Steamboat's Bob McConnell plans busy summer on campaign trail

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Bob McConnell

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■ Learn about Bob McConnell, Republican candidate for Congress, at www.mcconnellforcongress.com. Contact McConnell at bob@mcconnellforc... or 970-846-4907.

■ Learn about Republican congressional candidate Scott Tipton, a state representative from Cortez, at http://votetipton.com. Contact him at scott@votetipton.com or 970-985-8699.

■ Learn about the Democratic in­­cumbent, U.S. Rep. John Salazar, of the San Luis Valley, at www.salazarforcongress.com. Call his Grand Junction office at 970-245-7107 or his Washington office at 202-225-4761.

By the numbers

Fundraising totals as of March 31 for leading congressional candidates in Colorado’s 3rd District

Candidate / Raised / Spent / Cash on hand

John Salazar (D) / $981,557 / $347,678 / $1,098,632

Scott Tipton (R) / $250,748 / $59,560 / $191,187

Bob McConnell (R) / $44,126 / $25,741 / $18,385

Source: www.opensecrets.org

— The energetic background noise was clearly audible as Bob McConnell spoke on the phone Tuesday, in the middle of a three-day retreat to reload his campaign after a surprisingly positive result at the district assembly last week.

“I am so excited — I’m honored, humbled, energized and ready to take this fight,” McConnell said about the primary he now faces against Scott Tipton, a state representative from Cortez.

McConnell, a Steamboat Springs resident, military veteran and self-proclaimed “Cow­boy Colonel,” received about 45 percent of the delegate vote at the GOP’s 3rd Congressional District Assembly on May 21 in Loveland. Tipton received about 54 percent, setting up the two Republican candidates for an August primary to challenge incumbent U.S. Rep. John Salazar, a Democrat from the San Luis Valley, for a seat in Congress.

That Tipton received more than the 30 percent of votes required to make the primary ballot is not surprising. Although he lost soundly to Salazar four years ago, that campaign gave Tipton a foothold in the district’s 29 counties that now is backed by experience at the state Capitol and more than $190,000 on hand as of March 31.

But McConnell’s result was widely unexpected, even within his own party. The first-time politician reported a total of about $44,000 raised as of March 31, with about $18,000 on hand.

Of his total amount raised, $17,212 is money McConnell contributed to his own campaign, according to the campaign finance website www.opensecrets.org. McConnell called the self-contributions his “personal commitment to the people of Colorado.”

State Sen. Al White, R-Hay­den, attended the Re­­publican assemblies last weekend and compared McConnell’s result to that of gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes, of Evergreen, who edged out former Congressman Scott McInnis for the top spot in that race on the Republican primary ballot.

“I think the Dan Maes result was exactly similar to the McConnell turnout,” White said. “There was a huge surprise among the party, and maybe among unaffiliated voters across the state, that Dan Maes did as well as he did.”

White cited the influence of a tea party movement largely fueled by anger with the federal government.

“A lot of it can be attributed to angry new participants to the system,” White said.

He added that as much as 40 percent of Republican delegates at the assemblies could have been first-time participants in that role.

“I think that made a huge difference in some of the assembly outcomes,” White said.

McConnell put it more bluntly.

“This is the people’s year — this is when the people take back control of our government,” McConnell said. “I’m going to call the tea party people my patriots.”

Less is more

McConnell doesn’t hide the fact he’s running to participate in a government he wants to drastically reduce.

“I want to repeal the In­­ternal Revenue Code. I want to re­­peal the Federal Reserve Act. I want to repeal the Endangered Spe­cies Act,” he said Tuesday.

In April, Mc­­Connell said his push for a “massive reduction” in federal spending also could mean abolishing the federal Department of Education, cutting federal poverty programs and reorganizing the federal Department of Defense.

He’ll push those ideas in a busy summer schedule honed this week during his Custer County retreat with campaign organizers.

McConnell said details are coming soon about a June 28 event in Steamboat with cowboy singer Michael Martin Murphey, and he’ll ride in Pueblo’s Fourth of July parade. His immediate goal, he said, is fundraising.

McConnell said he talked with Tipton on Saturday about the potential for debates, but no dates or locations are finalized.

Tipton could not be reached via cell phone Wednesday.

As for Salazar, spokesman Eric Wortman said the congressman is focusing on stimulating the Western Slope economy and boosting jobs across the region. Wortman pointed specifically to a series of recent bills that provide tax credits for small-business owners. Credits can be received for hiring unemployed veterans and buying business equipment, Wortman said.

“There’s plenty of time for a spirited campaign,” Wortman said. “People want their congressman to focus on jobs and the economy, and that’s what Congressman Salazar is doing.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4233 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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