After wresting the title of U.S. representative from Republican Marilyn Musgrave two years ago, Betsy Markey is now working hard to show the voters of the geographically sprawling and politically diverse 4th Congressional District that she wasn’t a typical Democrat during her first two years in office.

“I tried to be an independent voice, and I think people recognize that,” Markey tells The Denver Post.

Of course, her opponent, state lawmaker Cory Gardner, a Republican from Yuma, argues otherwise.

“I hear from people all over,” he claims. “They feel they’ve been betrayed.”

GOP voters dominate the district, with 129,918 registered members. That compares with 114,609 registered Democrats and 97,042 unaffiliated voters. The numbers have helped make CD4 a top national target for Republican strategists, as the party vies for 39 seats in its quest to take control of the House. It’s a tough situation for Markey, says retired University of Northern Colorado political science professor Steve Mazurana: “Generally, the first real re-election is the most perilous for all members of Congress in normal times, and now this is particularly true for Betsy Markey.”

Gardner recently hit New York magazine’s “Tea House 2011” radar, which picks out six “tea-party-associated House of Representatives candidates…operating out of the national spotlight this campaign season.” The mag wonders “Just how tea-brained is he?” then points to Gardner’s support of the so-called Personhood amendment and his questioning of Obama’s birth certificate.

Meanwhile, most of the candidates in the district, including 38-year-old independent Ken Waszkiewicz, recently outlined their positions on the economy for The Fort Morgan Times. The views of American Constitution Party candidate Doug Aden were not included, yet Coloradopols’ “Big Line” (left side of the homepage) calls his vote count “the likely difference in this race” due to Tom Tancredo’s run for governor under the ACP banner.