AVON - Sal Pace knows the Third Congressional District pretty well, except for the new part.
Pace is a Democrat from Pueblo, and is currently a representative in the Colorado Legislature. He's challenging incumbent Scott Tipton, a Cortez Republican, for the Third District seat.
Pace came to the Vail Valley Partnership offices in Avon Wednesday to talk about economic development, and why he's running for Congress. He had a small audience - just four county residents attended.
Undeterred, Pace talked about his time getting to know the district as a former aide to John Salazar, a Democrat who held the Third District seat from 2006-2010. But the Eagle County part of the district was added just recently as part of a once-a-decade re-drawing of the state's congressional districts.
With the addition of much of Eagle County, the Third District now includes virtually all of the Western Slope, along with Pueblo. The new map moved the state's agriculturally-based southeast corner from the Third into the Fourth District.
Pace said that Eagle County shares a lot with much of the rest of the district. But, he added, the valley's budding focus on health and wellness, as well as summer events, seems to be unique in the district.
If elected, Pace said he wants to stay away from what he sees as the biggest problem in Washington - that sound bite politics has replaced actual discussion and debate.
As a political science professor, Pace said he believes Congress can be a functioning body again.
"But we've got to get to the point where people start looking for common ground," he said.
Pace said when the legislature is in session, he plays poker every Tuesday night with lawmakers of both parties. That can help when it's time to reach out to people in the other party, he said.
Pace said one of the bills he's helped pass - a bill to clean up Fountain Creek between Colorado Springs and Pueblo - wouldn't have happened without support from both parties. Similarly, it took both parties to change a rule in the state's air quality department that allowed a steel mill in Pueblo to get some much-needed permits.
Pace described himself as a believer that government can help promote economic development. But, he said, that means providing small businesses with the same resources and help that larger companies often receive.
Support for business also includes good roads and the like.
Running for Congress in this district is going to be big job. The district covers 50,000 square miles and covers all or parts of 29 of the state's 64 counties. Except for Wyoming - the whole state is one district - it's the biggest congressional district in the country, and is bigger than 20 states.
"You have to campaign in all 29 counties," Pace said. "But I'm excited about it."
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.