Markey seeks to emphasize independence at Denver fundraiser

DENVER– At a fundraiser featuring Vice President Joe Biden here Friday afternoon, Colorado Congresswoman Betsy Markey toed the line she has tread since she was elected in 2008 to the seat held by hard-right social conservative Marilyn Musgrave in the mostly agrarian Front Range Fourth District. Markey, one of the swing so-called “blue dog” moderate Democratic members of Congress, talked to the crowd of roughly 150 people at the Sheraton about the value of independent political thinking and her non-lawyer, non-politician entrepreneurial background.

“I think that when people try to see the world through the tinged glasses of Democrat or Republican, that becomes an excuse to throw away critical thinking and duck the greatest responsibility a lawmaker has, which is to be independent and open minded and think of their constituents and country first.

“Those of you who know me know I did not come from a political background. I was a small business owner. It’s a long way from a small internet company and an ice cream and coffee shop to Congress. I have worked hard to take those business values to Congress. Values like keeping the budget balanced; don’t forget the people you serve; ultimately you, and no one else, are responsible for the decisions you make.”

Biden was in town to bolster Markey’s reelection campaign, which started just months after she was elected, when conservative Colorado University Regent Tom Lucero declared his candidacy for her seat. Markey was elected in November 2008. Lucero declared in January 2009. Markey has been under fire by a host of conservative candidates vying for her seat in the last year, candidacies that have benefited in particular from the momentum of the northern Colorado Tea Party movement. More recently, Tea Party favorite Sarah Palin targeted Markey as a vulnerable swing district Democrat who voted for health care reform. Palin’s targeting, though, was mostly bluster; her fundraising Political Action Committee has contributed almost no money to GOP candidates.

Still, the attention Markey has received as a targeted Democrat is surely part of what brought Biden to town this week.

“When I first met Vice President Biden in 2008 in Greeley, he told me I looked too young to have three grown children and I have really liked him ever since then,” Markey said. “We have come a long way together.

“Last time I stood with Vice President Biden, the country had never elected an African American president and had never seen an Hispanic woman serve on the Supreme Court. Health care reform was a pipe dream less than two years ago.

“To people who say elections don’t matter, I say talk to the 25-year-olds who can now stay on their parents’ health insurance.

“To people who say elections don’t matter, speak to the family of Matthew Shepard who waited ten years to see a federal hate crime bill pass. [Shepard was pistol-whipped in Wyoming and died at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, in Markey’s Fourth District, in 1998.]

“Talk to the women who were denied health insurance because they had breast cancer. Or to the family driven into bankruptcy paying for life-saving operations that their insurance wouldn’t cover.”

Biden stood next to Markey on stage during her remarks.

“A certain former governor of Alaska has put Congressman John Salazar and I on a list of targeted races for 2010. I wear that as a badge of honor, but it is also disheartening.

“When did hope and change become a bad thing?”

Minimum donations for the event, which was also attended by U.S. Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Dianna DeGette, were $150. Biden spoke in Longmont earlier in the day at an event open to press and public.

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Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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