PUEBLO, Colorado - Partisanship and taxes dominated a final debate between Republican Rep. Scott Tipton and Democrat Sal Pace, who are vying for Colorado largest congressional district.
Pace repeated claims that Tipton is too partisan and contributes to gridlock in Washington. Tipton described Pace as a tax-raiser in the state Legislature who would do the same in Congress.
The race is one of Colorado's closest. Two years ago, Tipton knocked off a Democrat, and Democrats are hoping to return the favor this year.
Pace continued his campaign theme of running against Congress as much as against Tipton personally. Pace bemoaned partisan gridlock in Washington and suggested Tipton shares the blame.
"Everyone in America is sick of this partisanship," Pace said.
To further his point, Pace asked Tipton why he hasn't proposed an extension of the wind energy tax credit. Layoffs at a Pueblo wind turbine plant have been blamed on the lapsed credit, which Tipton supports but many Republicans oppose.
"What Washington gridlock is doing is killing jobs," Pace said.
Tipton repeated his support for the tax credit, but said the House won't agree to it unless analogous cuts are made to pay for it. Tipton insisted the wind jobs are a priority.
"These are important jobs we'll continue to fight for," Tipton said.
The incumbent launched attacks of his own. He described Pace as a tax-raiser in the state Legislature, putting particular emphasis on Pace's support for higher vehicle-tag fees. Tipton also pointed out a senior property tax cut that was temporarily stopped by the Legislature during the economic downturn. The credit has since been restored.
"Those are not solutions we need to have," Tipton said of Pace's tax votes.
The debate at times got testy, and even weird. Tipton and Pace both raised their voices while arguing about Pace's job resume, and whether he ever worked full-time as a waiter. Tipton has derided Pace for a long career in government and politics.
"I was a waiter," Pace insisted.
"Full time?" Tipton asked.
"Full time," Pace shot back, loudly.
Tipton had his own odd moment when the two sparred over the new health care law. While arguing the president's health law will burden taxpayers, the incumbent imagined himself with a disease that mostly strikes women.
"I'd hate to wake up tomorrow, be diagnosed with breast cancer..." Tipton began. Some in the audience gaped.
The candidates have no additional debates set before next month's election. Colorado's 3rd District is the state's largest, stretching from Pueblo and southern Colorado west to Durango and then north to the Wyoming state line.