Tipton favors donors over his constituents, Dem challenger says

Former state Sen. Gail Schwartz, a Democrat, bashed Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton on Thursday, saying Tipton was giving free rein to a “land speculator from Houston.”

Schwartz last month won the Democrat nomination for the 3rd Congressional District in the November general election. Tipton is seeking a fourth term and faces a primary challenger, Alex Beinstein.

Schwartz took issue with Tipton’s circulation of a draft bill that was drafted by a lobbyist representing Houston-based SG Interests, which owns leases on Thompson Divide and has fought efforts to cancel or modify those leases.

SG Interests employees contributed $16,539 to Tipton in the 2014 election cycle, making the company the largest single source of campaign contributions to him.

Tipton “basically abandoned the interests of the 3rd Congressional District to represent his Houston donors,” Schwartz said.

Tipton is trying to resolve disagreements over the handling of Thompson Divide, said his campaign spokesman, Michael Fortney.

“What’s her solution?” Fortney said.

Five counties — Delta, Garfield, Gunnison, Mesa and Pitkin — have come together to support a starting point of discussion about the fate of Thompson Divide, Schwartz said.

Not so fast, said Mesa County Commission Chairwoman Rose Pugliese.

“Gail Schwartz has definitely not talked to Mesa County,” Pugliese said.

Mesa County has taken no position, but is open to legislation, Pugliese said.

No legislation is pending in Congress, though in 2013, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., offered legislation that would withdraw unleased parcels in the 221,000-acre area while preserving the rights of existing leaseholders such as SG Interests.


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