Former Democratic state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush is seeking a 2020 rematch against five-term U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in Colorado's sprawling, Western Slope-based 3rd Congressional District.
"We need a representative who works to fix our broken health care system, protects family agriculture, believes that women’s rights are human rights, and addresses climate change head-on," the Steamboat Springs Democrat said in an email to supporters Tuesday.
Tipton defeated Mitsch Busch in 2018 by 8 percentage points — his narrowest margin in a re-election race, but a rare GOP win for a contested seat in a year when Democrats scored historic victories throughout the state.
"We came so close in 2018," Mitsch Bush told supporters. "I know this year will be the tipping point for all of our hard work."
Mitsch Bush told Colorado Politics that lessons she learned in last year's run — coupled with a friendlier electorate — have positioned her to unseat the incumbent this time.
"Now we're moving into a presidential year, when Democrats tend to turn out more," she said in an interview. "We also have a major U.S. Senate seat on the ballot. I think Democratic turnout will be higher and the unaffiliated turnout that leans this way will be higher too."
In addition, Mitsch Bush said she's launching her campaign months earlier than she did in the last cycle and is "starting out with a much clearer strategy."
"Last time, I was very reticent to talk about his record at first. But what I found out was that many folks just don't know how he's voted," she said, citing Tipton's record on health care, veterans issues, public lands and reproductive rights.
Tipton's longtime top political consultant Michael Fortney cheered news that Mitsch Bush was running again.
"Luckily Diane ran so far to the left in 2018 that she has positioned herself well for a Democrat primary that will be a race to the far left," Fortney told Colorado Politics in an email.
National Republicans extended a similar welcome.
“Voters rejected Diane Mitsch Bush and her socialist agenda once, and they’ll do it again if the socialist Democrats are foolish enough to nominate her in 2020," National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Bob Salera told Colorado Politics.
"Mitsch Bush’s support for extreme policies like socialized medicine makes her unelectable in the 3rd District," he added.
Mitsch Bush told Colorado Politics she expects the Republicans' attacks will fall flat.
"No, I'm not a socialist, for the record," she said. "I'm a Democrat."
Mitsch Bush said she won't repeat a mistake she made in the last campaign, when she "laughed off" a barrage of Republican attacks that labeled her as a wild-eyed leftist.
"I'm known and have a record of bringing people together to solve problems, which is what a good legislator is supposed to do," she said.
"The bottom line is listening and building trust. I was able to do that in the Colorado House and I was able to do that as a county commissioner. That's what I want to bring to this campaign, and what I want to bring to Washington."
A former sociology professor and Routt County commissioner, Mitsch Bush served three terms in the Colorado House of Representatives.
Last year, she won a three-way congressional primary with 64% of the vote.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been hammering Tipton in recent months since including his district on a list of Republican-held targets ahead of next year's election.
“No matter what Congressman Tipton says, he has a clear record of voting to raise health care costs by ripping away protections for 305,100 Coloradans with preexisting conditions,” said DCCC spokeswoman Brooke Goren in an email citing a May 9 Tipton vote.
“With so many seniors and hardworking families struggling with the rising cost of health care, it’s alarming that Washington Republicans like Scott Tipton keep voting to put big health insurance company profits ahead of Coloradans," Goren added.
More candidates could join the field of potential Tipton challengers, Democrats told Colorado Politics.
The 3rd Congressional District includes most of the Western Slope, Pueblo County and the San Luis Valley. Unaffiliated voters predominate, with 37% of the district's active, registered voters, followed by Republicans at 33% and Democrats at 28%.