Joe Hanel/Durango Herald
Joe Hanel/Durango Herald
ALAMOSA – Rep. Scott Tipton and Sal Pace sparred over differences of style and substance in the first debate of their congressional campaign Wednesday night.
Tipton, a first-term Republican from Cortez, said the election is about reining in the role of government in American life.
Pace, a Democratic state representative from Pueblo, said he and Tipton agree on a lot, but Pace thinks he would do a better job of working with the other side.
When Tipton blamed the Democratic-controlled Senate for blocking House Republicans’ ideas, Pace retorted: “This just sounds like more of what we have in Washington, one side bashing the other, one part of Capitol Hill bashing the other. Let’s get over that.”
The Democrat bragged about the state Legislature’s record of passing budgets with large bipartisan majorities.
But Tipton said substance matters.
“I think this has to be about ideas, not just about getting along,” Tipton said.
The federal debt is too high and business owners won’t hire because they are worried about intrusions by government, he said.
“The time to go along to get along and business as usual has passed,” Tipton said.
Tipton said House Republicans have been the only ones to vote for deficit reduction through their budgets, drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Democrats savaged them for that budget because it would convert Medicare into a voucher program for private insurance.
“Unfortunately, in Washington, when you put an idea on the table, you get demonized,” Tipton said.
Pace said the demonization was deserved.
“I’m sorry that you felt that way, but a lot of people felt scared about the Ryan budget,” he said.
In turn, Tipton criticized Pace’s record in the state Legislature. Pace voted for bills that raised car registration fees and suspended some business tax breaks.
The two did agree on a lot. They oppose further gun control in the wake of two mass shootings. They agreed that proposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations on dust on farms and milk spills were a step too far. And neither wants the Army to expand its training grounds at Piñon Canyon east of Pueblo.
The debate, sponsored by the Adams State University Veterans Club, was in the San Luis Valley – friendly turf for Pace.
The crowd of around 100 included supporters of both candidates, although Pace elicited some of the loudest applause on a few occasions when he took direct aim at Tipton. He knocked Tipton for Congress going home for the month of August without passing a farm bill, which includes drought relief and money to clear out beetle-killed trees.
“If I were your congressman, I would have not voted to come home on recess for five weeks until we passed the farm bill,” Pace said.
Tipton said Congress is not on recess. However, it is not meeting in Washington for the rest of the month.
The pair have two more debates on the calendar: September in Grand Junction and October in Pueblo.
Also in the race is Libertarian Gregory Gilman. Unaffiliated candidate Tisha Casida is trying to petition her way onto the ballot. And Jaime McMillan and Dale Reed are running as write-ins. None of the third-party candidates has been invited to the debates.