6:00am

Tue September 25, 2012
A WORD WITH THE CANDIDATES

Candidates Tussle for Third Congressional Seat

  • Elise Thatcher reports on the 3rd CD for Morning Edition.

Our week-long coverage of the congressional races continues today with a look at Colorado’s third Congressional district. It is the state’s largest, covering much of the Western Slope and parts of Southern Colorado including Chimney Rock, the country’s newest national monument.

Republican Incumbent Scott Tipton and Democratic challenger Sal Pace disagree on a lot of things. But there’s one thing they both want voters to know. Each candidate says he wants to protect a major government program - Medicare.

Sal Pace’s recent TV ad talks about his dad, who relied on it after suffering a heart attack.

“Without Medicare, he wouldn’t have health care. I approve this message, because we have to balance the budget without cutting Medicare or raising premiums.”

Then Tipton came out with his own TV spot, saying he won’t let Medicare die, either.

“My opponent, Sal Pace, supports Obamacare, which cuts Medicare by over seven hundred billion dollars. I think that’s wrong.”

Pace does support the Affordable Care Act—which doesn't cut standard Medicare benefits, but reduces payments to a related optional program.  Pace’s campaign points out that Tipton has voted for a budget that would cut about the same amount from Medicare. And the Democrat had his own criticisms of Tipton at a recent debate [Sept 8th] in Grand Junction.

“My promise is, you’ll never get a headline like this, out of me, when I’m your congressman. Tipton violates house rules, in the Denver Post.”

That article was from earlier this year [March 2012], when Tipton’s Congressional office promoted a campaign event…which is against House rules. Tipton’s office says a junior staffer made an honest mistake during the confusion over redistricting. Scott Tipton is from Cortez, in Southwest Colorado, and he’s been in office for one term, after unseating well-known Democratic Congressman John Salazar. Energy development and jobs are key issues in the third congressional district, and at the debate, Tipton pointed to legislation he co-sponsored this year.

“This bill will require the Secretary of Interior working with the Secretary of Agriculture to actually develop a plan for responsible development of these resources on our public lands, based off of on 30 years non partisan estimate of energy needs in this country.”

That bill was rolled into other legislation that passed the House of Representatives this June. It included renewable energy, which is significant in the district. There are large solar power projects in the San Luis Valley and the Vestas wind turbine plant in Pueblo. The company announced layoffs this summer because of uncertainty over a wind tax credit, which both candidates say they would extend.

Democratic challenger Sal Pace is from Pueblo, and was a state representative for six years—one of them as House Minority leader. It can be a partisan job, though Pace did vote with Republicans on some issues, like gun rights. At the debate earlier this month, he said he was open to thinking outside party lines when it comes to government spending.

“This is a critical issue for the future of the country, I’m a Democrat who’s willing to buck my own party and say that I believe in a balanced budget amendment. We can balance the budget, as we have in Colorado.”

Both Tipton and Pace raised more than a million dollars in campaign donations as of late June. And much of their spending will be on TV ads from now until the election. Like most Colorado congressional districts, the third has other, less well-known names on the ballot - Independent Tisha Casida, Liberitarian Gregory Gilman and write-in candidate Jaime McMillan. But they have raised a tiny fraction of the money the major candidates have, and haven’t been invited to most of the debates.

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