Salazar campaign rips GOP foe

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Democratic 3rd Congressional District candidate John Salazar wasted little time in taking his first shots at presumptive Republican challenger Greg Walcher.

Salazar, a state representative from Manassa, criticized Walcher on Thursday for declaring victory in the Republican primary despite an unspecified number of provisional ballots yet to be counted.

Walcher, who leads GOP foe Matt Smith by an estimated 285 votes after Tuesday's primary, claimed victory Wednesday and picked up endorsements from sitting Congressman Scott McInnis and former opponent Dan Corsentino, the Pueblo County sheriff. Smith, a state representative from Grand Junction, is refusing to concede victory until all provisional ballots are counted.

Salazar's campaign issued a statement Thursday questioning Walcher's premature victory celebration.

"I am a farmer and a veteran, and I believe in America's democratic process enough to wait until everyone's vote has been counted," Salazar said.

Walcher's campaign didn't return phone calls Thursday.

No one knows exactly how many provisional ballots were cast by Republican voters in the massive 29-county district, but several estimates place that number at more than the 285-vote difference separating Walcher and Smith. Even a small gain by Smith could trigger an automatic recount.

The Salazar campaign also attacked Walcher's much-publicized support of the failed Referendum A ballot initiative and his effort as director of the Department of Natural Resources to streamline the department with a contract that would have paid a Utah company a percentage of any realized cost-savings.

"Maybe bureaucrat Walcher got so comfortable fudging numbers through his dealings with the Core Mission Project and Alta Ventures that hundreds of people's votes just don't matter to him," Salazar spokesman Jeff Bridges said.

Smith, meanwhile, said he and his supporters will continue to wait until all provisional ballots are certified before conceding victory.

"The campaign isn't ready to give up and neither am I," Smith said Thursday. "There isn't anybody who can tell how many provisional ballots are out there."

Smith said he's prepared to wait out the 12 days allowed by law for all provisional ballots to be counted and certified, but he hopes an accurate assessment on the number of provisional ballots will be available today or Monday.

Provisional ballots are given to voters who don't bring identification or who aren't listed on voter registration lists on Election Day. County clerks are responsible for verifying provisional ballots after the election.

Smith said he hasn't spoken to Walcher and declined to comment on the McInnis endorsement. McInnis, whose decision not to seek re-election made this race one of the most closely watched in the country, is Smith's brother-in-law.

"You're going to have to ask Scott on the rest of that stuff," Smith said. "I have every reason to believe that if we come out with the votes in this thing, Scott will endorse whoever the winner is."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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