Has a Second Competitive Congressional Race Emerged?

Could Diane Mitsch Bush unseat Scott Tipton?
Could Diane Mitsch Bush unseat Scott Tipton? United States Congress
Aside from the 6th District, Colorado's congressional races are usually about as competitive as Thursday night beer-in-hand kickball games. But more signs are pointing to a competitive race in the 3rd District between Republican incumbent Scott Tipton and Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush.

Third-quarter fundraising figures show that Mitsch Bush raised nearly double Tipton's figures in that time period, hauling in $729,000 in Q3 compared to just $396,601 for Tipton. 

"I have been blown away by the grassroots energy that we have seen for our campaign," Mitsch Bush said in a statement about the third-quarter fundraising figures. "It is clear that the 3rd Congressional District is craving a representative who listens to and fights for their interests, not for big corporations."

When we first previewed this race over the summer, we'd predicted Tipton would "be able to dictate the key issues in the election" because of an expected sizable cash advantage, but Tipton's money advantage isn't as large as one might have thought this late in the campaign. Based on the more important cash-on-hand statistics, Tipton still has a solid cash advantage over Mitsch Bush heading into the home stretch (about $491,000 to $408,000). But it's close enough that Tipton probably won't be able to fully dictate the terms of the debate in the final days leading up to the election and through mail-in early voting.

click to enlarge Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush - DIANE MITSCH BUSH
Democrat Diane Mitsch Bush
Diane Mitsch Bush
According to Nate Silver's number-crunching data website FiveThirtyEight, Mitsch Bush has an approximately 44 percent chance of winning on November 6, tilting the race into FiveThirtyEight's "toss-up" column. That figure, strikingly enough, is far closer than FiveThirtyEight's assessment of the 6th race, which gives Democratic challenger Jason Crow a roughly 86 percent chance of ousting Republican incumbent Mike Coffman.

Until other numbers come in, though, Democratic excitement will have to be tempered. Aside from a smattering of small mountain towns, there isn't a large gung-ho base of liberal voters that Mitsch Bush and Democrats can turn to in this district. Traditionally Democratic Pueblo County, the county with the largest number of registered voters and registered Democrats in the district, famously voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and the 3rd's other main population center is traditionally conservative Grand Junction. Registered Republicans outnumber registered Democrats by about 25,000, or about 5 percent of the total voters here.

It's for that reason that most pundits still think Tipton is the odds-on favorite to hold on, with sites like Inside Elections, Cook Political Report, CNN and Sabato's Crystal Ball all labeling CO-3 as either a "likely" or "safe" Republican seat. Tipton won re-election by about 14 percentage points in 2016. 

Turnout and how the district's unaffiliated voters lean will probably determine the race's outcome. Unaffiliateds chose to vote in the district's Democratic June primaries by a 53-47 margin, indicating that the largest bloc of voters may be leaning in Mitsch Bush's direction.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Bianchi is a Westword contributor interested in politics.
Contact: Chris Bianchi