Democratic challenger claims Tipton’s ties to Trump will hurt him, prepares swing through Aspen
If you go
What: Pitkin County Democratic Party’s seventh annual dinner
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 2
Where: T Lazy 7 Ranch, 3129 Maroon Creek Road
Speakers: Gubernatorial candidates Noel Ginsburg, former state senator Mike Johnston and U.S. Congressman Jared Polis; attorney general candidates Michael Dougherty, Brad Levin, state Rep. Joe Salazar and Phil Weiser; U.S. 3rd Congressional District candidate state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush; U.S. 6th Congressional District candidate Levi Tillemann; secretary of state candidate Jena Griswold; state treasurer candidate state Rep. Steve Lebsock; Senate District 5 Sen. Kerry Donovan; House District 61 Rep. Millie Hamner; and House District 61 candidate Julie McCluskie.
State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, is so confident that Democrats will capitalize on the Trump presidency in the November 2018 election that she’s surrendering her seat in the state House for a bid for U.S. Congress.
Mitsch Bush is the first and so far only Democrat to enter the race against incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez. She said she would relinquish her State House seat late this year after winning election to a third two-year term in November.
Mitsch Bush is no stranger to the Roaring Fork Valley. Her district encompasses Routt and Eagle counties, so she represents El Jebel and part of Basalt. She’s made numerous campaign and town hall stops in the midvalley. Now she hopes to make the jump to the big leagues and represent the entire Roaring Fork Valley in the sprawling 3rd Congressional District.
Mitsch Bush is visiting Aspen today to attend the Pitkin County Democrats Dinner. She did a phone interview earlier this week with The Aspen Times to discuss why she wants to join Congress at such a divisive time in the country.
Aspen Times: Your desire to perform public service is clear with being a Routt County commissioner, serving in the State House and serving on multiple boards and commissions. Why would you want to join Congress right now with the atmosphere there?
Mitsch Bush: Because I think I can make a difference. I think I can bring people together to create policies that are evidence-based and build a better future for everyone. I love legislating and, again, bringing people together.
I’m also running for Congress because we need somebody to stand up for us. We need somebody that actually listens to us and who understands the issues that we face, everybody, and I feel the incumbent does not.
I’ve learned both as a county commissioner and a state legislator that at the local level and at the state level, we will come up with some really great policies, but those policies are either countermanded or negated by some of the more recent federal policies.”
(She singled out public land issues as one area of conflict. She said the GOP agenda threatens to force the sale of public lands.)
I’ve worked on health care issues for quite a while. I was so concerned when the incumbent said — not only did he vote for the American Health Care Act — but then when he said, “This act will lower your premiums and your deductible.” I read that bill. That is not what that bill would have done. Then over in the Senate, it got worse.
I think a representative ought to stick up for us when there is a budget that is put out by this administration that cuts agricultural by over 21 percent, cuts programs that have helped our small businesses in our small towns. Why don’t we have a representative that will stand up? Well, I will stand up.
AT: Mr. Tipton has proved formidable in elections. What do you think you can do differently than Gail Schwartz (a former state senator who opposed Tipton and was soundly defeated in November 2016)?
Mitsch Bush: Well, I think it’s a different year. She ran in a very difficult year. 2016 is a year that turned out to be pretty bad for Democrats throughout the country. I think 2018 is going to be a very different year. I have found so many people in the district who are really paying attention to what Scott Tipton is voting on and what he’s saying about it, and more generally what Congress is doing. Usually we have people paying attention to the president, particularly this one, but people don’t follow bills widely. This time they are.
“People are really concerned about what’s going on — health care, of course, but in our district a lot of people are still struggling. Colorado is seeing a great resurgence, but a lot of that has been on the Front Range. So (the priorities are) looking at economic opportunity and how to expand it, how to expand educational opportunities, how to make a health care system that works for everyone and that provides reasonably priced health care, protecting our environment, which is under siege at the moment, and helping our communities thrive by making sure people feel safe and feel that their human dignity is respected and that our communities have the infrastructure they need, transportation infrastructure, broadband infrastructure, health care infrastructure.
AT: Gail Schwartz got into the race quite late or at least not early, and you’re well ahead of the game here. Do you think that’s going to be to your advantage?
Mitsch Bush: Yes, for a couple of reasons. The first is community-political. I will be visiting every single county and listening to people. The 3rd Congressional District is both huge in size and it’s also diverse in economic base. We need to be sure we understand the areas.
(The second advantage to declaring early is for fundraising, she said.)
AT: Tell me about timing. What made you say the timing is right for you to run for Congress?
Mitsch Bush: Two major things. More and more as I pay attention as a member of the Colorado House to what’s happening in Washington, I was finding more and more policies or stated future policies that would hurt Colorado. They would especially hurt us in rural Colorado. For example, the so-called skinny budget, which is Trump’s first take at the budget, cuts agriculture so much. Look inside the Department of Agriculture, and it’s everything from food stamps to local loan programs to extension agency programs, and of course the U.S. Forest Service. That budget’s already been slashed in such a way that it’s become very difficult if not impossible to do mitigation (of wildland fires) on our national forest lands, which in most of our counties is the majority of land in the county. As drought and climate change have come into play we have more catastrophic fires. So a budget that would have gone to prevention and mitigation has to go to firefighting because there isn’t enough money in the budget as it is.
AT: It’s not uncommon under normal circumstances for the party opposite the president to make gains in the first election after the president was elected. These are not normal times. Do you see potential for big gains, and will you try to tie Tipton to Trump?
Mitsch Bush: I don’t have to tie. So far he’s voted with the president 97 percent of the time, and he seems to do the bidding of the administration.
Somebody will say, “Well, you’ll do the bidding of your party.” Be careful there, I have already been called into the House speaker’s office a number of times since 2013 and have had to explain to three different speakers what our needs our in western Colorado and why I either can’t vote for a particular bill or must vote for a particular bill that may or may not be what leadership wants me to do. Once I explain it, leadership understands and I’ll do exactly the same thing in U.S. Congress.
I just think it’s important that we have someone who understands the issues, does their homework, reads the bill, listens to everybody and understands it. I’m just not seeing that.
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Many members of the community wrote to laud the former Skico executive and city councilman for his friendship, dedication to family and community-minded spirit over more than two decades in Aspen.