John Salazar makes campaign stop in Steamboat

Health care, water, economic development top hot-button list

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At a quarter past 5 Friday, men were standing around exchanging ranch stories, weather stories and talking about what mattered most to everyone there -- water.

State Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, who is seeking the Third Congressional District seat being vacated by Scott McInnis, was in town for a few hours, "not to give a big political speech," he said, "but to find out what issues were most important to (Routt County voters)."

Jay Fetcher introduced Salazar to the room, pointing out that Salazar's grandchild was born a seventh-generation Coloradan and calling Salazar "one of us."

Salazar, the older brother of Attorney General Ken Salazar, is a fifth-generation Coloradan who grows potatoes and barley on family land in the San Luis Valley.

This is Salazar's second time in Steamboat Springs. He came the first time to announce his candidacy.

On Friday, Salazar listed his political priorities and took questions from the audience to clarify his stance on national and international issues.

He opened the night with a story about a father and son from Denver who visit rural Colorado to see "how the poor people live." By the end of the anecdote, the son realizes that he and his father might not be the rich ones after all.

"I'm here to talk about values that are not measured in dollars," Salazar said.

His priorities are threefold, he said.

"My first priority is affordable health care for middle-class families," he said. "We've forgotten about the middle class. Some of the elderly have Medicare, and the poor can qualify for indigent care, but the working middle-class family cannot qualify for any help. We need to fight for them."

Salazar's second priority is water, he said.

"I'm a veteran of water fights. When it's time to grow, you need to have the resources to do it."

His third priority is the economic development of rural areas, he said.

But to jump from the state House of Representatives to Congress, Salazar admitted he is still learning about the national and international issues.

When asked, he said that as a Vietnam-era veteran, he promised to fight for veterans.

"I am a lifelong Democrat," he said, "but I am a moderate Democrat."

Colorado voters will get their first chance to vote for a Democratic nominee at the April 13 caucus.

-- To reach Autumn Phillips call 871-4210

or e-mail aphillips@steamboatpilot.com

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