Colorado Western Slope congressional district could catch women’s wave

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August 1, 2018, 11:16 am

EMILY’s List, which bill itself as “the nation’s largest resource for women in politics”, is betting on former Eagle County state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush to do something that’s never been done in the 103-year history of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District: be the first woman to win the seat.

In fact, since Socialist Edith Halcomb garnered a scant 2 percent of the vote in the 1918 election, only a handful of women have even sought election in the sprawling, mostly rural, suburban and Republican district that stretches from Pueblo in the south to Grand Junction on the Utah state line, including roughly the western two-thirds of Eagle

State Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush

Former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, D-Steamboat Springs

County.

Women have not fared well in CD3 since the district was first formed in 1915. Democrat Linda Powers lost to Republican Scott McInnis by a 70 to 30 percent margin in 1994, Independent Tisha Casida twice picked up small percentages of votes in 2012 and 2014, and Democrat Gail Schwartz lost decisively to incumbent Republican Scott Tipton 54 percent to 40 percent in 2016.

But Mitsch Bush, who quit the State House to take on Tipton, thinks 2018 will be different. She says the EMILY’s List endorsement – from a grassroots group promoting pro-choice Democratic women in record numbers this cycle – gives her campaign an air of legitimacy.

“The EMILY’s List endorsement comes after a long and very rigorous endorsement process,” Mitsch Bush said last week. “With their limited resources, EMILY’s list will only endorse candidates that have the clear capacity to win in the general election.”

Mitsch Bush won the Democratic Party’s nomination in the June 26 primary against former Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi and Glenwood Springs municipal and water attorney Karl Hanlon of Carbondale. Tipton was unopposed in the primary.

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U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez

“Diane is running to flip a seat in a critical swing state that has voted for Democrats in recent presidential elections and has the potential to become even more blue,” EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock said, taking aim at Tipton, “who has voted for President Trump’s disastrous agenda nearly 100 percent of the time, including to take away affordable healthcare.”

A recent Democratic-aligned poll found Tipton, now in his fourth term, may be vulnerable this November for his repeated votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Nancy Pelosi spent almost $3 million trying to beat Congressman Tipton last cycle. He won by 15 points,” Tipton campaign consultant Michael Fortney of Clear Creek Strategies said at the time, referring to PAC money from House Minority Leader Pelosi in support of Schwartz in 2016.

Fortney declined to comment on the Mitsch Bush EMILY’s List endorsement, but when asked about a possible #MeToo, #StandUp women’s wave of voters for a previous story, and whether that wave could translate to more votes for Mitsch Bush and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy, Fortney simply replied, “Sounds like they got it all figured out.”

Fortney is also a campaign consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Walker Stapleton, who beat out Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson and Greg Lopez for the GOP nod. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who represents the eastern third of Eagle County, all of Summit County and a big chunk of the state’s Front Range, is the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Polis beat out two women — former Colorado Treasurer Cary Kennedy and current Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne — for the Democratic nod, ensuring Colorado’s 142-year history of never having a women governor will continue. But EMILY’s List’s Schriock said the state does have a strong record of electing women to state offices.

“Colorado is the first state in the entire country to elect women to their legislature [in 1894], and I’m from Montana … where we elected the first woman to [U.S.] Congress [in 1917],” Schriock said.

But women don’t always automatically voter for other women. Despite women making up the majority of Colorado voters, just one of Colorado’s current nine-member congressional delegation is a woman – Denver Democrat Diana DeGette.

“We’ve done well there [in the state legislature] but we haven’t broken through to those next levels, and I think there’s a moment here that we’re going to be able to do that,” Schriock said.

Joni Inman of the conservative Colorado Womens Alliance, which focuses on issues rather than candidate recruitment, says she doesn’t think #MeToo is necessarily driving increased political interest among Colorado women.

“The top issues in Colorado that women are really deeply interested in are the cost of healthcare, public education, the cost of housing, immigration issues, growth, transportation,” Inman said. “Sexual harassment showed up, but a very low percentage would name that as a top concern in Colorado.”

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David O. Williams
David O. Williams is an award-winning freelance reporter based in the Vail Valley of Colorado, writing on health care, immigration, politics, the environment, energy, public lands, outdoor recreation and sports. His work has appeared in 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Colorado Independent, Colorado Politics formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the London Daily Mirror, the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail and Westword (Denver). Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.
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