EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - When Diane Mitsch Bush heard that Colorado's new state House of Representatives District would be Eagle and Routt Counties, she decided to hit the gas.
"Two mountain counties! I have to go for that!" she said.
So far, the chase for the House District 26 seat has put more than 10,000 miles on her Prius. She started the trek with a 1999 Subaru, but soon retired that ancient road warrior.
Over thousands of miles she has met thousands of people. They reinforced what years of public service and 26 years as a university professor taught her.
"Coloradans are smart. Americans are smart. Get facts in front of them and they'll be able to understand it," she said.
She has spent much of her career in the social sciences, dissecting data. She can read data skeptically and see what isn't there, she said.
Since 2007 she has spent hours from January to May on the phone patiently explaining to legislators why they should vote for something and against something else.
She landed in this region like most of us. She moved to Steamboat Springs in 1976 so she could ski and write her Ph.D. thesis. That was a drought year, but she still skied 77 days and finished her thesis while recovering from knee surgery. She interviewed with Stanford for a faculty job but they were put off by her hip-to-foot plaster cast, so she didn't get the job.
Life works itself out, though. She started a cleaning business in Steamboat and skied deep powder all through 1977-78, a massive snow year.
She took a university faculty job in New Hampshire so she could ski, fell while rock climbing and should have suffered an untimely demise, but didn't.
She landed back in Colorado with Colorado State University because it was close to skiing, rock climbing mountain biking and about everything else she loves to do. She competed in the 1994 World Mountain Bike Championships in Vail.
Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat had grown enough that she joined their faculty.
She joined the board of a group that advocates for battered women, got herself appointed to the Routt County planning commission and started plugging political perspectives into the mathematical equations on which she had spent much of her professional life.
They told her one thing, above all others.
"People with a narrow political agenda tend to ignore the facts," she said. "They're too busy chest beating and they won't sit down and work toward solutions. You need some guts to do that."
She has started and run small businesses from retail to manufacturing, and says it taught her that the opposite of business is government.
The more customers a business has, the higher its revenue. The more customers a government has, the higher its costs.
The campaign trail has required some enlightening of the Body Politic. Lots of voters didn't know there was a House District 26, or that it's comprised of Eagle and Routt counties.
She's asked regularly why she's running against Millie Hamner, a Democrat who used to represent Eagle County. She's not, she explains as she begins another geography lesson. Hamner was reassigned to another district that no longer includes Eagle County.
"Eagle and Routt counties need someone who knows how to negotiate with Republican colleagues and Front Range colleagues, and that would be me," Bush said.