Oct 032010
Authors: Kirsten Silveira

Before Betsy Markey became a politician, she was a mother, a small-business owner and a leader for the Food Bank For Larimer County.

When Rep. Markey, D-4, entered the 2008 Congressional Election against incumbent Marilyn Musgrave, it was a result of the same frustration everyone else felt with the Washington.

“I’ll roll up my sleeves and try it myself,” Markey said.

Her political journey began when she sold her business –– Huckleberry’s, an Old Town ice cream and coffee joint –– and began working for then-Sen. Ken Salazar as a 4th Congressional District representative.

Markey now faces Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, in the Nov. 2 general election.

She is now focused on rebuilding the downtrodden economy.

Her website says the government, like families in Colorado, needs to budget to make ends meet. Her Targeted Deficit Reduction Act sets a system where Congress is committed to deficit reduction by matching new spending with cuts or saving elsewhere.

With three children, Markey wants to see students take advantage of education and do so without accumulating debt.

She supported the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which will reform the loan system, simplify the federal financial aid application process and return $10 billion to the budget while putting $77 billion into the grant pool.

The measure puts a closer watch on private loans, tweaks the Federal Pell Grant system and, Markey hopes, drive the loan interest rate down to 3 percent.

“We always need to look at streamlining government programs and putting the money where it should be,” she said.

Back at the University of Florida, where she received her undergraduate degree, Markey worked her way through college by waitressing. Her husband, Jim, who she met at the restaurant, shucked oysters to pay off his student loans.

Her husband paid 3 percent interest back then.

She has filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid for all three of her children and said, “I know how expensive it is to go to school.”

Markey received her master’s degree in public administration from American University in Washington D.C. and joked that, though she’s been a Gator and an Eagle, she’s a Ram now.

The Democrat contender met with the Associated Students of CSU last month to talk about student issues including how student loan debt has surpassed privately-held credit card debt for the first time.

“There’s not a lot that really affects college students at a federal level while you’re a college student,” said Matt Strauch, ASCSU’s director of Legislative Affairs.

Strauch said speaking with Markey about higher education accessibility and affordability is a good foot in the door for students even though she’s not on the House Education Committee.

“It’s really about higher education, and the No. 1 thing on the plate at the federal level is loan reform and access to grants,” he added.

ASCSU doesn’t take a formal stance on candidates but plans to do a survey of the issues and release data in two weeks as a pull out in the Collegian.

CD-4 includes Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland and Longmont, as well as about 15 counties on the eastern plains.

It is there that Markey plans to help grow access to rural broadband, which would give families high-speed Internet. The expansion of these broadband systems is funded by federal grant money.

Colorado’s rural plains are also an area for the growth of renewable energy through wind, solar and agricultural tools. The state, she believes, can become a leader in this field and help the country break its dependence on foreign oil.

On health care, Markey wishes to improve access and drive down costs for companies that have a difficult time sustaining premium payments for employees.

A small business advocate, she has supported a bill that cuts about $12 billion in taxes, boosts the Small Business Administration’s loan dollars and creates a $30 billion government loan fund. This legislation passed in late September.

Other issues Markey stumps for include: honoring America’s veterans, protecting Colorado Consumers, supporting Colorado’s agricultural roots, helping senior citizens by supporting bills and acts that would protect Medicare, reforming the immigration system and halting the expansion of the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site, a military training center in southern Colorado, because of its impact on local agriculture.

Markey recently returned to Colorado from her D.C. offices to spend the remainder of the campaign in Northern Colorado.

News Editor Kirsten Silveira can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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