BRECKENRIDGE - In a political environment fractured by partisan bickering, Democrat Emily Tracy says she's one candidate who knows how to work with Republicans.
After all, she is married to one.
The challenger for state Senate District 8 is asking voters to send her to Denver to use the bipartisan skills she's honed in her marriage to local GOPer Del Bush to be an independent voice for the interests of the Western Slope.
It could be a tough task at the Colorado Statehouse, where lawmakers last year let several pieces of legislation die on the table due to an 11th-hour party-line gridlock over the controversial measure that would have granted same sex couples the right to obtain civil unions.
"There were bills that died that were important to the Western Slope," Tracy said. "The whole thing I just found so offensive. I work across the partisan divide at home ... and I think I do have the ability to see issues from a variety of different viewpoints."
Tracy is challenging Rep. Randy Baumgardner, who is coming off a stint in the state House of Representatives, for the Senate District 8 seat representing the diverse counties of northwest Colorado.
It may not be an easy win for a Democrat, but this isn't Tracy's first rodeo and she's no stranger to tough campaigns.
She ran unsuccessfully for the heavily Republican state House District 60 in 2002 and 2004. Earlier this year, she decided to make another bid for elected office in Senate District 8. When moderate incumbent Jean White lost her primary to Baumgardner in June, the Democratic Party took notice of the race.
"I got a call from the party that evening saying, 'OK, we're targeting this race," Tracy said. "I know they wouldn't target it if they didn't view it as winnable."
Still, she concedes, it's not going to be an easy win. Baumgardner, having served four years as a state representative for many of the counties in the district, is already well-known in the area.
Like most candidates who've spent any amount of time listening to voters, Tracy says jobs and the economy will be her top priority if she is elected. She advocates increasing small businesses' access to capital and expanding broadband Internet across the northwestern parts of the state.
She's also calling for Coloradans to find a real solution to what she calls the "erosion" of the state budget.
"So much of what needs to happen relates to this very large issue about constitutional constraints on revenue and the gradual shrinking of the state budget in terms of buying power," Tracy said. "We have to fix these constraints."
Tracy was born in the Bronx, but grew up in Missouri after her parents' divorce when she was 9 years old.
In 1965, she moved to Colorado to attend the University of Colorado. She earned her bachelor's degree in German/English literature in 1969 before marrying her first husband and starting a family.
She remained in Boulder as a stay-at-home mom until the late 1970s when her husband's work took him south to Canon City. There, Tracy became involved with an environmental action group called Colorado Citizens Against Toxic Waste, which was fighting to deal with issues surrounding local groundwater and soil contamination from a nearby uranium mill.
She eventually got a master's of public administration in environmental management from CU's Colorado Springs campus and, after a brief stint as a reporter for a Fremont County newspaper, was elected to a seat on the Canon City Council.
Of her time in elected office - 1983 to 1992 - Tracy says there aren't any particular projects that stand out as proud points for her, but rather, "that overall common sense, problem-solving approach to government."
"I was one of those idealists that wanted to make government work," Tracy said. "I guess I still am."
She took a job with the Colorado Department of Social Services in the early 1990s and later moved on to become a child welfare analyst with the Colorado Department of Human Services.
Tracy made her first bid for state office in 2002 after retiring. She moved to Breckenridge eight years ago just before marrying her second husband, Bush.
"I've lived in rural Colorado for 35 years and I love it," Tracy said. "I think we all love where we live and we want to stay in these communities. We value our quality of life."