Schwartz takes Tipton’s fire over coal

Former state Sen. Gail Schwartz at the Club 20 Colorado 3rd Congressional District debate Staurday night at Two Rivers Convention Center.

Congressman Scott Tipton at the Club 20 Colorado 3rd Congressional District debate Staurday night at Two Rivers Convention Center.




Former State Sen. Gail Schwartz, the challenger to U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., portrayed him Saturday as “part of the problem” in a do-nothing Congress, then agreed with him on the plan to pipe natural gas from Colorado to Oregon and praised his handling of forest-health issues.

Schwartz, a Democrat from Crested Butte, and Tipton, a Republican from Cortez, faced off in a debate before the Western Slope lobbying and promotional organization Club 20 to represent the 3rd Congressional District, which includes 39 counties on the Western Slope and much of southern Colorado.

Schwartz, 67, who served two terms in the state Senate ending in 2015, cited a bipartisan record there, “While Rep. Tipton spent his time in Washington shutting down the government.”

The 3rd Congressional District doesn’t “need bridge burners, they actually need bridge builders,” Schwartz said.

Tipton, 59, retorted that he passed all his measures with bipartisan support and blamed the Senate for failing to pass House measures and place them on the president’s desk.

“You maybe need to be running against Bennet,” Tipton said, referring to Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat who has been in the Senate during the time that Tipton has been in the House.

Schwartz committed to support the Jordan Cove project, which includes a pipeline that would connect the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado with Oregon and then carry natural gas to Pacific Rim customers.

“I appreciate Gail’s support of my legislation,” Tipton said.

The two had different approaches on other energy-related issues, as well as immigration and Social Security.

State legislation supported by Schwartz has harmed business and contributed to the problems of the coal industry, Tipton said.

“Do you know how much your fuel bills have gone up?” Tipton said. “Part of it was her legislation.”

Many of the coal-mining job losses in the North Fork of the Gunnison River Valley were because of a mine fire, and “I showed up when one of the mines was on fire,” Schwartz said.

“I do apologize,” she said in referring to the frustrations of the coal industry in the North Fork.

Schwartz cited her support for “Dreamers,” or young people brought to the United States as children.

“Those are our future,” she said, calling for reforms.

“There is a remarkable work force living among us in the shadows. We know that industries including agriculture are in need of help and support.”

Both candidates said they supported Social Security.

“Young people today don’t believe it will be there for them,” Tipton said.

“We have to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our children,” Schwartz said. “We need to balance it on the backs of the corporate citizens, especially those who are shipping jobs out of this country.”

Schwartz criticized the Republican-controlled Congress for failing to move a bill to fund efforts against the Zika virus, and Tipton said Schwartz had been of no support when the federal government demanded water rights from ski areas.

“I protected the ski industry,” Tipton said. “You weren’t there, I was.”


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