Diane Mitsch Bush is an unflashy pragmatist. Is she additionally Colorado’s subsequent congresswoman?

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It was 2013 and state Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder, was trying to introduce laws that may enhance Colorado’s renewable vitality sources and in the reduction of on coal mining. She anticipated to have an ally in a fellow environmentalist and Democrat, Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs.
“Nicely, she was an ally,” Levy recollects, “however she was very insistent that for individuals in her district, numerous their financial safety will depend on these coal mines and she or he was going to place their wants very excessive.”
“It took guts, as a Democrat, to face agency when there was an actual robust push for everyone to be on board with renewable vitality,” Levy says. “It simply took numerous guts for her to face up and say, ‘Yeah, I may be on board, however it’s a must to do one thing for my constituents.’”
Former colleagues of Mitsch Bush, who’s now working for Congress within the intently watched third District of western and southern Colorado, describe her as a coverage wonk and pragmatist with little curiosity in grabbing headlines. Her tenures as a state legislator and Routt County commissioner had been outlined by an virtually obsessive consideration to element and a willingness to work with all sides, these colleagues recall.
“If you happen to take a look at her payments, they’re not flashy, they’re not headline-grabbing, however they’re essential coverage adjustments that truly helped individuals’s lives within the district she represented,” mentioned Rep. Daneya Esgar, a Pueblo Democrat.
Mitsch Bush’s political profession adopted a well-known trajectory — native politics adopted by state politics adopted by a run for Congress — nevertheless it started late in her life, after a full educational profession. With snow-white hair, she shouldn’t be the everyday congressional candidate, a truth her associates and supporters readily acknowledge, and embrace.
“Diane could be very a lot her personal individual and doesn’t match into anybody’s mildew. She simply doesn’t,” mentioned Rep. Edie Hooton, a Boulder Democrat who calls her a mentor. “Luckily, as time goes on, there are fewer and fewer molds that any of us have to suit into.”
If elected, the 70-year-old Mitsch Bush can be the oldest member of the Colorado congressional delegation and the oldest individual in Colorado historical past elected to their first congressional time period. She is greater than twice the age of Lauren Boebert, her 33-year-old Republican opponent.
“Voters are going to have a look at this 70-year-old and so they’re going to see a rerun and so they’re going to have a look at (Boebert) and see a recent face,” mentioned Scott McInnis, a Republican Mesa County commissioner who represented the third Congressional District from 1993 to 2005.
“That’s an enormous benefit in a political race. I just like the Democrat — I’ve met her on quite a few events — however I’d face the identical factor if I used to be working. I’m 67.”
From academia to politics
Mitsch Bush grew up in a working-class house in St. Paul, Minnesota, raised by a single mom who took out payday loans to cowl hire. Their lot in life improved after her mom joined a union, Mitsch Bush recollects. With union membership got here dignity, respect, and a safer monetary future. For a younger Mitsch Bush, that meant faculty, and three sociology levels from the College of Minnesota.
Her 1979 doctoral dissertation, which might nonetheless be bought for $41 on-line, is 357 pages lengthy and titled “The Legitimation of Violence in Early Adolescence: A Longitudinal Evaluation.” It begins with six quotes about violence, together with one from counterculture icon Jerry Rubin that incorporates each a racial slur for Black individuals and an insulting time period for police: “When a policeman shoots a n*****, that’s ‘legislation and order.’ However when a black man defends himself in opposition to a pig, that’s ‘violence.’”
Mitsch Bush’s marketing campaign says she was married to a police officer on the time and doesn’t agree with Rubin’s description of violence or his language. She was merely demonstrating her understanding of the sphere of examine and the subject she was researching, which was the legitimation of violence, her marketing campaign says.
The dissertation got down to decide why some individuals view specific types of violence as respectable and different types of violence as illegitimate. She adopted 798 college students in a big Midwestern metropolis from sixth grade to seventh grade and interviewed them all through to find out how parental and peer encouragement of violence — together with violence in school — formed their views. Amongst different findings, she concluded that class performed little function within the youngsters’ views of violence.
“She was an excellent pupil, very conscientious,” recollects Paul Reynolds, a former sociology professor on the College of Minnesota and chair of the committee that supervised her doctoral thesis.
Reynolds says Mitsch Bush had a promising profession in sociology forward, however selected a snowboarding and out of doors life in Colorado over the time-consuming rigors of educational analysis at high universities. She taught at Colorado State College after which Colorado Mountain Faculty in Steamboat Springs earlier than retiring in late 2004.
When Reynolds left the College of Minnesota in 2008 and coincidentally selected to retire in Steamboat, he was shocked to be taught {that a} former pupil of his was now a county commissioner. He has been lively in Mitsch Bush’s campaigns ever since, together with as supervisor of her 2010 county fee re-election. That was a straightforward one, since her Republican challenger was discovered to be residing outdoors the district and barred from being on the poll, leaving Mitsch Bush unopposed.
“She focuses very a lot on all the main points, and generally you’ll be able to’t do this, it is advisable take a broader image,” Reynolds mentioned. “The most important downside that marketing campaign managers have is protecting her centered on the broader points and never get too slowed down in all the particulars.”
Her former marketing campaign supervisor says she has a “compulsive consideration to element” that makes her a greater lawmaker than candidate. “That’s type of an obstacle when she’s on the stump as a result of when someone within the viewers asks a query, they get a 10-minute dialogue with all the delicate nuances and it overwhelms the viewers,” Reynolds mentioned with amusing. “It type of distracts from her message.”
Routt County commissioners in these years needed to handle the problems that also plague a lot of Colorado — reasonably priced housing, oil and gasoline improvement — and made tougher by the financial downturn, in keeping with longtime commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, a Republican who served with Mitsch Bush for six years.
“We took a fairly robust stance that oil and gasoline improvement was welcome in Routt County, nevertheless it was not going to be executed on the expense of anyone neighborhood or anyone inhabitants of individuals or anyone useful resource,” she recollects.
“We weren’t political individuals,” Stahoviak mentioned of the three commissioners. “Once I was a commissioner, I used to be a Republican and Diane was a Democrat, the opposite commissioner was a Democrat. However we didn’t see one another that method.”
In 2012, Mitsch Bush made a leap from the fee to the legislature, successful a seat in Home District 26, an Idaho-shaped patch of Routt and Eagle counties in northwest Colorado. She gained the Democratic-leaning seat by a dozen share factors that 12 months, by the same margin in 2014, and by greater than 20 factors in 2016 earlier than leaving the Capitol to run unsuccessfully for Congress in 2018.
‘It was by no means for present’
Rep. Millie Hamner, a Dillon Democrat, knew there was an issue. It was 2014 and she or he was listening to tales from constituents about truckers who skirted the legislation by driving the winding roads of the world-renowned Independence Go, saving gasoline and time however generally getting caught and jeopardizing different drivers’ security.
Hamner’s plan was to double, or in some instances triple, the penalties on lawbreaking truckers. With the assistance of Mitsch Bush, who chaired the Home Transportation Committee, they introduced lobbyists for the trucking trade on board with the invoice and handed it. Hamner was impressed by the Democrat from Steamboat Springs.
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“She was recognized for her stakeholder conferences, the place she would deliver all sides right into a room to determine learn how to get to an answer,” Esgar recollects. “When Diane introduced a invoice ahead, you knew it had been vetted, you knew it had been researched.”
For a Democrat, she had uncommon areas of experience. Not solely transportation, but additionally agriculture and water, too areas that Republicans usually had extra expertise with. Since most Home Democrats then and now dwell alongside the Entrance Vary, it usually fell on Mitsch Bush to clarify agriculture and water coverage.
“She was the go-to individual for me, as a freshman who actually wished to grasp Colorado ag points,” mentioned Hooton, who nonetheless calls Mitsch Bush now and again to debate agriculture and water. “She was the individual I went to and she or he spoke very passionately and eloquently about agriculture in Colorado from her fairly solidly Democratic perspective.”
In some instances, laws that Mitsch Bush championed didn’t grow to be legislation till after she left, resembling a tire traction legislation for Interstate 70. In different instances, just like the the Independence Go invoice, she was capable of forge a bipartisan consensus with the Republican-controlled Senate. In only a few instances did her laws garner huge media headlines or appearances on the nightly information, and that was effective along with her.
“She by no means performed to the cameras,” says Levy. “It was by no means for present.”
Editor’s word: That is the second of two profiles of candidates for Colorado’s third Congressional District. You’ll be able to learn the primary story, about Lauren Boebert, right here.

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