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Prior to her election as Colorado Attorney General, Norton served in Washington, D.C. as Associate Solicitor of the United States Department of the Interior, overseeing endangered species and public lands legal issues for the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. She also worked as Assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and, from 1979 to 1983, as a Senior Attorney for the Mountain States Legal Foundation. In the late 1970s, she was a member of the Libertarian Party and was nearly selected as its national director in 1980. Norton has been associated with a number of groups in the "wise use" or "free-market environmentalist" movement, such as the Political Economy Research Center , of which she is a fellow.
In 2004, Secretary Norton was mentioned as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate in her home state of Colorado, after the incumbent, Ben Nighthorse Campbell, decided to retire. However, she ultimately decided against it, and the seat was won by Democrat Ken Salazar. In 1996, she was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by then-Congressman Wayne Allard, in part, because she was pro-choice.
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