The New York Times and other outlets rate this race a toss-up, with Republican challenger Scott Tipton showing a statistically insignificant lead in some polls. This is a blow to incumbent John Salazar, as up until September, this race was rated by most as leaning Democratic. Look for both men to up their game, and for the media barbs they’ve been trading to get even nastier, now that this race is going to be a dead heat to the finish.
Candidates for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District (two-year term)
(This district includes all or part of 29 counties, including Jackson, Montezuma, Moffat, and Otero counties and the cities of Grand Junction and Pueblo. See a boundary map here.)
Candidate: John Salazar
Political experience: Salazar has been a United States representative since being elected in 2004, serving the 3rd district. He was re-elected in 2006 and 2008 by wide margins.
Professional experience: Salazar is a farmer and a rancher, and he is one of only four congressmen who still actively work their own land in addition to legislating. He is also a veteran of the United States Army, where he served from 1973 to 1976.
Key issues: According to his website, Salazar is focused on protecting Colorado’s water supply, which is a huge issue in this mostly rural district. He actively opposes any measures that would allow Colorado’s water supplies to be sent to surrounding states. He is a strong proponent for Colorado’s farmers, and he says he wants to find ways to use agricultural products, such as biofuel and wind, to decrease Colorado’s dependence on foreign energy sources. He also firmly believes in a veteran’s rights and benefits.
Endorsements: Salazar is endorsed by the NRA, the Fraternal Order of Police and the NEA, among others.
Chances of maintaining his seat: It’s a toss-up with less than a month to go. The district leans Republican, so he’s always had a numbers disadvantage, despite his reputation as a moderate Democrat. In the past, name recognition and the state of the economy helped him triumph, but those may be the very things that are against him now. He needs to convince voters that he can guide them through this tough economy and that he understands their needs, and how to create jobs, in order to win. Look for him to continue to portray the man he’s calling “Two-Way Tipton,” as someone who doesn’t understand the ways of this mostly rural district, and to try and keep the senior citizen and veterans’ vote in order to keep his seat.
Candidate: Scott Tipton
Political experience: Although he has only be elected to one political office, in the Colorado House of Representatives in 2008, Tipton has worked in the campaigns of several other politicians, beginning with Ronald Reagan’s in 1980 and 1984.
Professional experience: A businessman, Tipton was a co-founder, and is still a co-owner, of Mesa Verde Indian Pottery.
Key issues: According to his website, Tipton views immigration as the factor that binds everyone in the U.S., and wants to continue to welcome legal immigrants. He opposes all measures for amnesty or special benefits for illegal immigrants. He is pro-life, except in cases of rape or incest, and he wants to completely eradicate the death tax. He also strongly opposes cap and trade legislation.
Endorsements: Tipton is endorsed by the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, Mitt Romney and the Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition, among others.
Chances of unseating John Salazar: It’s a dead heat. Some polls, including The New York Times, place Tipton slightly ahead of his opponent, but still within the margin of error. That makes this race pretty much a complete toss-up. Tipton, on his website, is counting down the days until he expects to defeat Salazar, which may make it appear that he’s got a clearer lead than he does. Acting like he’s already won can go both ways for a candidate, but in a district that has more Republicans like this one, he may just squeeze out a victory on sheer confidence. Look for him to continue to paint the man he’s labeled “No Show Salazar” as dishonest and a failure at creating jobs to win voters to his camp.
Key Differences between Scott Tipton and John Salazar
Jobs: Tipton was against the federal stimulus package, and he says he would like to see lower business taxes and regulations to spur private-sector growth. Salazar voted for the federal stimulus package and wants to continue to loosen credit markets for small business and find ways to provide the capital for them to grow.
Health care: Tipton wants to repeal the federal health care reform and replace it with tax incentives and individual health savings plans to allow people to purchase and maintain their own health care regardless of employer. Salazar voted for the federal health care reform and wants to continue to advocate for lower health care costs for small businesses to promote economic growth.
Education: Tipton is in favor of stronger graduation standards and charter schools. Salazar is a strong proponent of public and higher education, and he has in the past voted for initiatives to update Colorado’s schools to make them greener and reduce energy costs.
Colorado‘s 3rd U.S. Congressional District
Location: Colorado’s 3rd district covers most of the western half of the state. Cut diagonally across the state, it reaches from the northwestern corner to the southwestern corner and most of the southern edge of the state. It encompasses the Routt, San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests.
2008 results: Salazar defeated Republican Wayne Wolf, 61.4 percent to 38.6 percent.
Demographics: According to the U.S. Census, 73 percent of this district is white, 0.7 percent is black, 22.5 percent Hispanic, 0.6 percent black and 1.4 percent American Indian or Alaska Native.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the Colorado 3rd District a rating of R+5, meaning this district leans Republican in voting trends.