DENVER - Colorado Democratic House Leader Sal Pace will challenge Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton for the state's 3rd Congressional District, setting up a showdown in a place that frequently switches between both parties.
Pace declared his intention Tuesday to try to unseat Tipton five months into the congressman's first term, which he won in an upset last year against Democratic U.S. Rep. John Salazar.
"Today, I'm proud to officially file to run for Congress from the district I've called home my entire adult life, and have served, as a state representative, college instructor and community volunteer," Pace said in a letter to supporters in announcing his run.
Pace, a Pueblo Democrat, took a jab at Tipton, saying voters in the sprawling southwest district spanning an area the size of Arkansas don't want "someone who is obsessed with partisanship."
"I think that the citizens of the third congressional district have a long a long history of congressmen who are less concerned with partisan bickering and more concerned with finding solutions," he said.
The 3rd Congressional District is one of the state's most competitive. Salazar, the older brother of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, won the seat in 2004. Before John Salazar, Republican Scott McInnis represented the district. And before McInnis, the seat was held by a Democrat, former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
"The reality is the third congressional district has been a swing district. I expect it to continue to be a swing district," Pace said.
Despite the districts tendency to alternate between parties, Tipton's victory against Salazar was surprising because the first time both faced in each other in 2006, Salazar won with 62 percent of the vote.
Tipton, a pottery dealer from Cortez, Colo., served two years in the state House before being elected to Congress. While there, he has followed his predecessor in advocating for a funding ban to the Army's plan to expand a military training site in southern Colorado. The proposed expansion is opposed by farmers and ranchers in the area.
Tipton supported a Republican proposal to change Medicare for those younger than 55. Democrats say the plan, which recently failed in the Senate, is so unpopular that it cost Republicans a congressional seat last week in a special election in upstate New York. Republicans had held the seat for decades.
Last week, Tipton apologized in a letter to House ethics officers for emails his daughter sent to some lawmakers mentioning her father in an attempt to drum up business for her employer, a telephone conference provider for members of Congress.
Pace, 34, worked as former John Salazar's director of district offices before joining the Legislature in 2008. He quickly rose among the Democrats' ranks, and his colleagues chose him to be their party's leader in the House.
During this legislative session, Pace sponsored a bill that was signed into a law restricting travel expenses for state-chartered entities in response to a pricey golfing trip by Pinnacol Assurance, a public insurer.