The campaign arm for U.S. House Democrats took aim Friday at Republican Rep. Scott Tipton, an early indication that national Democrats will work to unseat the five-term congressman in 2020.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee launched online ads claiming Tipton hasn’t listed a public constituent event on his website since early 2017. The ads, which feature a cartoonish depiction of Tipton as the British puzzle book character Waldo, ask, “Where’s Tipton?”
When they click, internet users are sent to a website that tracks the number of days since the last event Tipton listed on his congressional website – 829 days as of Friday. The ads are targeted to Facebook users in the 3rd District and will run through Monday in both English and Spanish.
Tipton has hosted public events since 2017; his website is outdated. On April 25, there was a public forum at a Westcliffe library, according to staff there. In March, he stopped in Grand Junction to discuss Western Slope energy. There was also a May 2018 town hall in Pueblo and a recent public conversation with veterans in Alamosa, according to his campaign. The campaign didn’t respond to a request for additional comment on the Democratic move.
Friday’s ad buy is the second for the DCCC in Colorado’s 3rd District this year. Democrats have hoped for years to compete in the vast western and southern district, but Tipton, a Cortez Republican, has held it comfortably since beating Democratic incumbent John Salazar in 2010.
Tipton is known for his low-key public demeanor, sending out few press releases and making relatively few speeches. Satirical website The Onion has even poked fun at his lack of notoriety, joking in January that Americans blamed the federal government shutdown entirely on him.
“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 and voting to both raise the cost of health care and end protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” said Brooke Goren, a DCCC spokeswoman.
The DCCC is not yet backing a candidate in the 3rd District. Diane Mitsch Bush, a former Routt County commissioner and state legislator, lost to Tipton by 8 percentage points last year and is running again in 2020. Root Routledge, of Durango, has also filed paperwork to run.
“It’s very interesting to me that the DCCC is already putting out ads,” Bush said Friday. “And the topic of the ads is really quite interesting to me, because it’s a complaint that I heard time and time again in 2017 and 2018, when I was running.”
Tipton’s strategy in 2018 and thus far in 2019 has been to paint Democratic opponents as out-of-touch leftists and socialists. Bush, who does not identify as a socialist, was accused of socialism by Tipton’s campaign for subscribing to In These Times, a liberal magazine founded by a socialist.
In late March, a Tipton fundraising email contained more than a half-dozen mentions of socialism and again accused Bush, who had not yet announced her 2020 candidacy, of being a socialist. The National Republican Congressional Committee followed the same script in a statement Friday.
“Diane Mitsch Bush is a socialist and will be rejected by voters again in 2020,” said NRCC spokesman Bob Salera.
Bush said the socialist label has become a standard Republican response to Democrats this year. She reiterated that any claim she’s a socialist “is just not true” and never has been.