Rippy ready to follow in footsteps of other Garfield County politicians
Editor’s note: This is the third of five profiles of the candidates competing in the Aug. 10 Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District race. The district covers a majority of the Western Slope.By Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentState Rep. Gregg Rippy’s candidacy for Congress is offering voters the chance to continue a tradition of high-level political representation by Garfield County residents.Outgoing U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, is a Glenwood Springs native and former state representative who moved from his hometown only after being elected to Congress.McInnis’ successor – and Rippy’s predecessor – at the Statehouse was Russell George of Rifle. George went on to become speaker of the House of Representatives, and then director of the Colorado Division of Wildlife, before being promoted to his current job of director of the state Department of Natural Resources.”I think Glenwood and Garfield County have really supplied some wonderful public servants in Colorado,” said Rippy, a Republican representing Colorado’s 61st House District.He said that speaks well of the valley because public service isn’t easy, and anyone who does it deserves thanks.”It doesn’t matter if you’re on Rifle City Council or a U.S. senator, we all make sacrifices to do it,” Rippy said.Now he is ready to serve at a higher level. But to do so, he’s got to sell himself not just to those who know him as a fourth-generation Coloradan and Glenwood native. He also must reach across a far-reaching 3rd Congressional District that’s the size of Florida and has 600,000 residents.To try to do that, Rippy said, he’s given almost 200 formal speeches and put in 3,000 miles a week traveling across the district.”I think the campaign’s going well. We’re touching literally tens of thousands of people in the district right now,” he said.A chief message he’s been delivering is his mix of legislative and business experience. He believes people relate to him better than other candidates because of that experience.”That sounds a note of resonance with the people. I’m not a johnny-come-lately to the political scene,” he said.Rather, he said, he’s demonstrated that he cares about community, first at a local, then at a state, and now at a national level.”In each one of those steps I have a record that can be viewed. It’s not an empty promise. It’s not a reinvention of what Gregg Rippy is. It’s out there for scrutiny.”Rippy said reinvention has occurred in the case of primary opponent Greg Walcher, who won the top number of votes at the Republican convention.”He attempts to reinvent himself as a conservative when as a bureaucrat he increased his department budget 70 percent,” Rippy said.Walcher has cast himself as more of an anti-tax candidate than Rippy and another contender, state Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction. But Rippy said that when it comes to taxes, Walcher put one over on the state Legislature, getting it to approve a new fee on water use.”I voted for that; I was tricked. This year we repealed and refunded all those dollars,” Rippy said.”I believe Greg Walcher is the bureaucrat that he warns us about.”A different pathRippy didn’t compete in this year’s Republican convention. Instead, he later petitioned onto the August primary ballot. He said Walcher makes a lot out of his victory at the convention, but Rippy doesn’t believe it gives Walcher an edge in the fight for votes in 3rd District communities.”We had fewer than 600 people that represent those communities in that convention,” he said.The convention came while the legislature was still in session. Rippy felt he needed to live up to his commitment as an elected official rather than campaign for convention votes.”For me to shirk from my responsibility as a state representative for the 61st District would have been out of character for me and unthinkable,” he said.Now that he’s out on the campaign trail, he’s talking about, and hearing people bring up, a wide range of issues. But for him, they have a common theme: “How can you ensure that I have the highest quality of life possible?” Rippy said.For seniors, that may involve seeking assurances about Medicare and Social Security, Rippy said. For young workers without jobs, it’s about economic development so they can afford to continue to live in their community. For someone with a junior water right in the middle of a drought, it’s about what to do to improve water supply.”But all of those come down to everyone’s day-to-day life, their sense of security,” Rippy said.He said he’s responded with everything from a 10-point tax plan so people can keep more of the money they worked hard to earn, to making tuition tax deductible because education is such a concern for families, to proposing increases in the dollar limits for IRAs and 401k retirement plans, to making health care more affordable and accessible. He believes one approach to the latter is to let businesses group together in buying health insurance plans, to give them greater purchasing power.Beyond the realm of issues in the 3rd District is the matter of its diversity of population – from steelworkers in Pueblo to ranchers and second home owners in western Colorado. Rippy said he already represents a diverse population in the 61st District, which spans from Silt to Aspen to Lake City. He considers the 61st a microcosm of the 3rd District, and says that makes him best suited to step in and understand the challenges facing its residents.
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