Back in Snowmass Village, Schwartz touts her moderate political history

by Chad Abraham, Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Challenging U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton in November, Gail Schwartz returned to her former hometown of Snowmass Village on Wednesday, saying more women are needed in Congress to break up partisan gridlock.

Schwartz is a former two-term state senator who represented District 5, which encompasses the upper Roaring Fork Valley and other areas.

The Democrat spoke before about 40 people at the village’s Rotary Club breakfast at the Viceroy Hotel, telling the audience that more women like herself are needed in elected office. She cited a Pew Research survey last year that showed 34 percent of people in the U.S. believe female politicians are better able to reach a compromise compared to male leaders; only 9 percent of those polled held that male politicians were better.

Congressional logjams and name-calling is not productive, so “let’s send a woman to get things done,” said Schwartz, who now lives in Crested Butte with her husband.

Tipton, a Republican who has held his current office representing Colorado’s massive 3rd District on the West Slope since 2010, has also been invited to speak before the nonpartisan Rotary, said Paul Benton, a member of the group’s speaking committee. Tipton “is trying to make time for us,” Benton said.

Nonpartisanship is exactly what is needed in Washington, D.C., and for finding solutions to shortfalls in education funding and other issues in rural Colorado, Schwartz said.

 Chad Abraham/Aspen Daily News
Democrat Gail Schwartz, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, speaks at the Snowmass Village Rotary Club breakfast Wednesday.

On the latter issue, she said during her time in the Colorado Senate, she worked on efforts that resulted in $1.25 billion being earmarked for rural schools. That improved the safety environment of schools that were once “firetraps,” she said.

“It shows how issues like that are nonpartisan,” Schwartz said.

Strong leadership will be needed to help guide Colorado, she said, predicting a future in which the state’s population doubles by the middle of the century — at the same time water resources are expected to evaporate by 30 percent.

Schwartz also chided the incumbent for his stance on climate change. Tipton has acknowledged the environmental issue but believes it is not from man-made causes.

“That’s not part of the solution,” she said.

Mentioning the Thompson Divide area and the agriculture community’s reliance on its watersheds, Schwartz said oil and gas development must take place only in appropriate places.

“We are watching our landscapes change before our very eyes,” she said. “And that is because of climate change.”

Schwartz also spoke about the resurgence of the Sagebrush Rebellion, the movement by conservatives in Utah and elsewhere that wants the federal government to “return” public lands to state control. She said the movement’s goal is get control of the lands so they can be leased for energy development.

“That doesn’t save our existing outdoor recreation,” she said, calling it a $35 billion industry that provides 350,000 jobs. “Everybody in this room is dependent on that economy.”

Instead, Republicans like Tipton are voting to slash the budgets of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, lessening protections of public lands, Schwartz said.

“We need to bring back some balance and we need to bring back some common sense,” she said.