Election Guide 2012: Tipton, Pace headline race for 3rd Congressional District | SteamboatToday.com

Election Guide 2012: Tipton, Pace headline race for 3rd Congressional District

Scott Tipton

Colorado's 3rd Congressional District seat has been one of the most fiercely contested in the state — if not the nation — the past few years, and for good reason. The massive district, which is the size of Arkansas and encompasses all of the state's Western Slope while reaching east to Pueblo and south to the state border, was represented for six terms by Republican Scott McInnis before Democrat John Salazar won two terms in office. Republican Scott Tipton knocked Salazar out of his seat in 2010, and now the Democrats are fighting hard to win it back, with Tipton facing a stiff challenge from state Rep. Sal Pace, of Pueblo, who served as the House minority leader in 2011 and was a former staffer of Salazar's. Also on the ballot is unaffiliated Pueblo resident Tisha Casida, independent Durango businessman Jaime McMillan, and Libertarian Custer County resident Gregory Gilman.

The district is nearly evenly divided among registered Republicans, Democrats and independents. Recent polls have shown Tipton and Pace are neck and neck as early and mail ballot voting gets under way across the state.

Pace has made his campaign as much about running against the current Congress as it has been about Tipton individually, who Pace says has played a role in the partisan gridlock in Washington. Pace has tried to frame himself as a moderate Democrat who understands that progress is made by reaching across the political divide to find solutions.

He says he will protect middle-class tax cuts and work to pass a constitutional amendment requiring Congress to balance the budget and address the mounting federal debt. He supports President Barack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act but has said he wouldn't have voted for the individual mandate. Tipton has voted to repeal the law but has expressed support for some of its components, including insurance guarantee for patients with pre-existing conditions and its allowance for young adults to remain under their parents' plans until they're 26.

Pace says his energy policy supports using domestic resources in ways that "respects our land, our water and our communities." He says energy independence is key to national security, and he supports an extension of the wind energy production tax credit, which he says will prevent layoffs in the state's wind energy industry. In 2010, Pace voted for the Clear Air Clean Jobs Act that replaced some of Colorado's aging coal-fired power plants with natural gas ones.

Tipton similarly touts the need for responsible domestic energy production with practical environmental protections, and he emphasizes Colorado's role in coal production and oil and gas development. In an op-ed to the Steamboat Today, Tipton gave a nod to Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's "leadership in establishing a responsible standard to monitor oil and gas production, and ensure that our water remains safe and clean." Like Pace, Tipton also supports extension of the wind energy production tax credit.

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Tipton has emphasized the need to protect Colorado and other states from wildfires, and he pitches his Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act as a potential solution.

Tipton has characterized Pace as a tax-raiser, pointing to the Democrat's support for higher vehicle registration fees in Colorado. Pace, meanwhile, has criticized Tipton for his support of U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's budget proposal and its potential impact on Medicare. Tipton counters that Ryan's budget might not be perfect but that it's the best option out there.

Both candidates say they firmly oppose privatizing Social Security.

Report compiled from information from The Associated Press, The Denver Post, the Steamboat Today and the campaigns of Scott Tipton and Sal Pace.

Candidates on the ballot

■ Sal Pace (Democrat)

■ Scott Tipton (Republican)

■ Tisha Casida (unaffiliated)

■ Gregory Gilman (Libertarian)

■ Jaime McMillan (independent)

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