Pueblo’s Rep. Sal Pace faces obstacles in 3rd District race

Today’s tale involves easy money, unbridled ambition, union pandering and vampires. OK, I’m not sure vampires are directly involved, but they seem popular and I thought it might pull some teenagers into a political column.

The rest is true, however. The easy-money part means we’re talking about a government job, which is about the only easy money people are making these days. The job we’re talking about is United States Congress, specifically the 3rd Congressional District, where it seems Mesa County is still going to be after redistricting occurs.

Most of you know that political boundaries, from congressional districts down to county-commissioner districts, have to be redrawn every 10 years after the census. The possibility that one might be able to craft an area of representation that could get one elected to a good job by drawing one’s district to include supporters and exclude opponents is more temptation than the standard politician can bear.

With the 3rd Congressional District needing to absorb around 12,000 more folks, it’s a great time for state politicians who would like to become federal politicians to try and figure out a way to make that happen, especially if you’re a Democrat and a freshman Republican has the congressional seat.

You may recall Democrats put forth a possible redistricting map that turned the 3rd District from including most of the Western Slope and stretching over to Pueblo into being the entire lower third of the state, cutting out some of the reddest areas of the state like Mesa County and counterbalancing us in a different district with our ideological nemesis, Boulder County.

That plan seemed a little too brazen and, since it appears neither political party can push through a plan to get districts redrawn, it looks like it’s going to end up being done in the state court. What could go wrong?

One person who is quite agitated about the 3rd Congressional District is Sal Pace, state representative out of Pueblo, who is the House minority leader. He hopes to bring his real-world experience of being in the Colorado statehouse and serving as former Congressman John Salazar’s district manager, to Congress.

Rep. Pace has put forth a veritable blitzkrieg of comments and press nudging the last few months on topics ranging from redistricting and budgets to placing his fist where it will do the most good.

The last item we know mainly because Pace is nothing if not a union guy, and he told us at a union rally in January that he was, “willing to put my fist where I need to put it. I’m willing to fight. I’m willing to get in and rumble ...”

Although his ambition to run against Rep. Scott Tipton in the 3rd District is clear, he was still tripped up recently when U.S. House Democrat Minority Whip Steny Hoyer told The Denver Post that Rep. Pace was confident about his chance to unseat Tipton.

Pace, a bit unprepared, told the Post that he hadn’t set a deadline for “pulling the trigger.”

Fist, rumble, pulling the trigger — I tell you this violent tea party rhetoric has got to stop.

What we know is that, however the district is drawn, if Rep. Pace runs, state and national unions are certainly going to jump in with him. This is because he has plainly courted the unions and seems close enough that when unions sneeze, he gets out his handkerchief.

A couple of examples: First, there was his House Bill 1302 a couple years ago, which would’ve required the state to give preference to steel manufactured or fabricated in Colorado when purchasing. Coincidentally, Pueblo is known as the home of a large steel manufacturing business staffed by the United Steelworkers. Secondly, according to Ballotpedia, in his 2008 race, four of Pace’s top five contributors were unions and the fifth was Sal Pace.

Unfortunately for Rep. Pace, there are minor obstacles, like state Sen. Gail Schwartz from Snowmass, who might be interested in the Democratic nomination. Also, Pace’s passion for advancement has ruffled feathers in his own party.

To win, he would need a huge Obama-friendly turnout and the Tipton camp to continue to have weak messaging.

But it’s still early, even for those in a hurry.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong.


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