Salazar brings Senate campaign to Eagle County
Ken Salazar wants to be Colorado’s next U.S. senator, and isn’t shy about telling voters how important he thinks the November election is.
“It might be the second most important election in the world today,” Salazar said Wednesday morning during a campaign stop at Fiesta’s restaurant in Edwards. “The first is the presidential race. This senate race could determine who controls Congress. I can win and I will win.”
Salazar, currently Colorado’s attorney general, wants to succeed Sen. Ben Nighthorse-Campbell, a Republican who is not running for re-election. Salazar, a Democrat and fifth generation Coloradan, will face either former congressman Bob Schaffer or wealthy brewer Pete Coors, who will square off in the Republican primary this August.
Salazar’s family homesteaded their San Luis Valley ranch in the 1850s, and they still call it home – it has kerosene lamps and there are no phones. The power lines didn’t reach the ranch until 198, but eight children who grew up there earned high school and college degrees.
Salazar says his campaign platform reflects his ranching childhood in the San Luis Valley: Hard work, caring for Colorado’s land and water, and the importance of education as a keystone for the future. That platform is consistent with his two statewide runs at attorney general when his motto was, “Fighting for Colorado’s land, water and people.”
Toward that end, Salazar helped create Great Outdoors Colorado, which helps preserve open space. He also helped defeat Referendum A last fall, which would have created water storage projects, but had no protections for areas – such as Eagle County – from which the water was to be extracted. That win came despite being outspent 3 to 1 by Referendum A’s supporters.
If elected, Salazar said, he hopes to turn his attention and efforts from statewide issues to America’s place in the world, and the world’s place in America. Both, he said, must be secure.
While the nation’s security includes dealing with the threat of terrorism, it’s far more than that, he said. “We’re living in a very dangerous world,” he said. “We’re dealing with a very real threat and we need to meet that threat.”
That means tracking down terrorism at its roots, Salazar said.
“We need to take on terrorism like our hair was on fire. We need that kind of urgency,” he said. “Many terrorist organizations would like to see an end to the U.S. and our way of life.”
The U.S. is in Iraq for the long haul, although the reasons for being there remain murky, Salazar said. The situation calls for more international involvement. “We cannot cut and run,” he said. “In Afghanistan, we had a good reason. Still, 50 Coloradans have died in Iraq and we need to stand strongly behind our troops.”
Reacting, however, does not mean overreacting. “One of the greatest freedoms we have is to be free,” Salazar said. “We ought not create a closed society by the provisions of federal law passed.”
Jobs and medicine
The economies of Colorado and the nation depend on people being able to get good jobs. He said the state has lost 137,000 jobs in recent years. While most of the counties along the Front Range, the mountain resort regions and the Interstate 70 corridor are stable, many other areas are hurting. He proposed a rural economic development program that could concentrate on renewable energy sources. Salazar said that would also help ease some of the country’s over-dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
Health care, meanwhile, should not be so expensive that working families must choose whether to pay the rent or the health insurance bill, Salazar said. He described one family that’s paying $1,100 a month for health insurance and said more than 700,000 Coloradans don’t have health insurance.
Salazar sued drug companies for price fixing and collusion, and said flatly that prescription drugs are so expensive because “drug companies own Congress and the FDA.” He suggested importing medications to create more competition.
That sort of indebtedness to special interests is exactly what Salazar says he will avoid.
“The senate should be the voice of the people, all the people,” he said, adding he’s proud to be a lifelong Democrat, and will not change parties like Campbell did. “There are so many issues that transcend partisan politics.”
About the money
Salazar said the Bush administration has been “fiscally reckless” by piling up $532 billion in debt this year alone. The national debt now runs in the trillions of dollars – more than $40,000 for every man, woman and child.
“This administration has been fiscally irresponsible with our economic future,” said Salazar.
Taking a poke at Coors, the Republican recruit for the senate race, Salazar said he expects to be outspent 10 to 1. He says he has seen it before. In 2002 he won 60 of Colorado’s 64 counties despite being outspent by a wide margin.
“They have huge money, but huge money cannot buy the kind of experience I can bring to the senate,” he said.