The snow plows were still clearing snow Saturday morning when state Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, arrived at the Golden Cavvy to begin clearing his own road to the 3rd Congressional District seat.
Ten Moffat County Democrats ate breakfast with Salazar. They joked that they were all the Democrats in the county, but Salazar said it's a good start to what he calls a grassroots campaign.
"Normally, you can't get this many Democrats in one room in Craig," Salazar said. Seated before a wall of Rotary Club banners from around the world and with the Colorado flag in the corner, Salazar said he'd like to have an informal discussion. But the meal was more of a question-and-answer session, as the locals quizzed him about his stance on the war in Iraq, prescription drugs, welfare, the loss of American jobs to foreign countries, and President Bush's tax refunds.
Salazar was elected to the Colorado Legislature in 2002 and is now running for the seat GOP Rep. Scott McInnis will vacate at the end of his term. The 3rd District stretches from New Mexico to Wyoming, a swath of land the size of Florida.
Salazar, a potato farmer from the San Luis Valley and the older brother of Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, said health care for the middle class and the economy are his two main priorities.
During his tenure in the Colorado legislature, Salazar has focused on water rights, backing bills for basin of water legislation. He said Western Slope communities should be part of the discussion before water is transferred to the Front Range.
"There shouldn't be any transfer at all," he said. "But if there is, it should have an economic benefit for us."
Salazar considers himself a moderate Democrat. He is a Vietnam-era veteran who thinks Iraq is becoming another political quagmire.
"I believe Iraq is a war for oil," he said. Salazar favors bringing in an international coalition such as the United Nations to rebuild and institute a new government in the country. By developing renewable energy sources, such as wind farms, Salazar said we could become less dependent on foreign oil.
Salazar has worked at the state level to create a drug pool to provide cheaper prescription drugs to senior citizens.
He believes American jobs could stay on American soil if the government insisted countries we trade with follow the same environmental restrictions as the United States does.
Salazar had hoped to hit towns from Craig to Gunnison on Saturday, but feared the poor weather would slow him down. After he left for a meeting in Steamboat Springs, Tim Christensen, co-president of the local Democratic Party, said he believed Salazar would make a good candidate.
"It's a tough road to hoe running for office," Christensen said. "But he seems like good working people. He really is farm people."
Andre Huffmire shared a similar opinion.
"He has great potential," she said. "He's not just spouting rhetoric like a politician. He's dealt with the same issues we deal with here."
Many in attendance were impressed that Salazar came to Craig, saying that 3rd Congressional District candidates often spend most of their time stumping for votes elsewhere.
Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.