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Diane Mitsch Bush, Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District

Rifle Republican Russ George, a former speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, on Thursday endorsed Diane Mitsch Bush, the Democratic nominee in the 3rd Congressional District.

The announcement comes as a blow to Republican Lauren Boebert, the Rifle restaurant owner and first-time candidate who knocked off five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in June's Republican primary.

Mitsch Bush, a former state lawmaker and Routt County commissioner, lost a bid to unseat Tipton in the 2018 election by about 8 percentage points, but recent polling conducted by Democratic groups shows a neck-and-neck race in the Republican-leaning district, which covers most of the Western Slope, Pueblo and the San Luis Valley.

“We need pragmatic, steady leaders who will meet the multiple crises we all face in this moment— and Diane Mitsch Bush is that leader,” George said in a statement released by the Mitsch Bush campaign.

“Her proven bipartisan track record and reputation as an independent leader who was willing to stand up to Democratic leadership in the State House shows me that she will work with anyone to do what’s right for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District. Diane has my full endorsement, and I can’t wait to call her my congresswoman.”

Said Mitsch Bush: “I’m honored to have the support of Speaker Russ George. I decided to run for Congress because I want to help people in CD 3, and I’ll work with anyone — no matter their political party — to get things done for this district. I’m ready to fight for lower health care costs, good paying jobs, and our public lands in Washington.”

George is as close to Western Slope royalty as they come. The fourth-generation Rifle native served four terms representing House District 57 in the 1990s.

He was appointed by Republican and Democratic governors to run the Colorado Division of Wildlife, the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado Department of Natural Resources before serving as president of Colorado Northwestern Community College, with campuses in Rangely and Craig. George has also been a member of the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the state Interbasin Compact Committee.

A spokeswoman for Boebert didn't respond to a request for comment.

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