Walcher makes final push through Craig

Congressional candidate Greg Walcher made a final push through Northwest Colorado on Friday. The next time he comes here, he said, he'll be on his victory tour.

Walcher, his wife, Diana, and three campaign supporters waved campaign signs along U.S. Highway 40 in Craig until the cold weather chased them inside Wendy's.

Walcher, a Republican and former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, is running against Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, to replace retiring Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction.

During an interview over hamburgers, Walcher said that if he's elected, he'd continue the battle to pass several of McInnis' bills, including the Healthy Veterans Act.

That bill, written with the encouragement of the Moffat County commissioners, would allow geographically isolated veterans to seek medical assistance in their hometowns, rather than driving to the nearest veterans hospital.

"It's part of keeping our promise to veterans," Walcher said.

In Craig, the nearest veteran hospital is in Grand Junction. That's a hard trip for some elderly and ill veterans.

Walcher doubted Congress would pass the bill before the end of the year. That's in part because od bad timing, he said. Congress is considering other items as the end of the year approaches.

But there is also a lobby in Washington, D.C., opposed to the bill, Walcher said. Opponents of the bill would like veterans to continue obtaining medical treatment at veteran hospitals, because some veteran hospitals will lose customers if the bill passes.

But the problem of geographic isolation faces veterans in eastern states as well, Walcher said.

"I think we can put together a coalition to get it done," he said.

The Moffat County commissioners said they would encourage whichever candidate won the 3rd Congressional District race to support the Healthy Veterans Act.

In addition, Walcher said he would continue McInnis' work to increase Payment In Lieu of Taxes payments, which provide counties with federal funds for federal property that doesn't generate property taxes.

As director of Club 20, a conservative Western Slope lobbyist group, Walcher said he flew to Washington, D.C., to testify to increase PILT payments.

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

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