Salazar visits Steamboat

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As the Democratic front-runner in the Third Congressional District race, John Salazar said he is not going to become complacent as Republican candidates continue to enter a crowding field.

"We are continuing to get the name out. That is the only way to win this. I still consider myself the underdog," Salazar said.

A state representative, Salazar, D-Manassa, stopped in Steamboat Springs on Sunday to shake hands at the finish line of the Steamboat Springs Marathon and then for a campaign fund-raiser at the Yacht Club. Salazar is on a 29 county tour of Colorado in his bid for Rep. Scott McInnis' vacant seat.

Routt County rancher Jay Fetcher, who is running for the state senate seat against Sen. Jack Taylor, R--Steamboat Springs, also attended Sunday's fund-raiser and had a marathon aid stop just outside of his ranch on Routt County Road 129.

Fetcher and Salazar have been friends for more than a decade after attending an agriculture leadership class in Russia.

A few weeks ago, Salazar won a spot on the Colorado Democratic Party's Aug. 10 primary ballot when he received 69 percent of the votes from delegates at the state Democratic convention. Grand Junction Mayor Jim Spehar dropped out of the race after failing to garner 30 percent of the delegate votes at the convention.

Salazar is unsure of who his Republican opponent will be as six candidates, including Steamboat Springs resident Matt Aljanich, are vying for the seat.

Other Republicans seeking a spot on November's ballot are Greg Walcher, former director of the Department of Natural Resources, state Rep. Gregg Rippy, R-Glenwood Springs, state Rep. Matt Smith, R-Grand Junction, Pueblo County Sheriff Dan Corsentino and Delina DeSanto, a Durango real estate agent.

"It is going to be interesting. It is going to be a heck of a fight," Salazar said.

Regardless of the final opponent, one of the key issues will be water in the upcoming election, Salazar said.

Salazar, who is a fifth generation Coloradan and San Louis Valley rancher, said he recognized the importance of water. If elected in November, Salazar said, he would be the 17th member of Congress who would make his living from farming or ranching. He said Steamboat has a balancing act in attracting tourists with its water and leaving water for agriculture.

"Coming from a farming and ranching background, I know how difficult it is to make a living. Without water, you don't have a living," he said.

National issues that Salazar is ready to tackle are deficit spending, which he worries will create high interest rates, inflation and a loss of jobs, and allowing farmers and ranchers to continue to use federal lands.

Salazar, who served in the tail end of the Vietnam War and has a son in the National Guard, said he is not in favor of pulling out of Iraq without stabilizing the country first.

Salazar is well aware of the attention brought to this race and his younger brother Attorney General Ken Salazar's race for U.S. Senate.

"It is drawing quite a bit of national attention," Salazar said. "I think it is a great opportunity."

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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