EAGLE COUNTY — For Diane Mitsch Bush, politics is like a mountain-bike race: “You start, you go like hell and don’t look back.”
Mitsch Bush is currently in “go like hell” mode, seeking a second term in the Colorado House of Representatives, where she currently represents House District 26, which covers all of Eagle and Routt counties. She’s running, again, against fellow Routt County resident Chuck McConnell.
Mitsch Bush is a lifelong political person and a retired professor of political science, with her last two stops at Colorado State University and Colorado Mountain College. Not long after moving to Steamboat Springs in the 1980s, she became involved in local politics, serving on citizen boards before being elected to a county commissioner post, where she served two terms before being elected to the legislature.
She says her time on the Routt County Planning Commission taught her the “real nitty gritty” of building consensus among diverse parties.
“That shaped me a lot,” she said. “It’s why I’ve been effective.”
Mitsch Bush also says she focuses on listening and learning as much about a topic as possible. Sometimes, she said, that means opposing her party on issues important to her district and the Western Slope.
“My Western Slope colleagues tend to stick together,” she said. “Water shouldn’t be a partisan issue.”
Mitsch Bush, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said water is a top priority for her and other Western Slope legislators. This part of the state already provides much of the Front Range’s water, and those thirsty urban counties always seem to be seeking more.
Mitsch Bush said she tries to educate her Front Range colleagues of the importance of keeping water in this region.
“Companies come (to Colorado) because of the mountains,” Mitsch Bush said. “I tell them, ‘You have the people; we have why they come.’”
Mitsch Bush touts the fact that she’s sponsored 13 bills in her two legislative sessions, and all have passed with bi-partisan support. She said her favorite is a bill that requires quicker reporting of oil and gas spills. To get it passed, Mitsch Bush said she worked with environmental groups, as well as representatives of the oil and gas industry.
That new requirement for reporting spills within 24 hours was good to have during the Front Range floods of 2013, she said.
While Mitsch Bush touts her independence, she also voted with her party on three of four controversial gun control bills in the 2013 session, as well as a renewable-energy bill that was widely opposed in rural Colorado.
Asked if she had second thoughts about any of her legislative votes while in office, Mitsch Bush was quick to reply: No.
Referring specifically to a law that requires background checks on private firearm sales, Mitsch Bush said the law has kept guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.
“The numbers aren’t huge, but we have kept guns out of the hands of convicted felons with private sale background checks,” she said. And, she added, based on her emails and other contact with voters, district residents seem to support those votes.
Asked what she’d like to pursue if re-elected, Mitsch Bush quickly reeled off a list, mostly focused on water. Transportation is on the list, too.
Those are tough issues.
“But if you show people the data, and common sense solutions, people can come together.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
“Companies come (to Colorado) because of the mountains. I tell them, ‘You have the people; we have why they come.’”
Diane Mitsch Bush