GRAND JUNCTION – Third Congressional District candidates incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, Democrat state Rep. Sal Pace and independent Tisha Casida boiled down to a hot contest over who touts the party line versus who can build bi-partisan supported solutions.
Pace attempted to paint himself as the representative who could work across both party aisles in Congress – and portray Tipton as a rigid Republican who can’t work toward compromises.
To prove the point, Pace of Pueblo said he’d even support a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution – an effort fought by Democrats and pushed by Republicans.
Tipton countered that Pace has been a partisan Democrat throughout his four years in the state House – and challenged the Pueblo Democrat to name his preferred presidential candidate. Pace’s response was awkward – if not illusive.
“I think it’s obvious,” said Pace. “You’re voting for the Republican and I’m voting for the Democrat.”
Though Pace wouldn’t utter the name, President Barack Obama, Tipton didn’t couch his choice for president.
“I’m voting for Mitt Romney,” declared Tipton.
Casida, who stood between the two party candidates, emphasized that she is more of a Libertarian and not beholden to any political party. As an independent candidate, she said that puts her in a better position to represent the interests of district constituents.
The top issues on the table were economic revival, job creation, energy independence and the controversial Democrat-sanctioned Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, dubbed Obamacare.
Pace attempted to bash Tipton for having voted against it and related measures about 33 times. That may have been perceived as protecting taxpayers more than partisanship by most of the audience who applauded Tipton. Some said Obamacare, slated to take effect in 2014, will double the nation’s $16 trillion debt.
In the debate over energy, Pace has a lengthy record of supporting renewable energy – solar and wind power – and voting for House Bill 1365 in 2010 that shut down coal plants and cost several hundred jobs on the Western Slope in this district.
“It’s about balance,” said Pace. “It’s about respect.”
Tipton pounced and accused Pace of talking the talk but not walking it.
“You may not care about the coal jobs in western Colorado, but I do,” declared Tipton.
Tipton of Cortez has a record of supporting an “all of the above” energy plan – including coal, natural gas and oil, wind and solar.
In terms of the economy, Tipton said he’s demonstrated more concern about the economic-hit families in the district and the nation, having voted against tax increases and taxes disguised as fees.
He said Pace voted for more than $1.6 billion in tax increases during his short tenure in the state House.
Much of the debate centered on Pace and Tipton countering each other and excluding Casida, but after the event her “Tea Party” supporters saturated the internet with emails and comments.
A member of the Grand Junction Results Tea Party wrote, “Tisha Casida won the debate at Club 20, it made the partisan haters very paranoid and they’re desperate to demean her candidacy.”
“Finally there is a candidate that does not owe their soul to any party,” said Davy Jones.
A so-called “Harold” said that Tipton’s voting record is “dead center” like his Democrat predecessor Democrat Congressman John Salazar… and has “no conservative core.” He also said of Pace, the “most precious asset seems to be his penchant for peeing in public at the drop of the zipper.”
During the debate, Pace attempted to smear Tipton with a newspaper headline about “ethics” by courting votes in the district prior to the final reapportionment plan approval last year. Tipton did not mention the headlines that Pace made – twice charged for urinating in public.
The unwritten headline is how – if at all – the “Tea Party” movement will influence the outcome in the 3rd Congressional District election.