Editor’s note: This story was written before Tuesday’s state primary election, which Mitsch Bush won with nearly 70 percent of the Democratic vote. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Cary Kennedy, also an EMILY’s List pick, wound up second in governor’s race primary voting, behind U.S. Rep. Jared Polis but ahead of Vail’s Mike Johnston.
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 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.”
First, however, Mitsch Bush needs to secure the Democratic nod. She is seeking the 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. It’s too late to request a mail-in ballot, and also too late to mail in your ballot in time for the clerk to receive it by Tuesday, June 26. Go to the Eagle County Clerk & Recorder’s web page for more information on how to vote in the primary.
“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 frontrunner Walker Stapleton. Three other men – Victor Mitchell, Doug Robinson and Greg Lopez – are also seeking the GOP nod.
On the Dem side, two women – Kennedy and Colorado Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne — both are looking to become the state’s first female governor in 142 years of statehood. But 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 frontrunner. Vail’s Mike Johnston, a former Denver-area state senator, sits third in most polls, with only one more week of primary voting.
“We think it’s about time that you had woman governor out there,” EMILY’s List’s Schriock said on a conference call with reporters last month. “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].”
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.”