Tipton opponent Pace stresses common sense

Economic growth and oil and gas development were on the minds of most people who attended a forum Saturday in Grand Junction hosted by Pueblo Democrat Rep. Sal Pace, who said he will be a frequent visitor over the next 18 months in his bid for U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton’s job.

Pace, fielding questions in a free-wheeling discussion attended by 10 people at Main Street Bagels, largely steered clear of mentions of Tipton but did take aim at the Republican’s move last week to withdraw support of a bill proposing billions of dollars in tax credits to encourage use of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

“It is common sense, responsible natural gas development, and it’s too bad Scott Tipton doesn’t believe in that,” Pace said after Saturday’s hourlong forum. “It makes sense for us as a nation to be encouraging cleaner-burning natural gas, which creates jobs in Mesa County.”

Tipton and U.S. Reps. Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman were among nine Republicans who yanked support for the legislation.

A spokesman for Tipton said last week that while he doesn’t oppose the idea, natural gas legislation should include a production component and expedite the permitting and leasing process.

Pace, Colorado House minority leader, said he aims to draw support from Mesa County’s unaffiliated voters interested in “common sense” solutions, irrespective of political party.

“I think they’re probably fed up with both sides in D.C. blaming the other,” Pace said. “I’m willing to work with anybody if it means creating a job, if it means finding a solution or standing up for the Western Slope.”

Pace, 34, was elected to the Colorado House in 2009. Prior to that he was a district manager in Pueblo for former U.S. Rep. John Salazar. Pace also worked as Salazar’s legislative aide when Salazar served in the Colorado House in 2003 and 2004.

Tipton unseated Pace’s former boss last year.

Pace in late May announced plans to seek the seat in the 2012 general election. Aside from Saturday morning’s Grand Junction forum, Pace was scheduled to speak in Glenwood Springs in the afternoon.

“What I’m hoping to get out of today is: What can I be working on to frame a discussion on how to improve the economy?” Pace told the group.

Asked repeatedly by attendees about oil and gas development, Pace said he supports responsible exploration.

“There has to be a balance,” he said of the push to drill and oversight of the industry. “When it gets out of balance, we all suffer.”


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