3rd Congressional District campaigns put focus on jobs | SteamboatToday.com

3rd Congressional District campaigns put focus on jobs

Salazar, Tipton lay out talking points as they look ahead to November election

Mike Lawrence

— In the campaigns to represent Colorado's 3rd Congressional District, one could say that jobs are to 2010 what immigration was to 2006.

As Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar, of the San Luis Valley, and Republican state Rep. Scott Tipton, of Cortez, gear up their campaigns for November's general election, employment is at the forefront of the initial conversations. Much has changed since the two men faced off in the same race four years ago — when Salazar won with 67 percent of the vote across the vast district that includes Routt County — including, of course, the devastating economic recession and housing market crash that has crippled the regional construction industry and job market as a whole, putting hundreds out of work in Routt County alone.

"Our campaign is going to be about creating jobs in the private sector and getting America back to work," Tipton said last week, echoing the message of his TV commercials that have begun airing in local markets.

Salazar, in turn, recently has discussed employment in terms of energy policy and the ongoing debate about natural gas exploration in western Moffat County's Vermillion Basin. Salazar has expressed his support for limited exploration in the basin during two visits to Steamboat Springs in the past six weeks.

"I am not with the administration on this issue. … I think they should listen to the (Moffat) county commissioners because it's a jobs issue for me," Salazar said. "The proposal the BLM has put forward, I don't think is the wish of the people on the ground."

The Moffat County Board of Commissioners supports a plan that would allow exploration on 1 percent of the basin, an area the commissioners say could yield $700 million in natural gas resources. The federal Bureau of Land Management opposes all exploration in the basin. A 30-day public protest period for the BLM's proposed, regional resource management plan ends Sept. 13.

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"I'll be favoring development of energy within the Vermillion Basin," Tipton said, adding that "we want to make sure that environmental safeguards are going to be in place."

Tipton also has related the issue to jobs, saying he's "a very big supporter of our oil and natural gas development" as steps toward energy independence and improving employment.

In Steamboat last week, Salazar cited continuing needs to boost tourism and renewable energy industries to stimulate the job market and help revive regional economies.

A three-time incumbent first elected in 2004, Salazar cited his work to bring funds to Steamboat for transportation needs — including more than $625,000 in 2006 for the city's Transit Operations Center on 13th Street — along with $1 million as part of this year's stimulus package for local logging operations to mitigate bark beetle impacts.

"I've been a working Con­gressman," he said. "I haven't just been sitting around."

National focus

Tipton has focused his message largely on national issues. Similar to Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dick Wad­­hams, Tipton rarely mentions a policy supported by Salazar without, in the same breath, mentioning President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, indicating a strategy of correlating Salazar with Democratic leadership in Washington, D.C., and its passage, for example, of the stimulus plan and much-debated health care overhaul.

While Salazar doesn't shy away from those comparisons, or his votes, he also is careful to place himself more toward the middle, focusing on his agricultural roots and labeling himself "a centrist and a farmer."

That doesn't sway Tipton.

"He voted for the stimulus package, he voted to triple the national deficit," Tipton said. "What is crushing us and going to crush our children and grandchildren is the burden of ever-increasing government debt, which John Salazar has been complicit in."

Tipton has said if elected he would reduce government by 10 percent across the board — drawing criticism from Salazar.

"That's not realistic," said Salazar, a member of the House Appropriations Committee and subcommittees related to energy and water. "You just can't cut every single department just like that. … Are you going to cut the funding for our troops in Iraq, funds for veterans coming back? I wouldn't do that and I won't do that."

Learn more

■ Learn about Republican congressional candidate Scott Tipton, a state representative from Cortez, at http://votetipton.com. Contact him at scott@votetipton.com or 970-985-8699.

■ Learn about the Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. John Salazar, of the San Luis Valley, at http://www.salazarforcongress.com. Call his Grand Junction office at 970-245-7107 or his Washington office at 202-225-4761.

By the numbers

Fundraising totals for leading congressional candidates in Colorado’s 3rd District.

Salazar and Tipton last filed a report July 21.

Candidate Raised Spent Cash on hand

John Salazar (D) $1,224,554 $431,659 $1,257,639

Scott Tipton (R) $380,457 $213,054 $167,401

Numbers are based on summary reports filled by the candidates with the Federal Election Commission and may not represent exact figures.

Source: http://www.opensecrets.org