Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1996, 9th term.

Born: July 29, 1957, Tachikawa, Japan

Home: Denver, CO

Education: CO Col., B.A. 1979, N.Y.U., J.D. 1982

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1982–96.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Presbyterian

Family: Married (Lino Lipinsky) , 2 children

Diana DeGette, first elected in 1996, is an energetic liberal who is among the young Democratic House members anxiously awaiting the chance to succeed the party’s older, entrenched leaders. She is the chief deputy whip, and has made no secret of her ambition to replace Maryland’s Steny Hoyer in the whip’s job.

DeGette (de GET) is a fourth-generation resident of Denver, though she was born on a military base in Japan. She says that she was inspired at age 13 by the television show Storefront Lawyers to “crusade for justice,” and decided she would be a public interest lawyer. She attended New York University’s law school on a full scholarship, and then returned to Denver to practice employment law. In 1992, at age 35, DeGette was elected to the Colorado House. Her signature accomplishment was the Bubble Bill, which was aimed at protecting women at abortion clinics by making it illegal for protesters to come within eight feet of a person entering or leaving a health care facility. DeGette worked across the aisle with Republicans in the legislature to overcome efforts by the GOP majority leadership to kill the bill. The legal battle over its constitutionality eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the law in a 6-3 decision. In 1995, when U.S. Rep. Patricia Schroeder, a pioneer of the feminist left, announced she was retiring after 24 years in the U.S. House, DeGette decided to run for the seat. Organizationally adept, legislatively creative and politically liberal, she proved a worthy successor to Schroeder, one of the most well-known figures in Colorado politics.

In both the minority and the majority, she has managed to achieve legislative successes in the House. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, she has focused on health care issues. In the 112th Congress (2011-12), she worked with Republicans on measures to address drug shortages and “breakthrough therapies” to treat life-threatening illnesses. A few years earlier, she teamed with Republican Mike Castle of Delaware to establish a bipartisan coalition to expand federal funds for stem cell research, which employs excess embryos from in vitro fertilization. President George W. Bush opposed more money for such research, but in 2005, DeGette and Castle won majority support in the House, and the Senate passed the bill a year later. Bush vetoed the bill. Two years later, after Democrats won majority control of Congress in 2006, her bill passed again, but was still short the two-thirds necessary to override Bush’s veto. Ultimately, President Barack Obama, using his executive powers, removed most federal restrictions on stem cell research in 2009. In August 2010, a federal judge blocked Obama’s executive order, but an appeals court later lifted the injunction. DeGette says she was inspired to take on the cause after one of her daughters was diagnosed with diabetes at age 4. She wrote a book on the topic in 2008 called Sex, Science, and Stem Cells.

On other health issues, DeGette was a leading advocate for expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. In 2009, she co-sponsored, with her congressional mentor John Dingell, D-Mich., the Food Safety Enhancement Act. She secured two key provisions giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to mandate product recalls and authorizing the FDA to establish a food-tracking system. The bill was passed by the House but stalled in the Senate. Mandatory recall authority for the FDA became law in the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011. During the health care overhaul debate in 2009 and 2010, DeGette played a major role in shaping the final abortion provisions in the legislation.

DeGette has been active on issues affecting Colorado and the West. She introduced a measure in 2012 to provide health insurance to seasonal firefighters — an idea that Obama also enacted via executive order. After Colorado and Washington state passed laws in November 2012 legalizing marijuana, she was part of a bipartisan group behind a bill stopping the federal government from pre-empting those laws. “My constituents have spoken, and I don’t want the federal government denying money to Colorado or taking other punitive steps that would undermine the will of our citizens,” she said.

DeGette’s legislative skills put her on a leadership track in the House, although she also has been on the losing side of some big internal party battles. On the House Energy and Commerce Committee, she has helped broker the frequent clashes among the panel’s Democrats. But she had to rebuild some of those relationships after the bitter fight between Dingell and California Rep. Henry Waxman for the chairmanship in late 2008. DeGette backed Dingell, but Waxman won. In 2001, DeGette supported Hoyer in his unsuccessful bid for Democratic whip against California’s Nancy Pelosi, who went on to become speaker of the House. When Hoyer eventually got the job as party whip in 2002, Hoyer added DeGette to his whip team, and she moved into the role of party strategist.

When Democrats gained control of the House in 2007, Hoyer decided to run for majority leader, and DeGette seriously considered running to succeed him as whip against South Carolina’s James Clyburn. She said she ultimately decided that it would have been disruptive to have another internal struggle at the same time Pennsylvania’s John Murtha was challenging Hoyer for the majority leader’s post. Clyburn made DeGette his chief deputy whip, putting her in position to take over as whip should Clyburn retire or step down. “If the opportunity arose I would love to be whip,” DeGette told National Journal. “I love to whip!” Her challenge will be keeping success from going to her head, according to The Denver Post, which reported in June 2012 that DeGette insists on being called the dean of the Colorado delegation and being permitted to speak publicly at any event she attends. This has led some irritated Democrats to dub her “Princess Di.”

As a mother of two children, who were just 2 and 6 years old when she was elected, DeGette tries to help newer members of Congress with children find a balance between family and public life. She advises newcomers to “carve out family time” because while service in Congress is finite, family relationships last a lifetime. One of the ways DeGette finds family time is through her love of sports. The family has season tickets to the Denver Broncos and the Colorado Rockies.

In 2002, DeGette fared impressively against credible primary and general election opponents. Ramona Martinez, a 15-year member of the Denver City Council and a Democratic National Committeewoman, criticized her for having lost touch with the district. DeGette returned her family to Denver from the Maryland suburbs in 2001 and won by an unexpectedly large 73%-27% split. That November, she won 66%-30% over Republican Ken Chlouber.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4431

(202) 225-5657

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2368
Washington, DC 20515-0601

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-4431

(202) 225-5657

RHOB- Rayburn House Office Building Room 2368
Washington, DC 20515-0601

DISTRICT OFFICE

(303) 844-4988

(303) 844-4996

600 Grant Street Suite 202
Denver, CO 80203-3525

DISTRICT OFFICE

(303) 844-4988

(303) 844-4996

600 Grant Street Suite 202
Denver, CO 80203-3525

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

290 Elm Street
Denver, CO 80220

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

290 Elm Street
Denver, CO 80220

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Polly Webster
Health Policy Director

Agriculture

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Appropriations

Thomas Woodburn
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Thomas Woodburn
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Environment

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Gun Issues

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Health

Polly Webster
Health Policy Director

Immigration

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Judiciary

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Telecommunications

Thomas Woodburn
Legislative Assistant

Transportation

Eleanor Bastian
Legislative Director

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Diana DeGette
Votes: 237,579
Percent: 68.23%
Danny Stroud
Votes: 93,217
Percent: 26.77%
2012 PRIMARY
Diana DeGette
Unopposed
2010 GENERAL
Diana DeGette
Votes: 140,073
Percent: 67.42%
Mike Fallon
Votes: 59,747
Percent: 28.76%
2010 PRIMARY
Diana DeGette
Votes: 57,527
Percent: 100.0%
2008 GENERAL
Diana DeGette
Votes: 203,755
Percent: 71.94%
George Lilly
Votes: 67,345
Percent: 23.78%
2008 PRIMARY
Diana DeGette
Votes: 35,804
Percent: 100.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (67%), 2008 (72%), 2006 (80%), 2004 (73%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (69%), 1998 (67%), 1996 (57%)

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