Democrat Abel Tapia is challenging Republican Congressman Scott Tipton for Colorado's 3rd Congressional District seat. The 3rd District covers most of Western Colorado. Tapia campaigned in the North Fork Valley Friday evening. KVNF's Laura Palmisano interviewed Tapia at a voter meet-and-greet in Paonia.
PALMISANO: The Western Slope is typically very red. What do you think your chances are running against a Republican in this district?
TAPIA: There’s nothing easy about it, but this position has been held by Democrats. John Salazar, who’s a really good friend of mine [that] I served with in the legislature, held this seat for four years. So a Democrat can hold it. The registration does lean towards the Republicans. I’m confident I can win in the 3rd Congressional.
PALMISANO: What made you decide to get into the race?
TAPIA: I’ve been in politics for 20 years. I was on the school board for eight years and then it was followed by 12 years in the legislature. I was term-limited in 2010 so at that point I wanted another opportunity. I had the opportunity to be the executive director of the Colorado Lottery. A really good job because you actually earn money for the state of Colorado, you make people happy, and then at the end of the day you give money back to the people. In 2014 I felt like my 40 year working career was good enough and I should sit back and enjoy retirement, but the dynamics of the politics came out that the candidate that was running for that position in Congressional District 3 dropped out of the race suddenly. I was approached by a lot of people including the party chair that I was one of the only ones they thought had the political experience that could pick up and run with this challenge.
PALMISANO: Now, let’s talk about some of the issues on the Western Slope. What is your stance on the Climate Change Action Plan and the EPA’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and how it might impact the coal industry here in Colorado?
TAPIA: I was a coal miner. I spent some time in coal and that was coal to feed the steel mill, which was very important. I got a real appreciation for our natural resources. I am concerned about the new standards. I am concerned about our ability to make those standards. I am concerned about the jobs that could be affected and being able to meet those emissions. It has to be a balance. I am concerned with our environment. I am very concerned about how our environment is being affected, but I think that we’re going too quickly in this area and I think there has to be a lot of public hearings about whether or not we can meet those standards in a more phased in approach.
PALMISANO: Let’s stay on the topic of jobs. Here on the Western Slope the unemployment rates are higher than the state average. What can be done to help revitalize the economy out here?
TAPIA: I live in Pueblo. Our unemployment rate is way too high and the Western Slope is way too high. One of the efforts that I have is infrastructure. Infrastructure is so important to us and that is our roads, our bridges, [and] our telecommunications. We have had flooding. We have had fires that have been so destructive. All of these things are part of infrastructure that the federal government has a role to play. In the legislature I was to go-to-guy for engineering projects and development projects and capital development. I ended up being the chairmen of the Joint Budget Committee so I know about making priorities and I think we have to put a priority to using the monies that we have not new monies. Using the monies to make sure that our infrastructure works to our needs. Infrastructure is one of the best paying jobs that you have. Those are quality jobs that will help our economy.