Tipton holds comfortable lead
Republican incumbent Scott Tipton apparently won re-election to his 3rd Congressional District seat over Democratic challenger Gail Schwartz, but Schwartz was waiting for stalled returns from the most populous county in the district before conceding.
Computer server problems in Pueblo County slowed balloting, and final returns were not expected until sometime Wednesday as long lines of voters were still being accommodated after the polls closed at 7 p.m.
As of midnight, Tipton held a 54 percent to 41 percent lead over Schwartz, the former state senator from Crested Butte, with 17 of 29 counties in the district reporting. Libertarian Gaylon Kent of Hayden had 4.7 percent of the vote.
The Associated Press called the race for Tipton, but neither candidate was ready to make a statement until the Pueblo situation was rectified. Voters were in line at 7 p.m. had their hands stamped and were still being allowed to vote, according to a report in the Pueblo Chieftain.
Tipton first won election to Congress in Colorado's 3rd District when he defeated incumbent Democrat John Salazar from the San Luis Valley in the 2010 election. A former business owner in Cortez for 30 years, Tipton cruised to re-election in 2012 and 2014.
Schwartz, a self-described moderate Democrat who formerly lived in Snowmass Village when she represented Colorado's Senate District 5 in the state Legislature from 2007 to 2015. She was making her first bid for national office.
One of the most hotly contested congressional races in Colorado was being pointed to by Democrats nationally as one that could potentially turn from Republican to Democrat.
Tipton and Schwartz were nearly even in fundraising, with Tipton reporting $1.6 million in contributions as of mid-October and Schwartz taking in $1.5 million.
Among the issues in the campaign was Schwartz's criticism of Tipton for what she portrayed as his efforts to "sell off public lands" through his support of the Hunting, Education and Recreational Development, or HEARD Act, against the wishes of 3rd District constituents.
Tipton maintained that Schwartz's attack ads around that issue were simply untrue.
The HEARD Act can't grant the government an authority it already had, Tipton had said.
Schwartz was heavily criticized by Tipton for her support as a state senator of renewable-energy standards on utility companies serving Colorado. Tipton said that resulted in higher utility costs and the loss of Colorado jobs in the coal and oil and gas industries. Schwartz countered that those factors were driven by market forces, not the new energy standards.
Closer to home, a key issue for voters was the candidates' stances regarding protections against oil and gas drilling on forest lands in the Thompson Divide region west of Carbondale.
Schwartz argued that Tipton hasn't listened as a coalition of ranchers, farmers, recreation groups, hunting outfitters and conservationists banded together to try to buy out or have existing leases canceled, and to give permanent protections to the roughly 200,000 acres of mostly roadless back country.
The Thompson Divide Coalition had been working with Salazar on legislation aimed at buying out the undeveloped leases that were set to expire and withdrawing the area from future leasing, but Tipton never embraced that approach. Instead, he pushed for legislation to bring about a lease swap for the energy companies that held the leases, where they would give up the Thompson Divide leases for new leases on forest lands in Gunnison, Mesa and Delta counties.