Luncheon poorly attended

Palisade peach grower on campaign trail

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Although he advertises himself as the peach grower from Palisades, congressional candidate Greg Walcher is hoping to harvest more votes than fruit come fall.

The former Colorado Department of Natural Resources director is running for the Republican nomination for the 3rd Congressional District. Walcher stopped through in Craig Wednesday during a two-day, cross-country tour of the eighth largest congressional district in the nation. He spoke to 11 people at the Republican Women's luncheon and made an unscheduled speech to the Craig Chamber of Commerce while campaigning at the Holiday Inn.

"This election is about the future of rural America, and it will not be a cakewalk," Walcher said. Much of his speech focused on environmental issues, including the use of public lands and the Endangered Species Act.

Many of the women at the luncheon had not known Walcher was coming. There was some disappointment among his four-member campaign staff that more people didn't attend, but Walcher spread his message to a dozen more people by dropping in on the Chamber meeting to repeat his speech.

Walcher's campaign manager gave away small bags of dried peaches grown at Walcher Orchards and the candidate's campaign logo emphasizes the farming aspect of his life.

"We highlighted the peach grower thing because it's not just where you stand, but who you are," Walcher explained. He said whenever he makes a public speech, most of the questions he receives are about peaches. Although he may speak for half an hour about an environmental policy, someone often follows his remarks by asking him when he prunes his peach trees.

He described the orchard as his "therapy job." He said the work helps him recharge his batteries after long weeks of attending meetings and making phone calls. If elected, he plans to keep the orchard.

But Walcher's campaign is something of a balancing act. While emphasizing his family's farming history to show he's still in touch with the regular working man, he also stresses his Washington experience while campaigning.

Of the wide Republican candidate field, Walcher claims to be the only candidate with wide geographic political experience. While natural resources director, he worked on projects within every county in the 3rd Congressional District.

Walcher also boasts 25 years of political experience as a member of former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong's staff, president of Club 20, a Western Slope lobbying group, and director of the DNR.

On economic issues, Walcher is a clear conservative. He favors making President Bush's tax cuts permanent, abolishing the estate tax and downsizing government by cutting programs such as the Endowment for the Arts, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.

"These aren't federal responsibilities," he said.

Walcher supports the war on terror and the war in Iraq, but he said he would not vote for Bush's budget, the largest in United States' history.

Walcher has raised almost twice as much money as any other candidate running for either party's nomination. According to the Federal Election Commission, Walcher has raised $112,000 so far.

That's another factor that differentiates him from the rest of the field, he said. He has greater fund-raising abilities. It's the "ugly side of politics" no one wants to talk about, but money gets candidates elected, he said.

After leaving Craig, Walcher made a campaign stop in Steamboat Springs and spent the night in Walden. Upon returning home to Palisade, he planned to establish momentum with a quick succession of campaign events. He plans to send out the first mailing to Colorado delegates, follow that up with the grand opening of his campaign headquarters in Grand Junction, and then attend a series of receptions across the district.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or by e-mail at rgebhart@craigdailypress.com.

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