John Salazar visits Craig

In what aides say is his fourth visit to Craig, 3rd Congressional District hopeful John Salazar met with a small gathering at the Golden Cavvy restaurant early Saturday morning.

About a half-dozen residents showed to listen to the San Luis Valley potato farmer speak about his stance on health care, energy development, tax cuts and the economy.

"I'm a full supporter of developing natural resources in Colorado," Salazar said. "We have to decrease our dependency on foreign oil, but we have to do it in such a way that it doesn't tear apart what we have in this district. We have to have respect for the environment and do it in a balanced way."

Touting his campaign slogan on bumper stickers,"Send a farmer to Congress," Salazar appeared in blue jeans and with sleeves rolled up to his elbows.

Salazar is running against Republican Greg Walcher for the expansive 3rd District -- a seat being vacated by Rep. Scott McInnis. The longtime politician is stepping aside after spending the past 12 years representing Western Slope and southern Colorado residents in Washington.

Craig resident Brian Baxter appreciated Salazar's visit.

"I enjoy feeling important here," he said. "I like the fact that we have a viable candidate that can reach across party lines. I think that's great."

Salazar said he supports affordable health care for all and touched on President Bush's tax cuts. He supported the theory that tax cuts were meant to stimulate the economy but thought that tax cuts were appropriate only for those who earn less than $200,000 a year. Salazar maintained his No. 1 issue is water and making sure farmers have enough to grow crops.

"I want to make sure that agriculture remains viable," he said.

Last November, Salazar was an early voice of opposition for Gov. Bill Owen's Referendum A -- a $2 billion water issue that later was defeated across the Western Slope.

The measure was intended to increase water storage in the state, but its wording was faulted, Jeff Crawford said.

The Craig resident agreed that keeping water on the Western Slope was important.

"It's probably one of major issues," he said. "We need more storage capacity to keep the water rather than sending it down the river."

Craig resident William Standridge said he was surprised by the small showing for Salazar's visit.

"I thought I wasn't going to find a parking spot," he said.

Although he enjoyed Salazar's visit to Craig, Standridge doubted whether the Democrat could take the district with a traditional Republican stronghold.

"In this district, I think the Republicans will win, but we sure can give them a hell of a fight," he said.

Two polls released last week show Salazar leading the district.

One by Anzalone-Liszt Research shows Salazar 15 points ahead of Walcher.

It surveyed 500 likely voters from the Western Slope.

A second poll shows Salazar holding a 12-point lead. That poll was conducted for KOAA-TV in Colorado Springs and interviewed 731 likely voters.

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