GOP candidates pledge unity

McConnell, Tipton say primary will avoid divisiveness

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Bob McConnell

If you go

What: Public meeting with Steamboat Springs resident Bob McConnell, a Republican running for Congress to represent Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel

Cost: Event is free

Online: Visit www.mcconnellforcongress.com for more information about McConnell.

— Efforts by Colorado Republicans to avoid contentious primaries are continuing in the state’s 3rd Congressional District.

State Rep. Scott Tipton, of Cortez, and Army veteran Bob McConnell, of Steamboat Springs, are running to replace U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., in Congress. Republican District Attorney Martin Beeson, of Garfield County, also is in the race. McConnell and Tipton used similar language recently when discussing plans to focus on Salazar, not on each other, in campaigns leading up to a GOP primary in August.

“You may not actually, for the most part, be able to slip a piece of paper between what any of us are going to be standing for, with the Republican candidates,” Tipton said last week. “I will not delineate differences between myself and them. … I’m not running against them, I’m running against John Salazar, and we’ll let the voters decide who should carry the banner.”

McConnell echoed that sentiment Sunday.

“The policy differences are minimal — we, along with Martin Beeson, are all good conservative Republicans,” McConnell said about himself and Tipton. “I’ve told Martin and Scott, ‘I’m not running against you, I’m running with you.’ We will let the people of Colorado decide.”

The party unity is a spreading trend among state Republicans.

Earlier this month, Re­­publican state Sen. Josh Penry, of Grand Junction, surprisingly ended his campaign for the governor’s office and then, less than two weeks later, endorsed former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, his former rival. Penry said an expensive primary was not in the best interests of the Republican Party. McInnis, also a Grand Junction Republican, faces Evergreen businessman Dan Maes in the campaign to challenge Gov. Bill Ritter.

Tipton said he has not talked with state GOP leadership about campaign strategy or avoiding contention within the party. But McConnell said he is in “regular contact” with Dick Wadhams, chairman of the Colorado Republican Party.

“I have pledged to Dick that I won’t play any part in what happened to the Republican Party back in 2004 … when we had that internecine war that destroyed the seat,” McConnell said.

In 2004, the Republican primary for the 3rd Congressional District seat in­­cluded five candidates: Matt Smith and Gregg Rippy, then state representatives; Greg Walcher, of Palisade; Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino; and Steamboat Springs Navy veteran Matt Aljanich.

Walcher won the hotly contested primary, which Smith did not concede until about two weeks after the vote. Salazar defeated Walcher in the general election and replaced McInnis in Congress, ending a 14-year Republican hold on the 3rd Congressional District seat. Salazar has held the seat since, including a 2006 win against Tipton.

In the 2006 race, Tipton primarily campaigned for increased border security and tighter enforcement of illegal immigration. This time around, Tipton said, he is focusing on reduction of the national deficit, job creation and health care reform that does not include a government-run health insurance plan, commonly called a “public option.”

McConnell also is focusing on job creation, specifically through the expansion of logging in wilderness areas by removal of roadless area restrictions.

McConnell is holding a public meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Steamboat Grand Resort Hotel to discuss his platform and campaign.

McConnell, 63, is a retired U.S. Army colonel who moved to Steamboat Springs in 2007 with his wife, Phyllis. He has lived in Colorado since 1984 and is a former Airborne Ranger and military and labor lawyer. He’s a current volunteer on Steamboat Ski Patrol.

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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