Representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District requires a philosophy of inclusion, compromise and moderation. With a wide-ranging geography as well as socio-economic and political demography, the district is best served by those who favor practicality over ideology. By that measure and many others, Sal Pace is well-suited to represent the district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Pace, 36, knows the district and the state well. He earned a degree in political science from Fort Lewis College, lives in Pueblo and served as the district director for former U.S. Rep. John Salazar. He was the minority leader in the Colorado House of Representatives from 2010 to 2011, where he has a record of bipartisanship in approaching the issues that challenge the state regardless of political affiliation – namely budget woes that require sacrifice from all. In a bipartisan bloodletting, the Colorado Legislature cut $1 billion from the state budget for fiscal year 2012, but restored some of those cuts in the 2013 budget when revenues exceeded expectations. That give and take could not have occurred in a strictly ideological climate, and as a legislator and minority leader, Pace was instrumental in shaping those budgets.
That background positions Pace to be an effective player in the challenges that face the next Congress. Those are neither small nor singular in nature. Perhaps the largest looming issue is the “fiscal cliff” that will trigger across-the-board spending cuts in order to address the federal deficit. Finding an alternative to that scenario and all that it implies will require from Congress a commitment to action, not entrenchment in the name of party loyalty. Pace is keenly aware of both the stakes and the mindset necessary for success. “I believe there are problems, but not ideological problems,” Pace said of Congress.
In addressing them, he would take his cues from his constituents and from common sense, not the Democratic Party. “I will not be an effective congressman for this district if I am a party-line Democrat. A) Because it’s not what I believe. B) I have to represent everyone in this district, not just those who vote for me,” Pace said in a meeting with The Durango Herald’s editorial board.
That commitment to listening to his constituents is critical to how Pace would approach the issues specific to the district, whether it is public lands protection, water supply or natural-resource extraction. That is not an easy approach, but is a necessary precursor to meaningful achievements in the district – however slowly they may come. The district, since 1984 when Republican Mike Strang was elected, has alternated between the parties: Ben Nighthorse Campbell (then a Democrat), Scott McInnis, a Republican, Salazar, a Democrat, and, most recently, Republican Scott Tipton, have all come to learn of the district’s diversity in character and interests.
In his first term, Tipton has proved himself to be a hard worker who makes himself accessible to his constituents – friendly or not – through his offices and copious town-hall meetings held throughout the district. He supported national monument designation for Chimney Rock, recognizing the area’s unique archaeological value, and partnered with Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall in making that happen – first through a legislative attempt, and when that became an unrealistic avenue, through presidential proclamation under the Antiquities Act. Tipton’s measure that would streamline small hydropower projects was passed in the House with bipartisan support and is seeing some progress in the Senate as well. He also intervened to stop a rule-making process that would have disallowed children from working on many family farms.
Those achievements are important, but Tipton has shown that he is above all else a party-line Republican who does not deviate from the party’s positions. He is an ardent supporter of the Ryan budget, voted against allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases and voted to remove all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. His is not an approach that reflects the breadth of his district and the experiences of those who live in it.
To do better, Pace must listen carefully and act accordingly. He has the experience and outlook to do so. Vote for Sal Pace.