Pueblo Democrat hoping to win 3rd Congressional District race
Democrat Sal Pace can’t help but laugh when he hears people talk about how U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton got into Congress two years ago.
The Cortez Republican won as part of a national wave of GOP candidates unseating incumbent Democrats, including Pace’s former boss, then U.S. Rep. John Salazar.
What’s funny to Pace is Tipton and the other Republicans campaigned on a promise to end the partisan bickering that was going on inside the Beltway at the time.
Now Pace is campaigning on the same end-the-bickering stance that helped Tipton win the race in 2010.
“The message we’ve been pushing in this campaign is setting partisanship aside, putting aside the bickering and the fighting in Washington, and putting solutions first,” Pace said.
Unlike Tipton’s television ads, which attack Pace on such things as Obamacare and Medicare, Pace’s first three commercials talked about his views on issues, such as the need to use products made in the United States in federally funded construction projects.
His fourth ad, however, goes negative, attacking Tipton and other GOP members of Congress for stripping funding to firefighting efforts in Colorado’s mountains.
Pace said it was time to call out Tipton on his voting record in the face of all the negative campaigning Tipton has brought to the race.
“Harry Truman said, ‘How may times do you have to get hit on the head before you ask who’s hitting you,’ ” Pace said. “I expected the current congressman to talk about his accomplishments in Washington, but it appears that he’s done nothing that he really wants to talk about.”
Tipton’s most recent attack has him criticizing Pace for voting not to fund the state’s senior homestead exemption to help balance the state’s budget during the recession.
Trouble is, the Republican himself voted to cut funding to that same property tax break when he served in the Legislature.
Other than their ideologies, the two men have much in common.
Both were born outside the state, but settled here after college.
Both earned political science degrees from Fort Lewis College in Durango, though Pace went on to earn a master’s degree in American politics.
Tipton was in the Colorado House when he ran for Congress two yeas ago, representing House District 58, and Pace currently represents Pueblo in House District 46.
Both have acted in various capacities helping campaigns for their respective parties.
But Pace said his views on the issues are far more in line with the moderate, though conservative-lending, values of the expansive 3rd Congressional District.
When it comes to Obamacare, Pace said his views don’t mirror that of his party’s, while Tipton’s do. He’s called for an outright repeal of the controversial law like much of the rest of the GOP.
“I don’t think Obamacare is perfect,” Pace said. “I think it’s important that we have a system in place for covering as many people as possible. I have a libertarian streak and have concerns with requiring people to purchase private insurance.”
Another issue Pace said sets him apart from Tipton is tax breaks.
Tipton wants to lower tax rates for all taxpayers, including cutting the corporate income tax rate from 39 percent to 10 percent.
Pace said that’s not the best way to go.
“Congressman Tipton believes in some sort of trickle-down philosophy of, if you keep cutting taxes for multi-millionaires, that working people are going to be better off,” Pace said.
On Medicare, which is facing insolvency by 2024, Tipton follows the Republican plan to keep benefits the same for anyone 55 and older, then going after waste, fraud and abuse to shore it up for future generations.
That plan also calls for creating a voucher-like system to allow those future retirees to shop around for competing plans, a system Pace said is designed to provide new tax breaks to the very rich.
“They would have to go and purchase their Medicare from private insurers (and) every single senior would have to pay $6,400 additionally out of pocket in order to fund their tax break for millionaires,” Pace said. “These are such misguided priorities.”
Pace said Tipton’s record is indistinguishable from that of the GOP, saying it doesn’t represent a district with a voting bloc that’s virtually split in thirds among Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliates.
“It appears to be easier for Tipton to vote with his party rather than think about what’s best for all those voters,” Pace said. “If you’re just going to vote with your leadership virtually 100 percent of the time, you’re interchangeable with some other members of Congress. What is he doing for us that distinguishes him from everyone else?”
According to the U.S. Congress Votes Database, a Washington Post project that tracks the voting records of all members of Congress, Tipton has voted with his party 92 percent of the time.
Two years ago, that same database showed Pace’s former boss voting far more consistently with his party. Salazar did so 96 percent of the time.
But Pace said he’s not his old boss. When he served as minority leader in the Colorado House in 2011, he often frustrated members of his own party when he didn’t always follow party lines.
“As minority leader, I was at odds with my caucus when I’d vote for Second Amendment rights, or when I joined (GOP House Speaker) Frank McNulty on the prayer rules at the beginning of the session,” Pace said. “I was always stuck with my conscience, not with what party dogma says.”