Thursday, February 12, 2004
Palisade peach grower and former director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources Greg Walcher hopes his experience with environmental and natural resource issues will produce a victory in the hotly contested race for the 3rd Congressional District.
Walcher, a Republican vying for the seat being vacated by Republican Congressman Scott McInnis, visited Steamboat Springs on Thursday during a whirlwind two-day campaign through the Western Slope.
"The most important issues here are always going to be the natural resource and environment issues," Walcher said, citing his work for the preservation of endangered species, protection of open space, healthy forest management and as lead negotiator for Colorado River rights.
Communities in the 3rd Congressional District depend on multiple uses of the land to survive and thrive, he said.
But this election will be about national and international issues, too, Walcher told a small gathering of people in the Routt County Commissioners hearing room. Walcher was introduced by Commissioner Dan Ellison, who said his experience with Walcher dates back to the candidate's time as president of Club 20. Walcher also worked on the staff of former Sen. Bill Armstrong and served as executive director of the Department of Natural Resources until his resignation Jan. 5 to run for the congressional seat.
Walcher described the federal system as one that has "just plain run off the tracks." The system is locking the public out of public lands, using the Endangered Species Act as a tool to stop human activity instead of recover endangered animals, allowing national forests to burn and choking the economy with taxes and regulations.
Voters are concerned about terrorism, Walcher said, noting he supports President Bush, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. He said he isn't concerned that weapons of mass destruction haven't been found in Iraq because the real issue is freedom for all societies and the prevention of terrorist acts against the United States.
"I think weapons of mass destruction was always a false issue," Walcher said, adding that failures of the intelligence community need to be addressed and that he will follow closely the work of a recently appointed commission investigating the apparent failures.
This country's only defense against terrorism is seeking out terrorists wherever they hide, he said.
Walcher supports Bush's tax plan and would like to see some of the tax cuts made permanent. He also believes the tax code needs to be simplified and that taxes are too high.
"I'm against deficit spending," Walcher said. "I think deficits hurt the economy, but I think high taxes hurt it worse."
Walcher is anything but alone in his bid for the congressional seat. Nine candidates filed campaign donation reports with the Federal Elections Commission for the final quarter of 2003, including Democrat John Salazar and Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino, a Republican. Walcher reported $112,000 in campaign contributions in the December filing, easily outpacing his Republican and Democratic opponents. Five additional candidates have been reported to be seeking the seat, bringing the total to 14. McInnis is not seeking a seventh term in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Routt County Republican Party Chairman Buck Buckland attended Walcher's campaign stop.
"It's going to be a dickens of a race, but that's what it's all about," Buckland said.
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