COLORADO SPRINGS — For the second time, Diane Mitsch Bush is the Democratic party’s hope to flip Colorado’s western-most and fairly conservative third congressional district.
In 2018, she lost to Republican Incumbent, Rep. Scott Tipton by 7.9% but this year, her race against Republican Lauren Boebert has been pegged as much closer. In the limited amount of polls that have been released on the district, they consistently show the race within a few percentage points.
Mitsch Bush is a retired tenured professor whose career in public service started as a Routt County Commissioner. After that, she served from 2013-2017 as a state representative, serving in a part of that as the Vice Chair of the House committee on Agriculture, Livestock, and Natural Resources.
She said being on the committee brought her to areas around the Third Congressional District.
“We have a lot of problems in common, things we can solve together, particularly around water, the economy, health care, and public lands,” Mitsch Bush said in a Zoom interview with FOX21.
If a COVID-19 relief package needs to be reached when a new Congress is sworn in in January, Mitsch Bush says her priorities would be to issue a second round of stimulus payments and provide more money for testing and contact tracing. Given the current trend of the virus, she anticipates more relief will be needed.
“If this pandemic gets worse, and it shows it’s getting worse in Colorado and other places throughout the country, businesses will close, people will be out of work, they won’t be able to go and do their favorite recreation. So, I think first and foremost we need to work on flattening that curve,” she said.
On health care more broadly, her positions have shifted from her 2018 campaign, were she openly discussed her support for a Medicare-for-all or a single-payer health care system.
Mitsch Bush said she can’t see herself voting for either of those if a bill were to reach the house floor.
“Now in the version I’m seeing now and here’s why. These plans we’re seeing would do away with private insurance. That means the industry would go away and also, the coverage that many people have through their employer would go away,” Mitsch Bush explained.
She said now she supports building on the Affordable Care Act and its protections for preexisting conditions. Whether the Supreme Court dismantles the health care law in November or not, she says she will “strengthen” the ACA to include negotiating Medicare drug prices, similar to how the Department of Veteran’s Affairs does, and include protections for surprise out-of-network medical billing.
“Along with strengthening the Affordable Care Act, we have to be sure that we get resources to our rural hospitals and rural clinics because they’re the backbone of coverage for so many people in these 29 counties,” Mitsch Bush added.
The district’s 29 counties are of diverse landscapes, with some desert, some plains and a lot of mountainous forest land. Much of that forest land has been the scene of historic wildfires shredding through hundreds of thousands of acres of land this summer.
Addressing that, she says, takes two parts. The first means ending “Fire Borrowing” where federal land management agencies drain money intended for forest thinning and other mitigation operations to spend in other areas of the budget.
“The main thing we have to do we have to tackle climate change. We are in a climate change-induced drought, which has been around since 2002 and we’ve seen each year get drier, with less rainfall and particularly less snowfall,” Mitsch Bush said.
As described on her campaign website, her plan to address climate change includes expanding environmental protections, like methane-capture regulations (those regulations are common in Colorado, but have been recently repealed federally), end fossil fuel subsidies and shift them to renewable energy sources, hold corporate polluters accountable, oppose privatizing public lands, and more incentives for renewable energy.
Colorado’s Third Congressional District sits on one of the largest natural gas reservoirs in North America: the Piceance (pee-aunce) basin. For years, extracting that Natural Gas and shipping out to the Pacific Ocean has been a priority for some local counties as well as oil and gas advocates. The way to do it, the Jordan Cove Pipeline, has been heavily debated for nearly as long.
Mitsch Bush’s questions if there is a market for the LNG and draws concern with the refinery that would need to be built on the Oregon coast to liquefy the substance in order to ship it overseas.
“It’s not clear we have a market that’s why the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission turned down the Jordan Cove pipeline,” Mitsch Bush said. “Also, this particular investment group, a Canadian investment group they’re not American, it doesn’t look like they have the capital to built both the pipeline and the plant…The bottom line here is, we don’t know the cost, it doesn’t look like this group has the money to actually do it and it’d be yet another one of these projects that sort of left hanging.”
FOX21’s interview with Lauren Boebert can be seen here.