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Sal Pace on his decision to step down as House Minority Leader to focus on beating Scott Tipton

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Pueblo Democrat Sal Pace is giving up his post as minority leader of the Colorado House. But he's not resigning as representative for House District 46, and neither is he making a break with politics.

Far from it: He plans to run against Scott Tipton in the 3rd Congressional District circa November 2012 -- and while the election is nearly a year away, his rhetoric is already in mid-campaign form.

"It was not a difficult decision" to let go of the minority leader gig, Pace says. "I've got a lot on my plate. I'm running for Congress, I've got a brand new baby, I'm a legislator from HD 46. And I felt this was an opportunity for someone to serve as minority leader whose priority is serving as minority leader."

At the same time, he stresses that he never considered leaving the legislature early. "I was elected to do a job by my constituents," he notes, "and I plan on fulfilling my commitment."

What motivated him to target Tipton? "People in Colorado are sick of the partisanship, the divisiveness, the politicians most concerned with ten-second sound bites and making the other side look bad," he maintains. "They want leadership that's going to be focused on finding practical, common-sense solutions.

"Right now, I think people are frustrated with how Congress is acting. And with a 9 percent approval rating" -- a putrid sum cited by Senator Michael Bennet in a clip aired on the Rachel Maddow show -- "they're showing they want to see change in Congress. And Scott Tipton has been part of the problem, not part of the solution."

Is Pace surprised that Congress is currently less popular than the IRS and Paris Hilton, and barely outdistancing Fidel Castro? "Not at all," he says. "I'm frustrated, too. I watched this summer, appalled, as Congress made a mess of the debt-ceiling debate. At the end of the day, there was a compromise proposed, and Scott Tipton decided he would rather stick to his ideology than support that compromise. He voted for us to default on our debt -- that was more important to him that breaking his narrow, ideological view. When the package didn't include so-called entitlement reform -- taking away people's benefits -- he just couldn't fathom working across the aisle in a consensus model."

Expect to hear more lines like these once the race against Tipton heats up. In the meantime, Colorado House Dems plan to get together on Friday morning to choose Pace's successor as minority leader. And while Pace will leave it up to his colleagues to select the right person for the job, he notes that "I'll be voting for Mark Ferrandino," a Denver representative who co-sponsored this past session's civil unions measure with Senator Pat Steadman. Pace points to other qualifications as well.

"Mark's been serving on the joint budget committee," he says. "He knows the state budget as well as anybody, and he's been a real champion for those without a voice, not only in the legislature, but in the budgetary process. I think his values are consistent with the values of average Coloradans."

If not necessarily Scott Tipton.

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