Congressional challenger Tapia touts cross-party cooperation
Former state Sen. Abel Tapia, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., pitched himself as being able to work on both sides of the political aisle on Monday.
Tapia, who most recently served four years as executive director of the Colorado Lottery, also painted Tipton as too reliable a Republican voter in Congress.
Tapia also declared himself a supporter of park status for Colorado National Monument, telling The Daily Sentinel editorial board “I don’t see why not” when asked whether the status change should go forward.
Park status was first endorsed by one of his political allies, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, four years ago, Tapia noted. Salazar was unseated that year by Tipton, who is now seeking his third term.
Tipton earlier this year ruled out any measure to redesignate the monument as a national park.
He defied party leaders on several occasions while in the state Legislature, Tapia said.
Tapia served on a school board in Pueblo before being elected to the state House and then the Legislature. He owned and operated his own civil engineering firm and worked in a coal mine before entering politics.
“We have to break with our party every now and then for the good of the district,” Tapia said.
Congress has been stymied by partisan issues, which has forced a rewrite of the transportation bill and which failed to address the agricultural needs of the 3rd Congressional District, which includes most of the Western Slope and much of southern Colorado, including Pueblo.
“It’s an ag district,” Tapia said of the 3rd.
His three priorities are topped by jobs, Tapia said, noting every one of the 29 counties in the district has some highway project that needs to move forward.
He’s well suited to take on boosting employment, he said.
“In the Legislature, I became the go-to person for jobs,” Tapia said.
On any split within the Democratic Party over drilling, he aligns with Gov. John Hickenlooper, a supporter of hydraulic fracturing, contrary to many in the party, Tapia said.
Family issues also are significant, he said, noting that he supports women’s rights, as well as those of gays and lesbians. He has a gay son, he noted.
Education also is high on his list, Tapia said, noting that as a school board member, he supported the establishment of the first charter school in the state.
No Child Left Behind fell short because it included no funding and the federal government ought not issue mandates without funding, Tapia said.
Comprehensive immigration reform also needs to move forward so that people don’t have to wait two decades to enter the United States legally, Tapia said, adding, “We have to secure our borders.”
Tapia also called for Western Slope unity on issues surrounding water.
The state is going through the process of establishing a statewide water plan and the Western Slope is at a disadvantage, Tapia said.
“I think it’s going to be a fight, West Slope versus the Front Range,” he said. “We have to fight the Front Range desire to send our water to the Front Range.”