In many ways, American voters are being asked to make a decision about more than just which candidate they think best represents their interests. Like seemingly everything in 2020, the stakes are far more dramatic than that.

Rather, Americans are faced with far more existential considerations during this election: namely, in what direction do they wish to see the United States go, not only in terms of policy but in terms of decorum. Certainly the juxtaposition between presidential candidates makes this distinction clear, but Coloradans living in the 3rd Congressional District find themselves in a position to make their stances on such matters known twice when marking their ballots — once when choosing a presidential candidate and again when selecting their preferred representative.

The Aspen Daily News editorial board met with both candidates Thursday. Diane Mitsch Bush boasts a more-than-decade-long political career, beginning as a Routt County commissioner in 2006 after serving myriad nonprofits as a social science policy researcher. In her interview, Mitsch Bush emphasized that her political resume includes having balanced six budgets as a commissioner and another five with her colleagues in the Colorado House of Representatives during her tenure there from 2013 to 2017.

In that time, Mitsch Bush was a member of the Colorado House Committee for Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources and served as the committee’s vice chair in 2017.

She points to her track record co-sponsoring bills with her Republican colleagues and admiration for the Thompson Divide Coalition and CORE Act as examples of bipartisan stakeholders coming together to accomplish common goals. She furthermore bemoans the Trump administration’s gutting of the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA.

“NEPA is the one way that all the parties can have input on projects. They allow groups who can’t hire a stable of lawyers, who don’t have ins in Washington, to be able to comment and to be able to have that written into the record,” she told the Daily News’ editorial board. “I’ve been involved in a lot of NEPA processes, and that’s critical. It’s the public’s lands.”

It’s that background in research and willingness to work across the aisle — and represent her constituents unaffiliated with a political party — that gives us confidence in Mitsch Bush’s dedication and competency as a representative for Congressional District 3.

While we would struggle to come up with a Colorado-specific issue on which Mitsch Bush isn’t well-versed, we do wish she had displayed a more ready fluency when discussing the federal balance sheet and its implications for future generations. We applaud Mitsch Bush’s self-described stance as a general “debt hawk” and her commitment to balancing budgets but invite her to further research the federal balance sheet, which is not so much an income statement matter but rather one that ultimately requires later generations to deal with federal debt issuance to support the desired altruistic program creations of today.

Still, being able to address such nuances with Mitsch Bush was in stark contrast to our experience Thursday speaking with her opponent, Lauren Boebert. We applaud Boebert’s downright vivacious passion she’s displayed in her campaign and commend her openness to speaking with the press, although that accessibility came later in the campaign season. And while Boebert’s detractors often cite her lack of experience as a political newcomer, we welcome more diverse professional backgrounds in the larger political makeup representing the nation — charged with writing laws, it makes sense that many legislators are graduates of law school; however, certainly those from environmental, educational and, yes, business backgrounds would also have valuable insights and experiences to inform the discourse.

Our concerns with Boebert largely come back to her seemingly superficial understanding of issues and her quickness to parrot the same talking points coming from her party’s leadership — mainly, President Donald J. Trump. For instance, she spoke passionately about immigration reform, but when, as an aspiring representative of many resort communities on the Western Slope, she was asked about J-1 visas, she allowed that she wasn’t familiar with that particular visa type.

When asked if she condemned the administration’s policies that allowed for children to be separated from their parents — in the same week that the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the federal government has so far failed to locate the parents of 545 children victims of the “no tolerance” policy — Boebert replied that “when parents break the laws, sometimes things happen.”

She went on to liken a nearly 10% alleged failure to effectively track the parents of children separated at the border, even amid asylum requests, to her anecdotal experience following an arrest for an unpaid parking ticket.

“When I didn’t pay my $100 traffic ticket, I was separated from my kids for about an hour until I got it taken care of,” she said.

In deciding who and how Americans should be represented — and, in this case, Coloradans — it’s imperative that voters make their choice with intention, for a thoughtful candidate who will command respect and return decency to the chambers, rather than default to scripted partisan talking points when pushed beyond one’s policy comfort levels. We don’t expect any candidate to have detailed, concrete policy answers for every question asked before being elected to a sought-after position; however, as the undercurrent of emotionality grows stronger in American politics, we do hope for representatives who are grounded and able to see an issue from multiple perspectives. We feel that, in the 3rd Congressional District race, Diane Mitsch Bush is that candidate.

The Aspen Daily News editorial board is proudly a majority community-member board, with Samuel Bernal, Scott Freidheim and Dr. Kim Levin. David Cook, publisher, and Megan Tackett, editor, are the other two voting members, with Aspen Daily News co-owner Spencer McKnight serving as an alternate.