DENVER – The first television advertisement from 3rd Congressional District Democratic candidate Gail Schwartz highlights her painful experience of losing her 8-year-old daughter in a car crash.
The 30-second spot explains Schwartz somehow managed to recover, going on to “stand up” for rural Colorado as a state senator.
“Thirty-five years ago, on I-70, I was in a car accident. I lost my 8-year-old daughter, and I was told I would never walk again,” Schwartz says in the ad, standing alongside Interstate 70. “I’m Gail Schwartz, and I fought to stand up.”
A Schwartz campaign spokesman said the crash occurred Aug. 30, 1981, on I-70 in Summit County. The campaign says no citations were issued and “Gail has chosen never to view the report.”
Schwartz and her 4-year-old daughter, Brendan, were seriously injured and were evacuated on a Flight for Life helicopter. Her 8-year-old daughter, Shannon, died.
“This tragedy was the defining experience of Gail’s life,” said Richard Valenty, a Schwartz spokesman. “It imbued her with an indomitable will and determination to work every day to make a difference in the lives of others.”
The ad is light on details, moving from the tragedy to claiming that she fought to “rebuild and improve” hundreds of rural schools.
Public lands accusations The ad ends by accusing her opponent, Republican incumbent Scott Tipton, of “selling off our public lands,” something the U.S. representative says is false.
When asked by The Durango Herald, the Schwartz campaign produced several pieces of legislation backed by Tipton, including the HEARD Act, which calls for the “orderly disposal of certain federal lands” and provides for “sales of such lands.”
The HEARD Act, however, deals only with federal lands identified for disposal that the federal government isn’t using and that it has expressed an interest in getting rid of, as well as future lands identified for disposal.
The bill does not issue any new land for sale, according to policy analysts.
Supporters of the legislation say the purpose is to reallocate money for land that was already for sale. Existing law does not require authorities to dispose of identified lands on a regular or frequent basis.
The Schwartz campaign also pointed to a measure backed by Tipton that would permit a state to request a transfer of federal mineral leasing, permitting and regulatory authorities to the state. But the bill says nothing about transferring ownership.
The Schwartz campaign further points to an amendment to an appropriations bill that supporters said would have prohibited attempts to sell public lands. Tipton opposed it along with other Republicans, who called the effort a Democratic “stunt.”
Democrats have attempted to corner Republicans on the issue this election after controversy this year stemming from a standoff in Oregon, where a group occupied a federal wildlife refuge headquarters, protesting federal lands policies.
Proposals to transfer ownership of federal lands to the states follow a movement known as the new “Sagebrush Rebellion,” a resurgence of the effort in the 1970s to force the federal government to give more control of government-owned Western lands to state and local authorities.
Tipton told the Herald that he has always supported preservation of public lands and keeping those lands public.
“She’s not telling the truth,” Tipton said of Schwartz’s accusations. “Not once have I said selling off public lands, sponsored or written legislation to sell off public lands.”
Rural schools claimsAs for the claims in the ad that Schwartz fought to “rebuild and improve” hundreds of rural schools, the campaign pointed to 2008 state legislation that Schwartz sponsored as a senator, known as the Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST, Act.
The measure provides an annual amount of grants to schools, which can be used for the construction of new schools, as well as general construction and renovation.
Most recent data states that BEST funded 261 applications in 124 school districts, including several in rural Colorado. BEST funded more than $1.2 billion in public school capital construction projects.
A new school was built in Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 as a result of the funding, and it fueled several other school construction projects in Southwest Colorado.