Steamboat Springs Ten months before voters will go to the polls, Diane Mitsch Bush drew a small crowd to the courthouse lawn Thursday to officially announce her campaign for a second term as a Routt County commissioner.
About 30 people gathered in front of the Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat Springs to support Mitsch Bush, a Democrat who is seeking four more years in the seat representing District 3, which includes most of the city.
She defeated Republican Paul Strong, a former Steamboat Springs City Council president, in 2006. In chilly weather Thursday, Mitsch Bush briefly spoke about her goals of fostering economic development, environmental stewardship and fiscal responsibility, and called serving as a commissioner “the greatest privilege of (her) life.”
Transportation issues have been Mitsch Bush’s largest focus for the past three years. She is chairwoman of the state’s Northwest Transportation Planning Region, which spans five regional counties. She also is the regional voting member of the Statewide Transportation Advisory Committee. Mitsch Bush listed acquiring grant funds for the South Routt County van pool project as one of her proudest accomplishments and said the county has a good chance to receive state funding for additional work on Colorado Highway 131 in South Routt.
“She’s one of the hardest-working public servants I’ve ever met,” said Catherine Carson, chairwoman of the Routt County Democratic Party.
Michael Turner, registered as an independent, also cited Mitsch Bush’s work ethic when explaining why he agreed to volunteer for her campaign. When Turner didn’t agree with the commissioners’ decision to cut pay for Routt County Sheriff’s Office staff, part of countywide budget cuts last year, Mitsch Bush responded.
“She took the time to call me back and have a 30-minute discussion on her reasoning,” Turner said.
Paul Davidson Reynolds, a five-year county resident who was Mitsch Bush’s doctorate advisor at the University of Minnesota, is her campaign manager. Former county commissioner Ben Beall is her treasurer.
In 2008, commissioners Doug Monger and Nancy Stahoviak won re-election in unopposed races. While no candidate has yet emerged to challenge Mitsch Bush, former state Sen. Jack Taylor, of the Routt County Republican Central Committee, said this week that such a campaign has drawn “some interest” in party circles.
Thursday’s event coincided with a newspaper ad listing more than 300 supporters of Mitsch Bush, who said the coordinated effort “makes it clear to everybody that I’m running” early in the year.
Steve Hofman said an early push is a familiar campaign tactic. Hofman is a Steamboat resident who served as an assistant secretary of labor under President George H.W. Bush and is a former director of research and policy for the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“It is a tried-and-true strategy for incumbents, particularly, to demonstrate that they have significant financial resources early on in an election cycle … to demonstrate not only to potential opponents, but to people who would conceivably want to support them, that it’s a very steep climb up that hill,” he said. “That doesn’t always work. There’s lots of times it kind of sends the opposite message — it tells people who perhaps are unhappy with the incumbent that they need to get energized and energized often. … If the object is to kind of send a scare into your political opponents, it’s a double-edged sword.”