Salazar opponent visits today

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Scott Tipton could face a tough battle to represent the Western Slope in the nation's capital.

If the election for Congress in Colorado's 3rd Congressional District were held tomorrow, Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, would square off against U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat from Manassa.

Although Tipton has raised more than $220,000 for his campaign, Salazar has raised more than $1 million. Tipton is just a few months into his first campaign for elected office, and the incumbent Salazar won a hotly contested race against Palisade peach farmer Greg Walcher in 2004 and now is more than halfway through his first term in Congress.

Tipton is scheduled to speak in Steamboat Springs at noon today during a meeting of the Routt County Republicans.

Dirk Hallen, Tipton's campaign manager, said Tuesday that Tipton's political inexperience will allow Tipton to bring a "fresh voice" to Washington.

That voice needs to come from the Western Slope, Hallen said, adding that none of Colo-rado's federal lawmakers are from the region. Manassa, Sala-zar's hometown, is in the San Luis Valley.

"Scott hopes to bring back some representation to the people of the Western Slope," Hallen said. "He's lived there his whole life."

After attending Fort Lewis College in Durango, Tipton opened an American-Indian arts business in Cortez. He has run the business for the past 26 years.

The 3rd Congressional Dist-rict spans 29 counties and stret-ches from Pueblo in the east to Durango in the south and Steamboat Springs in the north. It is Colorado's largest district and one of the largest congressional districts in the nation.

Campaigning across such a large area takes money, but Hallen said the important thing is where his candidate's money has come from, not how much is in the bank.

"Nearly 93 percent of that ($220,000) comes from the Western Slope -- our money is coming from the hardworking men and women of the district who want change," Hallen said. "John Salazar's money is coming from Beltway lobbyists and Denver liberals."

The Beltway is a nickname for the interstate freeway that encircles Washington, D.C.

Hallen said that if Tipton is elected, he will fight in Wash-ington for small businesses, methamphetamine prevention and the preservation of natural resources, especially water.

"Whether it's water or any other issue, people are best served by local and state governments handling the issue," Hallen said. "When it com-es to Scott Tipton on water, he'll protect every drop and make sure the federal government stays as far out of it as possible."

Water rights div-ided Rep-ublican can--didates for Con-gress and led to a grueling primary in 2004. Hallen said it will be a different race this year.

"We did everything we could last time, as Republicans, to lose. We kind of beat ourselves up," Hallen said. "The Salazar campaign will not be able to use Referendum A against Scott Tipton like they did against Greg Walcher."

Referendum A was a statewide ballot initiative re--jected by voters in 2003 that would have allowed the state to use about $2 billion in bonds for unspecified wat--er projects. Wal-cher supported the referendum, which hurt his campaign in 2004 after Republican primary oppon-ents and Salazar accused him of not preserving Western Slope water.

So far, Tipton is the only Rep--ublican in the race.

"You can never say never, but at this point, we haven't heard of anyone else actively pursuing the nomination," Hallen said.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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