionate, has integrity and relates to the average person based on her upbringing. But she said she wants to see more from her.
“What does she bring to the table? What’s she going to do to help this district? God and guns are important to me, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to appeal to everybody,” Tuttle said.
She said she didn’t get many answers to specific questions and that Boebert’s campaign team said they’re still putting together information about her position on several issues.
If Mitsch Bush holds a public event in Ouray County, Tuttle said she would attend it.
“I want to do a side-by-side (comparison),” she said. “I’m a visual person.”
Larry Coulter, who owns Coulter Construction in Ridgway, said he voted for Tipton in the primary and believes the Cortez small-business owner served the 3rd Congressional District well. But he said he’s behind Boebert 100 percent.
“It seems people are ready for more enthusiasm, and that’s what Lauren brings,” he said.
Ridgway resident Gary Matney said it was “easy” to choose Boebert over Tipton in the primary.
“Scott hasn’t done a damn thing for us,” he said. “He’s a no-show over here.”
“Lauren has an abundance of energy, commitment and national pride,” he said, adding that he hopes to see her fight for the Western Slope’s water rights.
As an NRA-certified instructor, Matney said he appreciates that Boebert is a “dynamic spokesperson” for the Second Amendment. He said he likes the way she stood up to O’Rourke in Aurora, that doing so took a lot of courage.
“She’s competent. She’s confident. She’s the whole package,” Matney said.
Carroll Mitchell of Ridgway also voted for Boebert in the primary, saying it didn’t seem like Tipton was engaged with his constituency. The secretary for the Ouray County Republican Women said she doesn’t think Boebert would get a lot accomplished as a freshman legislator, but her election would be “a step in the right direction.”
“She is not part of the establishment,” Mitchell said. “Somebody new to politics can be a good spokesperson for this part of the state.”