Gloves come off early in debate between U.S. House candidates

Rep. John Salazar, left, and challenger Scott Tipton debate Saturday at Club 20.

The rematch between incumbent U.S. Rep John Salazar, D-Colo., and Republican businessman Scott Tipton turned scrappy and ill-tempered early on in their first debate Saturday night.

“John Salazar, it’s time to come home,” Tipton said as he opened the debate. “It’s 9/11. Let’s roll.”

Salazar, who defeated Tipton four years ago in their first contest after accusing Tipton of wanting to raise taxes by 23 percent with the so-called Fair Tax, reiterated the accusation as he closed the Club 20 debate before approximately 800 people in Two Rivers Convention Center.

The Club 20 debate usually is the opening of the general-election campaign in Colorado, when the nominees of both major parties meet face-to-face for the first time.

Saturday, the two accused each other of failing to understand the realities of federal budgeting but came to a testy agreement on coal.

Tipton said his remark about his candidacy and the anniversary of Sept. 11 was the result of excitement about the debate.

Salazar repeatedly attacked Tipton for his call to reduce federal spending by 50 percent, questioning Tipton’s proposals for water projects, federal payments to local governments and other expenditures.

“I’m a little amazed at your call for building water projects, and you want to cut federal spending,” Salazar said. “Maybe my multimillionaire opponent can actually fund some of these things.”

Salazar is a Manassa rancher and Tipton a founder and owner of Mesa Verde Pottery Co. in Cortez.

Salazar laid the blame for the nation’s financial problems at the feet of the Bush administration.

“It was a $458 billion deficit that was actually handed to President Obama,” Salazar said.

When Congress approved the budget, Tipton said, Salazar failed to vote against 9,000 earmarks, including projects such as a tattoo-removal parlor.

Salazar is part of a Democratic majority leading the United States into “European-style socialism,” Tipton said.

Both candidates said they supported the coal industry and called for clean-coal technology.

While Salazar painted himself as a leader against cap-and-trade legislation, Tipton said Salazar failed to announce his position until late in the debate and “played chicken with the voters of your district.”

Salazar said he couldn’t get any credit for his successes.

“I could walk on water and be criticized for not swimming,” Salazar said.


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