Former Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush is making a second attempt to unseat Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, with environmental priorities in mind.
The 2018 Democratic nominee for the 3rd Congressional District describes herself as a “quick study.” She moved from Minnesota to Steamboat Springs in 1976 to ski for a year while finishing her doctoral degree. That year happened to be during a severe drought, and being from Minnesota, she “didn’t know anything about Western water,” so she learned.
“I got to know a lot of ranchers in the area, and I understood a whole bunch more by the end of that ski season,” Bush said. “I had my first job interview at Stanford that spring, and thank God I didn’t get the job because I never would have known what it was like to really live in a small town. I fell in love with Western rural Colorado, and I’m still in love with it now.”
When Bush won a seat as a Routt County commissioner in 2006, her first priority was reducing the county’s carbon footprint, saying she had “always been an environmental champion.” In 2012, she began the first of her three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives, and as a former chairwoman of the Transportation and Energy Committee and vice chair of the Agriculture Committee, touts her environmental record.
“We need to protect our family ranchers and farmers because Scott Tipton, the incumbent, is into protecting ‘agriculture’ but often votes against family farmers and ranchers,” Bush said. “Clearly, Tipton votes against the environment every chance he gets; he did last week when he voted against CORE (the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act), and he has voted repeatedly to privatize public lands.”
Tipton said in a news release last week that he did not support the bill because it “has not adequately incorporated the necessary feedback from the Western Slope.”
Bush called that statement “malarkey.”
“This proposal has been worked on for over a decade, and people met week after week, month after month, hammering out consensus,” Bush said. “That’s democracy at a community level, and Tipton ignored it and claimed there wasn’t enough input.”
As a congresswoman, Bush said she would address regional issues such as climate change, economic opportunities, public education, health care, broadband and human rights.
“In order to rebuild a more robust economy, we have to invest in infrastructure,” Bush said. “We also have to focus on communities that have been economically and socially hurt by transitions away from fossil fuels, so we need just transition policies to really help out communities and working people who have been employed in traditional fossil fuel industries.”
The economy only works for the top 1% right now, Bush said, so she’d focus on mobility and opportunity through job creation.
In terms of college affordability, Bush said she finds it “obscene” that Tipton has not stood up to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has “single-handedly made sure that college loans are even more difficult to pay off.” Immigration reform and welfare of immigrant children at the border are also priorities, she said.
Bush began her first campaign in 2017 after Tipton supported President Donald Trump’s health care plan, and promised lower premiums and deductibles.
“Well, I read the bill, and I know how to read bills since I’ve been a legislator, and the bill would have done the opposite,” Bush said. “That was a bad vote, badly justified, so I talked to a lot of people and decided to run for Congress.”
Bush said she spent too much money on the primary in the 2018 election, so this time around, she intends to raise enough funds to last to the general election. She also is banking on a larger turnout, since Coloradans also face a Senate and presidential race.
Although she thinks Iacino’s fundraising might pose a challenge, Bush is confident of her record and relationships.
“People know they can trust me. I’m the real thing,” Bush said. “I think it’s a challenge, but I’ve always loved a challenge. When I first came to Durango, racing mountain bikes back in the 80s, I loved the uphill, and the harder the uphill, the better.”
Ayelet Sheffey is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.