The campaign season for the Nov. 6, 2012, election is here, and the Post Independent wants to make sure readers have plenty of information before casting their vote.
This month we are publishing opinion columns written by candidates for U.S. Congress, the state Legislature, Ninth District Attorney and the Garfield Board of County Commissioners, as well columns for and against the Garfield Open Lands and Rifle sales tax ballot questions.
Today we present columns by the five candidates for the Third Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Republican incumbent Scott Tipton is facing a challenge from Democrat Sal Pace, Libertarian Gregory Gilman, independent Tisha Casida and independent Jaime McMillan.
The Third District encompasses much of the Western Slope, the San Luis Valley and Pueblo.
Later in October, the Post Independent Editorial Board will publish its endorsements of candidates and ballot questions.
The last day to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 9.
For an archive of these stories, coverage of campaign forums and other election issues on the local, state and national level, please visit www.postindependent.com > News > Elections.
Gregory Gilman, 50, Westcliffe
U.S. Congress, Third District, Libertarian
America faces a crossroads, and the choices we make today will be the difference between our future success or failure.
Success, in my opinion, is measured by having the world's highest standard of living, and we currently do not enjoy that standing. Our success in this realm should be gauged by whether it reaches our entire population, and this serves as a lofty, yet attainable goal.
The path to achieving this goal will only be followed by leaders in government willing to legislate with character, honesty, integrity and a willingness to treat all Americans with equality. Legislation that benefits everyone and favors no one is sorely needed. This philosophy drives my campaign and desire to help America live up to our potential and promise.
Congressional leadership is an honor. I take this responsibility seriously and believe that my background as an electrical engineer and Stanford University fellow provides a unique set of problem-solving and managerial skills that can help lead America into a renewed and sustainable period of prosperity and peace.
The first step in problem solving is to define the problems. The list of problems facing our country is extensive, and I focus here on what I feel are the most pressing issues. The federal debt and lack of spending control, the inability of Congress to manage the federal government, and our current war mentality are major issues that I feel must be addressed in order to move our country forward.
The federal debt has reached $16 trillion and is climbing at an alarming rate. Add in the future costs associated with entitlement programs and the total is estimated to be over $100 trillion, and as high as $200 trillion. Our debt-to-gross domestic product ratio is approaching the levels of other countries that have experienced bankruptcy and fiscal demise. If the federal government were a publicly traded company, it would be bankrupt.
Balancing the budget and eliminating the debt are my top priorities. They can be achieved in part by eliminating federal giveaways, both foreign and domestic. We need to eliminate the debt and the associated interest payments that total approximately $500 billion per year. Along with a restructuring of the federal government to increase efficiency and reduce costs, these steps comprise a road map to addressing our current fiscal irresponsibility.
Our financial problems are compounded by the fact that Congress cannot control spending due to the political environment. Lobbyists and special interest groups control the two major parties. It is imperative to increase the diversity in Congress to avoid the disastrous majority that leads to partisan politics. Elected legislators from outside of the major parties will lead to new ideas and collaboration instead of gridlock.
We also need to "declare peace" around the world. A declaration of peace is needed for our national security. A strong military is required for national defense, but should be used with discretion. Our current foreign policy creates hatred towards Americans. This is evidenced by recent protests and attacks from within joint security forces in Afghanistan. Our priority should be protecting our homeland and taking care of our own.
The future of America is at stake. Help me shape the federal government so that it reflects the goals of the middle class: living within our means and enjoying peace with our neighbors. I respectfully ask for your support in my efforts to ensure prosperity for all Americans.
Sal Pace, 35, Pueblo
U.S. Congress, Third District, Democrat
During these tough economic times, it seems like our leaders in Washington just don't understand what it's like for struggling families. I know what Colorado families are going through because my family is going through it, too.
My wife and I have three small children, and we live in a tiny two bedroom house. After bills, gas and food, we don't have much left over for savings. Colorado families like us need a strong voice in Washington that will work to cut through the partisanship and gridlock to get things done.
That's why I'm running for Congress.
For the last four years I've served in the Colorado state Legislature, where I've worked to forge bipartisan solutions as the House minority leader. When Colorado schools were facing devastating budget cuts, I reached across the aisle and worked with Republicans to secure an additional $90 million for K-12 education, while still balancing the budget.
In Colorado, we know that it's only by working together and putting aside our differences that things get done. People in Washington need to stop jockeying for partisan advantage and start working together so that we can do what's right for the country. These are the values that I want to bring to Washington.
If elected, my first priority will be to create a better environment for jobs here in Colorado. We need to reduce red tape for small businesses, reinvest in workforce training, and reform the tax code so that we encourage American businesses to hire American workers. We must also protect tax cuts for the middle class and make balancing our budget a constitutional requirement.
I will also fight to protect the Medicare and Social Security benefits that seniors have earned after a lifetime of hard work. This is in sharp contrast with my opponent, who has twice voted for the Tipton-Ryan Budget, which would gut Medicare and dramatically increase out-of-pocket medical costs for seniors. This radical plan would end Medicare's guaranteed coverage and leave Colorado families one medical emergency away from financial ruin. We can't continue allowing the petty bickering in Washington to jeopardize the Medicare and Social Security benefits that seniors have earned.
As the parent of three young children, I know firsthand how important a good education is for future success. Even today, a good education continues to be the single best guarantee of attaining a good career. This means that investing in our classrooms is essential to ensuring our long-term economic success. We need leaders in Congress who recognize this connection between success in the classroom and success in the economy, and who will work together to make both top priorities.
To address our energy crisis, I advocate a balanced approach to developing our domestic resources that respects our land, our water and our communities.
This approach also requires that we use smart development to become energy independent. Our energy security and our national security are deeply intertwined, which is why we can no longer afford to have our energy dollars support unstable foreign countries that may wish us harm.
I also strongly believe that we need to extend the Wind Energy Production Tax Credit in order to prevent layoffs in Colorado's wind energy industry and to lay the foundation for a safe and reliable energy future.
In this election, the stakes for our families - and for the future of our country - could not be higher. We have a choice between two paths: one which respects our promise to seniors, and one which doesn't; one which grows the economy from the middle class out, and one which doesn't; one which takes us forward, and one which doesn't.
I'm running for Congress so that I can continue fighting to take us forward.
Jaime McMillan, 45, Durango
U.S. Congress, Third District, independent
To the people of the Third Congressional District, I want to impart to you my current political view of a most disconcerting issue. It's an issue my opponents will avoid discussing with you because its solution may not comport with their philosophy or political party.
I believe we are witnessing the consequences of what's called an unlimited power of the majority, whereby political parties have resolved to seek this power as their only goal.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the author of "Democracy in America," writing after our revolution, observed the risks to our democracy in these prophetic words: "If ever the free institutions of America are destroyed, that event may be attributed to the unlimited authority of the majority, which may at some future time urge the minorities to desperation, and oblige them to have recourse to physical force. Anarchy will then be the result, but it will have been brought about by despotism."
All of us have seen the partisan divide widening for many years in Congress. The divide has now become a gulf without a bridge. This has resulted in unnecessary suffering on the American people. Legislative bills that would help Americans better their lives, their families and their children are being suffocated by the indifference of partisanship.
The United States' form of government is a republic, whereby the sovereign or its people place great responsibility for the decisions that need to be made in the hands of elected members of Congress. The implications of those decisions are profound upon the American people because they embody our virtues, our ideas, our humanity, and our moral compass of justice. This is why James Madison called Congress "the House of the People."
Political partisanship and ideology is a true threat to the sanctum and legitimacy of our democracy. The two major political parties believe achievement is only measured by securing majorities in the respective houses.
We live in a democracy shrouded in deception, perpetuated by talk radio, television and political advertising. Political parties seem to be in collusion with the media to form the narrative on what the issues will be in the election, and voters are regulated to daily polling as if placing bets on prized race horses.
However, there is good news that voters are refraining from participating or representing themselves as Democrats or Republicans and choosing to be unaffiliated or independent. Recently in a USA Today column by Richard Wolfe, a study showed more than 2.5 million voters have left the two major parties since the 2008 elections, while the number of independent voters continues to grow. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats' registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans' by 350,000. Independents in contrast have actually gained 325,000.
Thomas Jefferson, probably the wisest and most revered political mind in American history, wrote a letter to Madison about our Legislature, writing, "The executive power in our Government is not the only, perhaps not even the principal, object of my solicitude. The tyranny of the Legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come."
That time has come and it's our duty as American voters to put an end to this tyranny and restore confidence in our political institutions. That will take political courage to vote for a candidate who rejects partisanship and leads from an independent perspective, independent judgment, and works as a representative who is beholden not to a party but to the people of the district.
Tisha Casida, 30, Pueblo
U.S. Congress, Third District, independent
I am running as an unaffiliated/independent candidate for Congress because I want to represent everyone in Colorado's Third Congressional District, and to bring common sense solutions back to our constituency.
I believe there are several agencies within the federal government whose functions could be pushed down to state and local governments where there is more transparency and accountability for our representatives. If you are having an issue or problem, it is much easier to find someone to talk to (that you can hold accountable) at the county courthouse or the state capitol than it is to get in a jet and fly to Washington, D.C.
Energy policy, education policy, agriculture policy, and some environmental protection functions would be much better created, enacted and enforced at a state or county level than from people who do not live in the same communities that are affected by these policies. If we let the federal government focus on the activities it is charged to do (for instance, those outlined in the Constitution), then states, local governments and individuals will be able to make better, stronger, more rational decisions for their community.
Several of my opponents will talk about legislation that they will introduce or have introduced as the reason why you should elect them. To be honest with you, very little of their legislation is ever even discussed in committee, much less passed. The time they spend writing legislation to benefit special interests (versus the individuals in Colorado's Third Congressional District) could be much better used to listen to the needs of their constituency.
How easy has it been for you to reach Rep. Tipton?
Legislation does not help us. There are many pieces of legislation (now called laws) that create burdens and bureaucracy, which slow economic development as well as trample civil liberties. Common sense dictates that our representatives should read the bills that they pass. This is not happening, and it could have very dangerous repercussions for us and for future generations.
I have worked at growing my own small business for seven years now, and I continue to face the same struggles as other business owners and others who are working very hard to not just make a living, but create a better life for their kids and grandkids. My experiences are that it is pertinent that we create sound money, get our fiscal house in order, protect the civil liberties and natural rights of Coloradans, and work together to find solutions - not just use the outdated two-party rhetoric that does nothing to help us.
The federal government is on a dangerous trajectory, and the only way we are going to fix many of our problems is by understanding when state and local governments would be more effective at creating and implementing policy. This is a sound and immediate solution for many Coloradans. We need federal representatives that will work closely with state and local officials to make this happen efficiently. We need federal representatives that protect their community, not find ways to extract their community's resources to benefit special interests in Washington, D.C.
I am accountable to you. I have received no special interest money from collectives that erode your individual rights and develop legislation that takes your hard-earned money for special interest projects.
I have signed the voluntary U.S. House Term Limits Declaration to be your representative in Congress for no longer than six years, so that we can foster the next generation of leaders. I am the most dedicated and most transparent candidate in this race, and would be honored to have your consideration and your vote.
Scott Tipton, 55, Cortez
U.S. Congress, Third District,
Like many communities in Western states, Glenwood's economy relies on natural resources found in the region, and prospers when tourism is steady and energy resources are responsibly developed.
Energy production provides good paying jobs in our state and affordable gas and electricity, while a healthy natural environment attracts tourists from all over the world who come to enjoy Colorado's scenic natural beauty. It's critical that as energy production advances, we put equal effort into conservation and environmental protection.
Colorado's proud tradition of environmental protection and energy development is evident in establishing a responsible standard to monitor oil and gas production, and ensure that our water remains safe and clean.
Prevention is the best form of conservation, and having responsible and consistent production guidelines in place will help prevent damage to the environment, as we strengthen our economy through responsible energy development.
This type of proactive conservation is at the heart of a piece of legislation that I wrote and plan to continue to push for if re-elected: the Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act.
Glenwood Springs residents know all too well the dangers that poorly managed forests can pose to life and property. This community has suffered greatly because of catastrophic wildfire, as has the natural environment, where once lush hillsides and precious wildlife habitats have been destroyed, and vital water supplies contaminated by runoff and ash. Unfortunately, this is the case in many communities across Colorado and much of the western U.S. where drought, bark beetle infestation and high temperatures have combined to create optimal conditions for wildfire.
The Healthy Forest Management and Wildfire Prevention Act empowers governors and county commissioners to identify areas most at risk for wildfire and initiate emergency hazardous fuels reduction projects. Equipping local leaders with the ability to determine their own destinies in this regard would be a vast improvement in these efforts. With this proactive approach to managing our forests, we will prevent future disasters and strengthen our environment, as well as Colorado tourism and recreation.
Visitors from around the world come to Colorado for its scenic natural beauty and to enjoy world-class recreational opportunities including skiing, hiking, rafting, fishing and hunting. The revenue these tourists bring to our state's economy sustains many small businesses and creates jobs.
While tourism can nourish local prosperity, it's also an industry subject to boom and bust cycles. Rising energy costs, high unemployment, and shrinking budgets all affect the amount of disposable income families have to spend on vacations and similar activities.
The best way to ensure a steady flow of tourism is to foster a strong U.S. economy with low unemployment. By responsibly developing our country's abundant natural resources, we can create jobs, lower energy costs, and provide American energy security and long-term economic certainty.
With this in mind I introduced the Planning for America's Energy Future Act. This bill, which passed in the House, would establish a true all-of-the-above energy policy in this country by putting into place criteria to set production goals for hydropower, wind, solar, geo-thermal, coal, minerals, oil, natural gas and oil shale, based on the needs of the American people.
Increased all-of-the-above energy development would create many new jobs in this country, including jobs on the West Slope. If re-elected, I will work to advance a true all-of-the-above energy plan to put people back to work, and will continue to fight hard to protect our natural environment and ensure that Colorado remains vibrant for all who visit or call it home.