DENVER Western Colorados race for Congress is again in the national spotlight with the news that national Democrats have anointed challenger Sal Pace as one of their top candidates.
Pace, a state representative from Pueblo, was named one of 18 candidates on the Red to Blue list Wednesday. He is challenging Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez.
Red to Blue status means the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will help with organization, media work and, crucially, fundraising.
Obviously, its a great recognition that our message of bringing common-sense solutions to the citizens of the 3rd Congressional District is resonating, Pace said.
This race is shaping up as the third time in a decade that the national parties take an interest in western Colorado.
Tipton defeated former Rep. John Salazar in 2010 after getting on the Republican Partys list of top challengers.
Salazar was elected in 2004 in one of the hardest-fought races in the country, with multimillion-dollar infusions from both parties.
A Republican campaign spokesman sought to tie Pace to President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Sals about to find out that Nancy Pelosis promise of getting him a job in Congress is as empty as the presidents promise to create jobs for Americans, said Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Tipton is not on the NRCCs list of top incumbents to defend, known as the Patriot Program. But national Republicans think Tipton is in good shape for the campaign, Scarpinato said.
Candidates are raising their own funds, as well. Year-end fundraising reports for 2011 are due Jan. 31.
Separately Wednesday, Tipton announced his chief of staff, Mike Hesse, is leaving.
Hesse is a longtime Colorado politics pro and was chief of staff for former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis.
Nicholas Zupancic, Tiptons legislative director, will be the new chief of staff.
Im grateful for the work Mike has put into my office and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors, Tipton said in a news release. Im confident that Nick will excel in his new position and will continue to play a key role in working with me and the rest of the staff to serve the people of the 3rd Congressional District.
Zupancic got his start as a junior staffer for former Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., in 2006.