Swing to Democrats called hallmark of ‘New West’ | VailDaily.com

Swing to Democrats called hallmark of ‘New West’

Matt Brady
Ft. Collins Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Todd Yates, AP Photo/Rocky Mountain NewsCongressman John T. Salazar, left, and his brother, U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, join each other on stage to address the members of the Hispanic Caucus at the Colorado Convention Center's Korbell ballroom Monday.

DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado Senator Ken Salazar and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano slapped a proverbial high-five at the Colorado Convention Center on Aug. 25 over the Democratic Party’s political coup in western states, where the Republican stronghold has been steadily slipping over the last few years.

Salazar, donning his traditional cowboy hat, stood alongside Napolitano against the backdrop of a poster depicting a rustic Western setting with “Western Majority Project” headlining it in bold letters.

The two spoke to a conference room of reporters and said that the West’s swing from a Republican to a Democratic majority is the hallmark of the “New West,” comprised of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming.

Napolitano spoke briefly about the growing trend in electing Democratic officials in western states.

“It wasn’t long ago that Arizona’s senators were a Republican majority of 7 to 1,” she said. “I am confident that next time around we’ll (Democrats) be at 5 or 6.”

She cited much of the political shift to a large population growth, bringing in a new flux of young voters whose allegiances and interests don’t lie with long-standing Republican officials like John McCain; she said many in the young voting bloc have never seen McCain’s name on a presidential ticket before.

“As the population grows it’s becoming younger,” Napolitano said. “We’re (Arizona) now one of the five youngest states in the country, which means that every election is a new election–you can’t depend on incumbency anymore.”

She also cited the western decrease in Republican support as the symptom of a party diseased with “an angry far-right group that hasn’t captured the issues people have been concerned about.”

In response to questions from reporters asking about the effect of a growing Latino population, she said she was disappointed in the Republican Party’s treatment of the immigration issue, which she said cannot be solved with the bumper-sticker motto, “Build a Wall.”

“I say, ‘build me a 16-foot wall and I’ll show you a 16-foot ladder,'” Napolitano said, implying that a wall will not effectively solve the immigration problem.

Napolitano ducked out early, making way for Salazar to take the microphone, who went on to reiterate the point that Democrats are the new majority in the west. He called Democratic officials the pragmatic voter’s choice.

Salazar spoke at greater length than Napolitano about his personal positions on various issues of concern to voters, such as renewable energy, abortion and the Iraq war.

Revealing his more centrist tendencies, Salazar said that he intended to see the use of drilling for oil on-land as well as off-shore ” a statement far-leaning Democrats wouldn’t associate themselves with.

“I think we need to have everything on the table and that does include oil,” he said; although he was a greater advocate for the use of coal, which he believes can be burned cleanly and in a contained environment that won’t expel large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

One reporter raised the question of whether it would be difficult for Obama and Salazar to see eye-to-eye as Salazar is a Democrat who opposes abortion while Obama supports choice. Salazar deftly avoided any pitfalls, maintaining his support for Obama as well as a pro-life position.

“On the issue of choice I personally oppose it but that is a position that has to be made between a woman and her God,” Salazar said. He said he felt that Obama agreed with him on that.

Salazar also said that he was glad the U.S. has finally reached a bipartisan agreement on how to proceed with the war in Iraq, though he did say the U.S. continues to fund both sides of the war on terror.

After Salazar left, Democratic pollster Andrew Myers presented a slide show with the latest results of the “Project New West” poll.

As was the case with the rest of the intimate press conference, the numbers and discussion remained emphatically pro-Democrat, revealing in tedious detail all the various different ways Democrats have made gains on Republicans over the last decade, including a statistic showing how Obama is at a dead heat with John McCain for owners of one to three guns.

It’s too bad Salazar had to leave early, the slideshow would have been aptly capped with a celebratory toss of the cowboy hat and a hearty “yee-haw” from the Democratic Senator.

Glimpse the New West

Check out http://www.westernmajorityproject.org, where you can check out the full philosophy of the “New West,” complete with statistics revealing momentum for the Democratic Party.

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