In 2008, Betsy Markey won election to the U.S. House of Representatives, having defeated a three–term incumbent in a traditionally Republican region. With her background as a successful entrepreneur and business owner, she advocated restoring fiscal responsibility in Washington through pay–as–you–go budget rules and earmark reform. “We have to start turning this country in a new direction with regard to our economy, our energy policy, and we need people with a fresh perspective to do it. People are tired of the same old politics of the past,” Markey stated.1
Betsy Markey was born in Cresskill, Bergen County, New Jersey, on April 27, 1956—one of seven children—to Thomas and Catherine Markey. Raised by a Democratic father and a Republican mother, politics was a part of her life from an early age. After high school, she earned a B.S. in political science at the University of Florida in 1978 and began working for Representative Herb Harris of Virginia as a legislative assistant for the House Subcommittee on Post Office and Civil Service. She simultaneously earned a master’s of public administration from American University in 1983. She and her husband, Jim Kelley, raised three children—Katie, Erin, and Al.2
After receiving her degree, she completed a fellowship in the Treasury Department before joining the newly–formed Office of Information Systems Security in the State Department to develop computer security policies.3 After leaving the State Department, Markey and her husband founded a successful IT consulting business named Syscom Services. In 1995, she moved to Colorado, where she became active in local politics and founded the Northern Colorado Democratic Business Coalition. From 2002 to 2005, Markey served as chair of the Larimer County Democratic Party. She became the regional director of northern and eastern Colorado for U.S. Senator Ken Salazar, an area encompassing a large portion of the district she would later represent.
After two years of service as regional director, Markey announced her intent to challenge the three–term incumbent, Representative Marilyn N. Musgrave, to represent rural, eastern Colorado. Musgrave’s re–election margins had been steadily declining with each race.4 Markey’s fundraising proficiency, the lack of any competition in the Democratic primary, the support she received from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, among others, and her decision to position herself in the center made the race in a Republican district competitive.5 She also received endorsements from environmental and women–rights groups.6 After a rigorous, bitter campaign, Markey cruised to an unexpectedly large victory, with 56 percent of the vote to Musgrave’s 43.8 percent.7
Upon entering the House, Betsy Markey received appointments to the Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees.8 She introduced legislation to withhold 15 percent of allocated highway funds to states that do not prohibit use of electronic devices while driving in a school zone. She sponsored legislation to increase veterans’ access to back and spinal treatment and to expand veterans’ access to educational scholarships. She also sponsored the Credit Rate Freeze Act of 2009 (H.R. 3959) to prevent increases in credit card rates and fees.9 In early 2009, Markey backed the $787 billion economic recovery package, emphasizing that the law would “begin putting Americans back to work and our country back on its feet.”10 Over the course of the 111th Congress (2009–2011), she proved a loyal supporter of her party’s domestic agenda, voting for the American Clean Energy and Security Act, and Wall Street and Consumer Protection Act. She also voted for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, describing it as “the culmination of decades of work to bring some sanity to our health care system.”11
Soon after Markey’s election, Republicans viewed the victory as fragile. Careful recruiting, more intense campaigning, and greater campaign funds were funneled into the race. Democrats made a strong effort to retain the seat, too. In the end, however, Markey was defeated for re–election to the 112th Congress (2011–2013) by state legislator Cory Garner, who secured 53.1 percent of the vote.12 Shortly after she left the House, Markey was appointed assistant secretary for intergovernmental affairs for the Department of Homeland Security.13
1Daniel J. Chacon, “Competitive Streak at an Early Age, Markey’s Early Drive in Large Family Helps Shape Her for Contest,” 11 October 2008, Rocky Mountain News: 22.
2Almanac of American Politics, 2010 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 2009): 288–289; Chacon, “Competitive Streak at an Early Age.”
3Betsy Markey for Congress, “About Betsy,” http://webarchive.loc.gov/lcwa0008/20081008195215/http://www.markeyforcongress.com/about_betsy (accessed 26 April 2011; site discontinued).
4Almanac of American Politics, 2008 (Washington, D.C.: National Journal Inc., 2007): 322.
5Almanac of American Politics, 2010: 289; Jessica Fender, “Fierce Attacks Mark Debate, Musgrave and Markey Trade Criticism Over Ethics, Alleged Flip–Flops and Contributors,” 22 October 2008, Denver Post: B4; Monte Whaley, “4th District Markey Unseats Musgrave, Democratic Challenger Thrashes Three–Term Incumbent in Evolving, Sprawling District,” 5 November 2008, Denver Post: A19.
6Mike Riley, Karen Auge, and Jessica Fender, “Campaigns Post Big Fund Gains, Financial Disclosures Show both Bob Schaffer and Mark Udall had the Best Fundraising Quarters of their Costly Race,” 16 October 2008, Denver Post: B1.
7"Election Statistics, 1920 to Present," http://clerk.house.gov/member_info/electionInfo/index.aspx.
8Congressional Directory, 111th Congress, (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2009): 393, 443.
9H.R. 3959, 111th Cong., 1st sess.
10M.E. Sprengelmeyer, “All 7 Democrats in Delegation Put it on the Line for Package,” 14 February 2009, Rocky Mountain News: 25.
11Congressional Record, House, 111th Cong., 2nd sess. (25 March 2010): H2323.
12Rebecca Roberts, “Congressional Freshman Faces Tough Race in Colo.,” Weekend Edition Sunday, National Public Radio, 10 October 2010; Robert Moore, “Gardner appears headed to win over Markey,” Fort Collins Coloradoan, 2 November 2010; Robert Moore, “Spending in 4th District race down,” For Collins Coloradoan, 6 December 2010; New York Times, “Election 2010, Colorado,” http://elections.nytimes.com/2010/results/colorado (accessed 20 December 2010).
13“Markey Tapped for Homeland Security Post in Washington,” 17 February 2011, Denver Post; Nate Miller, "Markey to Join Department of Homeland Security," 17 February 2011, Greeley Tribune (Greeley, CO).