Steamboat Springs U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Mark Udall defended their votes against a $700 billion financial bailout bill at a campaign stop in Steamboat Springs on Tuesday, and they expressed support for a new $150 billion economic stimulus package
The campaign event, held at downtown sandwich shop Backcountry Provisions, drew a large crowd that spilled out into Old Town Square. A class from Steamboat Springs High School and other young people made up a large portion of the crowd.
Salazar, a San Luis Valley Democrat who hopes to hold Colorado's 3rd Congressional District against Republican Delta County Commissioner Wayne Wolf, compared the event to a candidacy announcement at the Routt County Courthouse before his first successful run for Congress in 2004.
"It was in the dark days when it wasn't too popular to be a Democrat," Salazar joked. "Look what's happened in the last four years."
Most of Salazar's comments were compliments of Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, who is in a high-profile battle for the U.S. Senate against former Republican Congressman Bob Schaffer. According to a Rasmussen poll dated Oct. 17, Udall leads Schaffer 51 percent to 44 percent. The previous month's poll showed a much tighter race, with Udall leading 46 percent to 44 percent.
Salazar described Udall as "the leader in the U.S. House of Representatives on renewable energy" and "someone who understands America's not about today, it's not about yesterday, it's about our future."
Salazar said Udall has been a mentor to him and referred to him more than once as "my big brother." If elected, Udall would join Salazar's actual brother, Ken, in the U.S. Senate.
"We have the transformational powers within to change the direction this country's been going in," Salazar said. "We have two weeks to do it in. It is ours to lose."
Udall asked the gathered supporters if they were ready to bring "electoral shock and awe to Colorado." He encouraged early voting and requested campaign donations.
"We want to do everything possible to put our country on a new road," Udall said. "That will take new leadership."
After the stump speeches, the congressmen spoke briefly with individuals, fielding questions largely about the economy. Both said they voted "on principle" against a $700 billion bill that gave the federal government authority to buy threatened mortgage-related investments and other assets in an effort to prop up the economy. They were two of 63 Democrats who voted against the bill, which passed in the House, 263-171.
"It was a huge challenge for Mark and I because we had to stand up to our leadership and the Republican leadership," Salazar said.
Salazar said he opposed the bill because it didn't require the integration of reforms. Udall said he wanted to see further homeowner assistance in the bill. When it comes to a new $150 billion stimulus package, however, Salazar said he is "absolutely" in support. The proposal, pushed by congressional Democrats and endorsed by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday, would include new spending on roads, bridges and other infrastructure, an extension of jobless benefits, aid to states in financial need and possibly a tax cut.
"That's an economic stimulus package that will have a long-lasting effect on the American economy," said Salazar, who said the infrastructure spending would create jobs.
Udall offered more couched support. He said the bill must extend jobless benefits, invest in green technology and address infrastructure needs to gain his support.
The two candidates left Steamboat on Tuesday afternoon and headed directly for Craig. In the final two weeks of the election, they are devoting three days to a bus tour of the Western Slope.
"The Western Slope is crucial," Udall said as aides urged him toward the door. "He who wins the Western Slope will win the state, I believe."
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