Who We Are: Marrying across the aisle
summit daily news
FRISCO – Their love story plays a little like a Journey song.
A city girl, a small-town guy, eyes meeting across a smoky … well, parking lot.
In 2002, Emily Tracy was an up-and-coming Democrat making a bid for the Colorado House of Representative in a district of Republicans.
Del Bush was a salesman, a Texan and a committed conservative.
The two hit it off at a business mixer in a Salida parking lot.
Tracy would eventually win Bush’s heart – and his vote.
The pair married in 2005.
Today, Tracy and Bush are one of Summit County’s most politically active couples. They’re just not working for the same party.
While Bush was speaking at the county Republican assembly earlier this year, his wife was preparing to make a run for the state Senate, as a Democrat.
Tracy will take on current Rep. Randy Baumgardner for the Senate District 8 seat, representing Summit and several other counties across the northwest corner of Colorado.
“I bring it up more than anyone else does, the fact that I’m married to a Republican,” Tracy says matter-of-factly, that very Republican seated next to her at a coffee shop in Frisco. “I think the thing that frustrates people most about government is all the partisan bickering. I will often tell people that I cross the partisan divide every day at home.”
Tracy and Bush say they built their relationship, from the start, on their similarities, not their differences.
Both love to hike, camp and ski. Both have children from previous marriages. And both love and want to protect the interests of Western Colorado.
“I call her the Summit County candidate for the state Senate,” Bush says of his wife. “Summit County’s going to be better represented in Denver by Emily – I don’t care how bright and sharp and party affiliated the other person is – especially when you’re talking rural Colorado and state and local politics.”
For Bush and Tracy, differences of opinion about national issues and people tend to break down when it comes to Colorado.
And, in any event, they have never allowed their politics to interfere with their relationship.
As they started their courtship in 2002, Tracy was chasing a blue seat in the state House of Representatives. Bush helped and supported her.
In 2004, as Tracy was mounting her second campaign and then-President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry were squaring off for a seat in the oval office, Del Bush (no relation to the former) was planning a surprise proposal, which he executed with complete success at an National Repertory Orchestra concert.
“The conductor called me up on the stage under some ruse to give me some fake award,” Tracy remembers. “And (Bush) comes up on stage and starts singing a song and asked me to marry him. … I don’t get fooled easily, but I had no idea he had this whole thing planned.”
Retelling the story, Tracy pauses to let her husband supply the name of the song he sang, which he knew better than to forget.
“It was ‘I’ll Never Make You Cry,'” Bush says.
“Promises, promises,” she jokes.
The two keep up a playful, no-pressure banter with one another, especially on political issues.
When it comes time for pictures, Bush suggests he be photographed holding a firearm. When his wife says firmly, “no guns,” he offers a compromise – she can put a flower in the barrel of the weapon.
Still, the couple says they do argue about politics from time to time.
“There are genuine things that Del and I disagree on,” Tracy said. “We’re just different people and we see things differently. I’ll ask him to please explain to me how you can have that view on that issue. I think he tries to do the same thing.”
Tracy says working through the differences is about mutual respect. Bush says he’s learned to fight more effectively.
“I’m personally a lot less inclined to bad mouth any politician,” Bush said. “People are always saying, ‘he’s stupid, he’s an idiot.’ I don’t do that. I’ve learned to talk about the facts. … Stick to the facts.”
Bush was born in the “flat, treeless, high plains of Texas.”
He jumped into a management job with a steel company after getting a degree in chemistry from Texas Tech.
He would later marry, have children and kick start a successful career in insurance sales.
Then, in 1996, everything changed.
“My wife and I split up, my daughter got married and my son got out of college,” Bush remembers. “My wife and kids all became out of the home in that one year, so I was there by myself. “
Then a business partner called with a timely offer – a job working in credit card services in Colorado.
“(He) says, ‘Why don’t you move to Colorado?'” Bush remembers. “And I said, ‘Yeah, why don’t I?'”
Bush would live briefly in Canon City – where Tracy was also living, although the two never met – before eventually setting up shop and home in Breckenridge.
Tracy was born in New York City and bounced around the country through her youth before graduating from high school in Belton, Mo.
She came to Colorado for college. She graduated from CU Boulder with her high school sweetheart, whom she would later marry.
In the late 1970s Tracy moved to Canon City and became involved with a citizen’s movement.
“The uranium mill had done a wonderful job of polluting the air, soils and water, so I got involved with a citizens’ group trying to get something done through the state and federal government to clean that mess up,” Tracy said.
It was her first exposure to public policy and she was hooked. She would continue to work in the public sector through the rest of her career.
Tracy was later elected to and served two terms on the Canon City council, an experience she says thickened her skin and taught her to enjoy serving in public office.
In the 1990s, Tracy took a job with the Colorado Department of Human Services, where she worked for 12 years until she retired.
She and Bush met in 2002 and married at Loveland Ski Area’s annual Valentine’s Day wedding ceremony in 2005.
Tracy is now working on her third campaign for the state Legislature. She was unsuccessful the first two times, but is hopeful that in the newly created Senate District 8, which is thought to be politically competitive, she’ll have a better shot.
Though he’s never had more than a passing inclination toward elected office himself, Bush is helping with the campaign and says he will vote for his wife when the time comes.
“Tell me which is more important: who you’re married to or your politics,” Bush said. “It doesn’t mean that supporting the woman you’re married to means you have to compromise your politics.”
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