Democratic lawmaker Diane Mitsch Bush declares bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton

Author: Ernest Luning - July 6, 2017 - Updated: July 6, 2017

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, announces in a campaign video posted online on Thursday, July 6, 2017, that she's challenging Republican incumbent Scott Tipton in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District. (Photo via Mitsch Bush campaign site)State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs, announces in a campaign video posted online on Thursday, July 6, 2017, that she’s challenging Republican incumbent Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. (Photo via Mitsch Bush campaign site)

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Steamboat Springs Democrat, declared Thursday she’s challenging Republican Scott Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District in next year’s election.

Mitsch Bush, a former Routt County commissioner, said she decided to challenge Tipton after the four-term incumbent voted in May for a House Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The GOP bill, her campaign said, would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 23 million while cutting taxes for the very richest.

“It makes no sense to redistribute wealth to the wealthy,” Mitsch Bush said in a statement. “But that’s the stand Scott Tipton takes, time after time. The people of Southern and Western Colorado can no longer afford to be represented by someone who votes to take away our health care and line the pockets of rich folks.”

Mitsch Bush plans to announce her run in a series of campaign events starting with a rally Thursday on the steps of the Pueblo County Courthouse. She has also scheduled events in Durango on Friday and Grand Junction on Saturday.

First elected in 2012, Mitsch Bush is serving her third term representing House District 26, which covers Eagle and Routt counties. She chairs the House Transportation and Energy Committee and is vice chairwoman of the Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. She also chairs the Transportation Legislation Review Committee and sits on the Water Resources Review Committee.

Her candidacy was first reported by Charles Ashby in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Mitsch Bush told the newspaper she plans to step down soon from her seat in order to campaign full-time for Congress.

“In six years as a congressman and two years as a state legislator, Scott Tipton’s list of legislative achievements is very short,” Mitsch Bush said. “As I tour CD 3 In the coming months, I will be highlighting my long record of public service, because it shows that I sweat the details and I get things done.”

During this year’s legislative session, Mitsch Bush was a lead sponsor of a bipartisan proposal to ask voters for a sales tax increase to fund the state’s transportation needs. Even though Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, and state Sen. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, were also prime sponsors, Senate Republicans killed the bill in committee after it had passed the Democratic-controlled House.

Although Tipton has yet to formally declare he’s running for a fifth term, his campaign strategist Michael Fortney dismissed Mitsch Bush’s candidacy.

“Such an unapologetic liberal will have a hard time connecting with voters in western and southern Colorado,” Fortney told Colorado Politics. “But maybe Nancy Pelosi will help her raise some money.”

A spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm of the House Republicans, had a similar take.

“Politician Diane Mitsch Bush has a long voting record in the Colorado House revealing she’s more in lockstep with San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi than Colorado’s Third Congressional District,” NRCC regional spokesman Jack Pandol told Colorado Politics. “While Scott Tipton continues getting things done for Colorado families, Mitsch Bush will be stuck trying to explain around her liberal, Pelosi-esque resume.”

But Pandol’s Democratic counterpart, the regional spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the Democrats consider Tipton vulnerable and laid out possible attacks.

“As a State Rep., Diane Mitsch Bush fought for Colorado families, strong schools and to protect the state’s pristine environment,” the DCCC’s Rachel Irwin said. “She’s a proven leader that Coloradans can trust when Rep. Tipton continues to vote against the interests of his constituents. His record of voting against protecting public lands and to raise healthcare premiums makes him even more vulnerable ahead of 2018. Given the momentum on the ground, we fully expect to have a strong candidate in this race.”

Two other Democrats have made noise about potential runs in the district — Grand Junction City Councilman Chris Kennedy and former CIA agent Bob Baer.

Tipton defeated former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Snowmass Village, by 14 points in last year’s election. The district, covering Colorado’s Western Slope and southern parts of the state, including Pueblo, was represented by Democrat John Salazar for three terms until Tipton unseated him in 2010.

Prior to serving in public office, Mitsch Bush was a sociology professor at Colorado Mountain College and Colorado State University. She and her husband, Michael, live in Steamboat Springs.

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.