Herald Denver Bureau
Democrat Gail Schwartz couldn’t sit on the sideline this election.
In weighing her run to unseat Republican Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District, Schwartz said she felt like the district deserved better representation.
Her candidacy was announced in April, just over a week before the April 15 district assembly, where she garnered 70 percent of delegate votes.
Despite her late entry, the 67-year-old former state senator, who lives in Crested Butte, was able to knock out her Democratic opponent and force a third candidate to drop out of the primary race. It was a sign of Schwartz’s recognition.
The Tipton camp was expecting a lackluster race in the sprawling district, which leans Republican but has been influenced by unaffiliated voters.
The dynamics changed with the emergence of Schwartz, who has since attacked Tipton for a lack of commitment to protecting public lands and being in the pockets of oil and gas lobbyists, accusations that the Republican vehemently denies.
“We really need to have a different conversation,” Schwartz said. “People, including myself, are talking about how dysfunctional government is, and how broken Congress is.”
On the other side, Tipton has hit Schwartz on coal, pointing to legislation she passed in the Legislature that mandated a renewable energy standard and required some Front Range coal-fired plants to burn natural gas.
Schwartz, however, says Tipton is full of the same tired talking points.
“We’re just very different,” she said. “He is in lockstep with the most conservative wing of his party, and I am one that has a record of standing up to my party, standing up to the governor, standing up for my constituents, and listening in a very moderate way.”
In addition to public lands, Schwartz said she wants to focus on economic stagnancy in rural Colorado as compared to the booming Front Range, pointing to spiking health insurance rates and a need for immigration reform.
Broadband, she believes, is a major part of the conversation. She said access to broadband will help businesses in rural areas stay competitive in a global marketplace.
Schwartz wants to reform the temporary work visa program to help immigrants and industries that rely on their labor, while also creating a path to citizenship.
“When we have an underclass living in the shadows that are underpinning our hospitality industry, our construction industry, our agriculture industry, it is time to move on immigration,” Schwartz said.
As for rising health insurance costs in rural Colorado, Schwartz suggests a public option to compete with private health insurance companies, as well as exploring options to control health care and prescription costs.
She also believes renewable energy can be a part of the solution for rural Colorado, pointing to the multi-billion dollar industry.
“Given my experience in the state Legislature, I have a skill set, I have the passion, I have commitment to getting things done, working hard for a district that I think has many challenges,” Schwartz said. “I feel that I can bring that skill set to both sides, reaching across the aisle to get something done.”
Tipton seeks fourth term in CongressRepublican Tipton is hoping for a fourth term in Congress.
What was expected to be a sleepy 3rd Congressional District race has blossomed into a competitive contest, with Democrat Schwartz hoping to unseat Tipton.
He also faces Libertarian Gaylon Kent at a time when frustration with party politics has reached a new high.
Tipton has been hit especially hard by Schwartz and outside interests on the issue of public lands, with claims made through advertising and remarks that Tipton wants to privatize those lands in an effort to sell them off.
“She’s not telling the truth and she knows it,” Tipton said of Schwartz’s claims.
“Not once have I said sell off public lands, or sponsored or written legislation to sell off public lands.”
The Tipton campaign, meanwhile, has hit Schwartz for being a foe to coal, pointing to measures she supported in the Legislature as a state senator that mandated a renewable energy standard and required some Front Range coal-fired plants to burn natural gas.
If Tipton wins re-election, he would head back to a Congress that most Americans believes is gridlocked and dysfunctional.
But Tipton, a 59-year-old small businessman from Cortez, says he has risen above Congressional blockades, passing 11 bills through the House with bipartisan support.
“We’ve been able to reach across the aisle and garner bipartisan support for legislation that is good for the 3rd Congressional District and Colorado,” Tipton said.
As for not all of his bills making it through the process, “We are not the sole determinant of legislation,” Tipton explained, placing blame on the Senate.
Tipton said he is seeking re-election so he can focus on jobs and the economy. Having grown up on the Western Slope, he believes the sprawling congressional district is seeing some of its worst struggles in years.
Tipton’s solutions to solve a stagnant economy include expanding access to capital and reducing regulations – which includes protecting water rights – so that businesses can flourish.
“Businesses are at a loss with the avalanche of regulations that are coming down. It’s hitting our small businesses, it’s increasing their costs,” Tipton said.
As for Schwartz, his Democratic opponent, Tipton said, “I never try to tear down anybody else to build myself up.”
But Tipton acknowledged that he and his opponent have a “very different approach.”
“With all of the above (energy), let’s let the marketplaces choose – let’s create jobs and put people back to work,” Tipton said, adding that coal should be in the mix.
“We have more small businesses shutting down than there are new business startups,” Tipton said. “People aren’t feeling optimistic. We have not felt the economic recovery.”
Libertarian candidate wants to work for peaceLibertarian candidate Gaylon Kent says he is the “peace candidate” in the 3rd Congressional District race.
Kent is aware that he is facing a likely impossible task as the Libertarian against incumbent Tipton and Schwartz.
But the Libertarian Party is gaining in popularity in Colorado, now making up a full 1 percent of registered voters.
Part of the party’s growth has to do with a volatile election season that has many voters unimpressed with candidates in both major parties. Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is polling at around 11 percent in the state.
“There has always been frustration with our government. The problem is ... it’s human nature to stick with the familiar, even when it doesn’t serve us well,” Kent said.
He believes the country is in trouble, with many of its problems revolving around war.
“We’ve been at war continuously since 1989, and we’re $19 trillion in debt. We cannot continue that with impunity. If we do, this country will collapse before the half-century is out ... Violence begets violence.”
He said he is not focused on the same issues that his two opponents, Tipton and Schwartz, are focused on.
Instead, Kent is focused almost solely on peace, stating, “It’s the only issue that matters. No nation can sustain perpetual warfare.”
In response to what he would hope to accomplish in Congress – aside from bringing peace to the world – Kent responded, “My only pledge as a congressman would be to do liberty’s work every day.”