Updated January 16, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Steamboat Springs Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush has emerged as the first candidate in the new House District 26.
Mitsch Bush, a Democrat in her second term representing the area that includes Steamboat Springs, announced her candidacy Monday. She plans to start her campaign with a listening tour that includes stops Wednesday in Routt and Eagle counties, which comprise the new house district.
“As a county commissioner, I understand how local government is constrained at the state level,” Mitsch Bush said. “I think partnering with all the people of Routt County, all the people of Eagle County and fellow legislators, I can make Colorado environmentally, economically and socially sustainable for us all.”
Her listening tour will make its local stop at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday on the steps of the historic Routt County Courthouse in downtown Steamboat.
House District 26 was formed after the state Supreme Court approved new state House and Senate district maps in December. Redistricting is required by law after each decennial census so that House and Senate districts reflect population changes.
The new district will take the place of House District 57, which includes Routt, Moffat, Jackson, Rio Blanco and Grand counties and most of Garfield County. Randy Baumgardner, a Hot Sulphur Springs Republican, represents the district.
Senate District 8, which includes Routt County, didn’t change. Hayden Republican Jean White represents the district. Baumgardner announced last month that he would oppose her.
The districts will take effect with the 2012 election.
Routt County Democratic Party Chairwoman Catherine Carson called Mitsch Bush’s announcement exciting.
“Diane is has done such an excellent job serving all the citizens of Routt County,” Carson said. “She’ll be an excellent voice for all of Routt County and Eagle County in Denver.”
Carson said she wasn’t aware of any other Democratic candidates. It is not believed that any Republican candidates have publicly declared their candidacies.
Mitsch Bush, 61, was first elected to the Board of County Commissioners in 2006 after serving on the Routt County Planning Commission for 10 years. She ran unopposed to retain her seat in 2010. During her tenure, she has served on numerous local and state boards and committees that dealt with issues including transportation and sustainability.
Seeking a House seat was something Mitsch Bush said she she thought she might do after her term expired in 2014 and she took a break from politics, but the new House District intrigued her. She said that while the two HD 26 counties are different, the similarities between Eagle and Routt — river valleys that boast world-class ski resorts, vast public lands, busy regional airports and state-of-the-art hospitals — are great.
Mitsch Bush said she would work with business owners, residents and local government officials in the district and state legislators to preserve the quality of life and environment, while creating jobs not only in Routt and Eagle counties, but statewide.
“I thought long and hard about it and I love being a county commissioner,” she said. “But the more I think about the issues that face Routt County, the more I hope can make a bigger difference for us at the state level.”
If elected, the local Democratic party would accept applications for her seat on the Board of County Commissioners and publicly interview candidates before choosing someone to replace her.
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com