Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, may have won re-election to the U.S. House less than a year ago, but Democrats have already started campaigning for his seat in the 2020 election.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the campaign arm of House Democrats, placed English and Spanish language ads on Facebook last week targeting constituents in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, which spans the western half of the state from New Mexico to Wyoming.
The ads pose a simple question: “Where’s Tipton?”
“Congressman Scott Tipton has spent nearly a decade in office looking out for his special interest donors while consistently failing to show up for hardworking Coloradans,” DCCC spokesperson Brooke Goren said in a news release.
A cartoon of Tipton dressed in red and white stripes like the titular character in the children’s book series “Where’s Waldo?” is featured in the ad. Once clicked, it redirects to a ticking clock on a DCCC webpage counting the time it has been since Tipton’s out-of-date website says he last held a public event for his constituents. The clock read 834 days on Wednesday.
The problem with the ad is that Tipton has in fact held recent public events.
Tipton held a roundtable about drug abuse Jan. 25 in Grand Junction and a public meet-and-greet with veterans groups April 24 in Alamosa, said Michael Fortney, a spokesman for Tipton’s campaign. He also held a public forum April 25 at West Custer County Library in Westcliffe, library staff confirmed.
Tipton last came to Durango for a town hall in August 2017 after he toured the Gold King Mine with Gov. John Hickenlooper and Sens. Cory Gardner and Michael Bennet.
Those events – and others – were not listed on the defunct events page on Tipton’s website, which hasn’t been updated since March 7, 2017 – 834 days ago.
The DCCC spent between $1,100 and $5,600 on the ads, according to data publicly available on Facebook’s ad library. The English language ad ran while Congress was on recess from June 14 to June 17 and the Spanish language one remains active.
Fortney is “not concerned by the DCCC’s early involvement because these tiny spending levels amount to a cheap PR stunt, not an actual investment in the race,” he said in an email to The Durango Herald.
While the ads did not account for many of Tipton’s public appearances in Colorado, some Democrats still feel he does not engage enough with voters.
“We kind of have a joke that we don’t really remember what he looks like,” Carol Cure, party chairwoman of the La Plata County Democrats, told the Herald last month.
Tipton was first elected to Congress in 2010 and is serving his fifth two-year term. So far, two Democrats have announced bids to challenge Tipton in 2020: Diane Mitsch Bush of Steamboat Springs and Root Routledge of Durango. Mitsch Bush was last year’s Democratic nominee and lost to Tipton by an 8% margin in the general election.
James Marshall is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.