Image, Congressional Pictorial Directory, 109th.


Marilyn Musgrave joined the 108th Congress (2003–2005) as the United States Representative from eastern Colorado. Her modest upbringing in a small rural community in Colorado helped to forge her core beliefs as a social and fiscal conservative.1

Marilyn Musgrave was born on January 27, 1949, in Greeley, Colorado. She attended Eaton High School and worked as a waitress and cleaned houses to earn money during her free time. She married Steve Musgrave while attending Colorado State University in 1968. After earning a B.A. in social studies, Musgrave taught school in Genoa, Colorado, before moving to Fort Morgan, where she and her husband started their own agricultural business, and then she devoted herself full–time to raising her children.2 Once her children were in school, Musgrave became the “consummate volunteer,” working for a variety of community organizations, including various Republican causes. Her active volunteer work laid the foundation for her future career in elective politics.3

Musgrave’s political career began when she won a seat on the school board of Fort Morgan in 1990, a position that she held for four years. After completing the intensive Republican Leadership Program to prepare for a future in politics, Musgrave was elected to the Colorado state legislature in 1994. During her four–year tenure as a state representative, and her subsequent time in the Colorado state senate from 1999 through 2003, Musgrave supported a variety of conservative legislative initiatives, including tax cuts, free market solutions, the promotion of the sanctity of human life, support for traditional marriage, and the protection of Second Amendment rights.4

When Republican Representative Bob Schaffer retired from the House to fulfill his three–term limit pledge in 2002, Musgrave entered the race for the open congressional seat which covers most of eastern Colorado, swinging northward to Greeley on the northern edge of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Musgrave won the August 13, 2002, Republican primary with two–thirds of the vote. Shortly after her victory, Musgrave outlined her political agenda: “I want to go to Washington to continue the conservative Reagan Republican agenda of lower taxes, limited government, a strong military, defense of our constitutional freedoms and protection of our pro–life, pro–family values.”5 In the general election, Musgrave defeated Democrat Stan Matsunaka with 55 percent of the vote, winning all 18 counties in the district, and continuing its 30–year tradition of sending Republicans to Congress. In 2004, running against Matsunaka again, Musgrave was re–elected with 51 percent of the vote. Two years later, when Republicans lost their majority in the House, Musgrave received a plurality of the vote—46 to 43 percent—against Democrat Angie Paccione, with the remaining votes going to a third–party candidate.6

Musgrave received assignments on the Agriculture Committee, the Education and the Workforce Committee, and the Small Business Committee. In the 109th Congress (2005–2007), Musgrave left the Education Committee for a seat on the Resources Committee. As a member of the Small Business Committee, Musgrave became chairman of the Subcommittee on Workforce, Empowerment, and Government Programs in her second term. Musgrave also was elected by her peers to serve on the House Republican Steering Committee. She was a member of the Republican Study Committee, a group that develops legislative proposals, and she also was the Policy Chair of the Western Caucus.

As a Representative, Musgrave held true to her campaign promise to continue the conservative agenda. She opposed a Republican–sponsored measure to hike the federal gas tax, remaining firm in her conviction that “raising the gas tax is not only bad policy, it is bad politics.”7 She also opposed the George W. Bush administration’s 2003 Medicare drug prescription bill, despite intense lobbying from the White House. Musgrave gained national prominence when she sponsored the Federal Marriage Amendment, which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman—an initiative President Bush endorsed during his 2004 re–election campaign. It was defeated in the House twice, including after Musgrave pushed to have the measure reintroduced in the 109th Congress.8

In 2008, in her re–election bid in an increasingly competitive district, Musgrave faced Democrat Betsy Markey, a former Senate aide and federal worker. Markey unseated Musgrave by a 56 to 44 percent margin. Representative Musgrave’s term expired on January 3, 2009.


1“Our Campaigns,”–bin/r.cgi/CandidateDetail.html?&CandidateID=2467 (accessed 30 March 2004).

2“Our Campaigns.”

3M.E. Sprengelmeyer, “In the Spotlight for Better or Worse: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave,” 27 November 2003, Scripps Howard News Service.

4Politics in America, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc, 2003): 183.

5“Our Campaigns.”

6Almanac of American Politics, 2004 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 2003): 319–321; “Election Statistics, 1920 to Present,”

7Bill McAllister and Mike Soraghan, “Beauprez, Musgrave Feted in D.C. as New Colorado House Members,” 8 January 2003, Denver Post: A–6; Marilyn Musgrave, “Building More Roads Without Raising Taxes,” 11 February 2004, The Hill: 22; Politics in America, 2008 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2007): 188–189.

8“Press Release: Musgrave Amendment Strengthens Marriage,” (accessed 2 April 2004); Politics in America, 2008: 188.

View Record in the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

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Bibliography / Further Reading

"Marilyn N. Musgrave" in Women in Congress, 1917-2006. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2006.

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Committee Assignments

  • House Committee - Agriculture
  • House Committee - Education and the Workforce
  • House Committee - Resources
  • House Committee - Small Business
    • Workforce, Empowerment and Government Programs - Chair
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