Democratic candidate for Congress vows to bridge political divide

Gail Schwartz

Frustration with the political divide drove former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Crested Butte Democrat, to challenge incumbent Republican Scott Tipton of Cortez, Schwartz said Thursday.

“This isn’t about partisan politics,” Schwartz said. “I feel I have a record of rolling up my sleeves, working across the aisle and being an independent voice representing my communities,” Schwartz said.

Two weeks ago, Schwartz made up her mind to seek the Democratic nomination for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which includes the Western Slope and southern Colorado. Her party, though, didn’t have a candidate who could be competitive, she said.

Schwartz captured the party nomination little more than a week ago, fending off two opponents, one of whom withdrew and endorsed her.

She and Tipton had “a nice rapport” when he served in the state House while she was in the Senate, but she drew lines of difference on two recent issues: Thompson Divide and the spill of contaminated water into the Animas River in a cleanup effort coordinated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In those instances, “I don’t feel Scott Tipton is listening to his constituents,” Schwartz said, noting that those issues include communities and counties coming together to deal with matters without Tipton’s participation or willingness to take recommendations.

She isn’t anti-development and has stood up for methane capture in coal mines, venting of mines in roadless areas and on coal-mine safety, Schwartz said.

Coal is suffering in the energy marketplace and it’s a “difficult conversation” about what lies ahead for miners and their families.

“I stood in front of several hundred people” after the closure of the Elk Creek mine in Somerset, Schwartz said.

She had no prescription, “but I brought with me four different departments from the state to talk about the resources available to them.”

Schwartz is no stranger to energy issues, having served on the National Energy Council and dealt with energy-related issues outside the state as well as within, she said. She also has worked with the Colorado Petroleum Association and renewable energy organizations, Schwartz noted.

Rural Colorado could benefit from the expansion of broadband connectivity that would allow residents and businesses to get their footing as the economy changes, Schwartz said.


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