EAGLE COUNTY — This isn’t exactly like the second Frazier/Ali fight, but voters in Eagle and Routt counties this fall will again choose between Chuck McConnell and Diane Mitsch Bush.
Mitsch Bush, a Democrat, defeated McConnell, a Republican, for the newly-created District 26 in the Colorado House of Representatives. That district is made up of the entirety of Routt and Eagle counties. Two years later, McConnell says he believes he can win the seat.
The main reason McConnell likes his chances is that Mitsch Bush now has a voting record in the state house. And, McConnell said, that record is about what he expected — Denver-leaning and not representative of the politics of the district.
McConnell, a retired energy industry engineer, spends a lot of time talking about the way Mitsch Bush voted on everything from guns to water to renewable energy. Those are votes he wouldn’t have taken, he said. And those votes aren’t in keeping with what he hears from voters in the district.
Besides running on those issues, McConnell also talks about what he believes he can bring to the state capitol.
“I believe there are things I can do to work with the other side to get things accomplished for the district and for Colorado,” McConnell said.
Unlike the state senate, where Democrats hold a one-seat majority, that party holds a nine-seat majority in the house. Given the power of incumbency, it’s likely Democrats will maintain that majority.
McConnell said that’s not a problem as far as he’s concerned.
“I worked with people in business and had to deal with competitors and people in my company with different views,” McConnell said.
If elected, McConnell would like to focus on water and transportation. Water, though, is critically important.
McConnell believes the state needs more water storage and said it’s far too difficult to get reservoirs approved and built.
“If we’re in a drought, we have huge agriculture and tourism economies,” McConnell said, adding that low streamflows affect a substantial portion of the district’s economic life. For instance, he noted that a popular tubing company in Steamboat Springs had to shut down last summer due to low streamflows.
“That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s important,” McConnell said.
The other concern McConnell has is that the more populous states along the Colorado River may work to re-open a 1922 river use agreement. Re-opening that agreement would be disastrous for less-populous states in the compact, he said.
On the transportation front, McConnell believes the state is on the right track currently, making incremental improvements to Interstate 70.
But time and again, McConnell comes back to his belief that Mitsch Bush hasn’t represented her district very well.
Mitsch Bush supported Amendment 66 in 2013, a ballot issue that would have raised the state’s personal income tax to raise money for schools. The ballot measure garnered only 30 to 35 percent support in the district’s counties.
“When something goes down as hard as (Amendment 66) did and you support it, it says you’re not in touch with your district,” McConnell said.
McConnell is also adamant in his opposition to a series of controversial gun-control bills passed in the 2013 session. Mitsch Bush voted for three of the four bills, all of which passed on party-line votes in both houses of the legislature.
“The ability and right to defend yourself in your home is sacred,” he said. “These bills impede that right for law-abiding citizens.”
Both candidates say their positions have popular support. Voters in November will have the final decision.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org and @scottnmiller.
“I believe there are things I can do to work with the other side to get things accomplished for the district and for Colorado.”