Pace enters race in 3rd CD; Republicans pounce

The Colorado Statesman

House Minority Leader Sal Pace, D-Pueblo, ended months of speculation about his political future Tuesday and officially announced he will seek the Congressional District 3 seat currently held by Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo.

In his official announcement, Pace said the decision to run was a big step for him and his family. He chided Tipton for his support of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisc.) Medicare reform plan and for Tipton’s lack of support for regional issues. The American Dream “will disappear if we don’t start doing things differently as a country,” Pace said. “When I think of my boys’ future, I know that to get there, we need a new approach to governing. We will not accomplish anything if both sides dig in their heels, refuse to negotiate and vilify the other side of the aisle,” an approach Pace said he took at the state Capitol, to “govern with common sense, based on what we value in Colorado: independence, a commitment to community, optimism about the future.” Pace vowed to focus on jobs, controlling the nation’s unsustainable debt, protect rural water and “living up to our commitments to our seniors with Medicare and our veterans. I am proud of my track record in the Colorado State House fighting for good paying jobs, making our government more transparent and accountable, and passing legislation to protect our rural way of life,” he said.

Pace told The Colorado Statesman Tuesday that his community is the heart of agricultural southeastern Colorado and pointed out his ties to the agricultural community. His wife’s family has a ranch in the district and as a result his two kids are raising goats, chickens and cattle. He also vowed to protect rural water interests, noting that the 3rd District has basins that northern water speculators have been trying to grab for decades.

Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said Pace would have difficulty defending his votes and record on rural Colorado in the district, including the tax increases passed last year.

But he also said he found it odd that Pace announced for a congressional bid when “we don’t know what that district will look like,” adding that it indicated that Pace is looking for a congressional district map that looks substantially the way it does now.

McNulty said he viewed Pace’s announcement and the lack of one from Senate President Brandon Shaffer, D-Longmont, for the 4th District as evidence of an inter-party issue over the redistricting maps. Pace got thrown “under the bus” with the Democrats’ initial maps, McNulty told The Statesman Tuesday, by drawing a 3rd District that was more Republican in its voting performance history.

By announcing so early, Pace may be locking in his position as a congressional candidate in this inter-party battle, McNulty explained. “It’s a smart move by Sal to get out early because it’s really a zero-sum gain between him and Brandon.” It comes down to who gets the better-drawn district, and by announcing first, McNulty said Pace does so at Shaffer’s expense.

Colorado GOP Party Chair Ryan Call also blasted Pace’s record on spending and taxes, saying that Pace has a “clear and consistent record of reckless spending and raising taxes on hard-working Colorado families and small businesses. The fact that Pace wants a promotion — despite failing to force government to live within its means — shows how out-of-touch he is with Western Slope voters.”

McNulty later issued a statement that said Pace had failed to stand up for a congressional district map that kept rural Colorado whole. “While rural Coloradans were calling on the General Assembly to protect their voice in Washington, Sal refused to lead,” McNulty said.

To McNulty’s statements, Pace responded that he was running against Tipton, not Shaffer. The final redistricting maps from both parties were pretty similar for the 3rd District, Pace said, with most of the disagreement about other areas.

Pace responded to the charges levied by Republicans that he had a poor track record on spending, noting that in 2010 the Colorado Union of Taxpayers had rated him third best among Democrats (although he earned a rating of 20 on a scale of 100, and every House Republican was rated above 70). And while he initially voted for the passage of House Bill 10-1195, the bill to lift a state sales tax exemption on agricultural products, in its final vote in the House Pace was one of three Democrats to vote against it. He voted in favor of the repeal of HB 1195 in the 2011 session.

“Frank won’t admit it, but he’ll miss me,” Pace said, joking that he would seek McNulty’s endorsement.

In the coming weeks, Pace said he will be traveling around the district, which he said is the size of Florida, and will begin the fundraising process. He estimated it would take about $1.5 million to win the seat; when John Salazar won the seat for the first time, it cost about $1.2 million, and Tipton raised about the same for his 2010 win.

The National Republican Congressional Committee also responded to Pace’s announcement; in a statement spokesman Tyler Houlton said that throughout his career in the General Assembly, Pace “has been directly responsible for sending his own constituents to the unemployment lines by supporting job-killing regulations and billions in new taxes and fees. There is no question Sal would bring this same commitment to reckless spending and soaring taxes to Congress as one of Nancy Pelosi’s hand-picked puppets,” he said.

By getting into the race, Pace becomes part of a national effort by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to retake Congress. In April, the DCCC announced it would run TV and radio ads and targeted mail pieces against 25 Republicans, slamming their record on supporting Ryan’s Medicare plan. The Drive for 25 campaign is co-chaired by Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Tipton is one of the 25 targeted by the DCCC.

Former state Rep. Liane “Buffie” McFadyen, D-Pueblo West, was mentioned as a possible contender for the 3rd District seat, but she told The Statesman this week that she was supporting Pace and had already given him a check.

Sen. Gail Schwartz’s name also has been bandied about, but Schwartz told The Statesman that she loves serving in the Senate, where “we get a lot done,” and that at this time she isn’t thinking about it. Schwartz has history in the 3rd District; she represented it on the CU Board of Regents from 2000 to 2006, when she ran for her first term in the state Senate. She ran for re-election to the Senate last year, a bruising and close contest and one that Schwartz said was tough on her family, and she indicated she wasn’t eager to go through that again.

The most serious of the possibles appears to be Greenwood Village chiropractor Dr. Perry Haney, the owner of SpineOne, a pain management facility. Haney’s name was tossed out by Hoyer in his meeting with the Denver Post. He apparently owns property in the 3rd District but he also may be considering a run against Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo., in the 6th District. Sources also said this week that Haney is assembling a campaign team. But Mary Beth Corsentino, the chair of the Democratic Party’s 3rd Congressional District Committee, told The Statesman she’d never heard of him. Haney is out of town and unavailable for comment.

As for Shaffer, he recently told the Longmont Times-Call that he would not make a decision or announcement until after taking some vacation time with his family. Shaffer also responded to comments made by U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., in a recent meeting with the Post editorial board where Hoyer said that both Shaffer and Pace were committed to running for Congress. “I have a great deal of respect for Rep. Hoyer, but he doesn’t make decisions for my family,” Shaffer told The Statesman, and added that he wishes Pace “all the luck in the world.”

Marianne@coloradostatesman.com