Profile of John Salazar

by: Katherine

Tue Sep 04, 2007 at 16:10

John Salazar, CO-3

John Salazar, whose brother, Ken is a US senator from Colorado, was born July 21, 1953 in Alamosa, Colorado. He grew up on his parent's farm and ranch, but currently resides in Manassa. He served in the Army during the mid 1970s and married Mary Lou Salazar. They have three children. Prior to his election to Congress, he served in the Colorado House of Representatives.

It is no surprise that two of Salazar's major interests are agricultural issues and military benefits. Like his parents, he owns and operates a farm and is known for his work on conservation, particularly Colorado water rights. His stated highest priority in Congress is keeping Colorado snow melt in his own state. His other preoccupation, veteran's benefits, derives from his family history. Not only is he himself a veteran, but he also is the son of a veteran and has a child currently serving in the Colorado National Guard. Thus, he is a fierce advocate for veteran's welfare and strongly resists the administration's attempts to cut their benefits.

Generally, Salazar is a fairly predictable upper-midwestern, rural Democrat, reflecting the concerns of his state. His opposition to gun control and the estate tax is not unexpected, nor is his support for an individual's right to purchase prescription drugs from Canada. His voting record also reflects an anti-choice bias (he's Catholic) but also a welcome sensitivity to energy, labor and wildlife/wilderness issues. His A+ rating from Citizens for Global Solutions is also worthy of note. He tends to be good on "middle class" or "populism" concerns, despite his dislike of the inheritance tax (oddly, he voted to retain higher taxes on capital gains). He also voted against making the Patriot Act permanent and is generally supportive of civil and individual rights (except for immigration where despite his last name, he is a diehard nativist), as well as improvements in Congressional ethics. Some of his related votes from the website are listed below.

•Voted YES on requiring lobbyist disclosure of bundled donations. (May 2007)
•Voted YES on protecting whistleblowers from employer recrimination. (Mar 2007)
•Voted NO on requiring photo ID for voting in federal elections. (Sep 2006)
•Voted NO on restricting independent grassroots political committees. (Apr 2006)
•Voted NO on limiting attorney's fees in class action lawsuits. (Feb 2005)

Two of the most interesting questions about Salazar center on his views on the Middle East and net neutrality. His largest corporate contributions are from telecommunications companies, and CNET rates him as among the lowest (25%) on its net neutrality guage, but subsequently, he did vote for net neutrality in June of 2006.

As for Iraq, etc., although he vigorously opposed the "Surge," he still voted against redeployment and for the continued war appropriations sought by the administration in June of 2006. He also voted for the Military Commissions Act. For this, he may be facing a home-state engendered search for a candidate to run against him in the Democratic primary election (see However, there doesn't seem to be much productive activity in this direction, so far.

Katherine :: Profile of John Salazar

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About CO-03, John Salazar's District (4.00 / 1)
Thanks Katherine; much better than what I could do. Let me add some facts and opinions about CO-03.

Salazar's CO-03 district covers most of the mountainous West half of Colorado plus the old steel town of Pueblo, (which is on the plains just East of the moutains). The only major population centers are Pueblo, Grand Junction and a bunch of resort and second home development in areas like Aspen and Steamboat. The rural population consists Ranchers, Farmers, hispanics descended from Spanish Land Grants of the 16th Century (Spanish, not Mexican). The biggest blue population area is the old steel mill town of Pueblo which has been through a long-term economic decline. Grand Junction, the primary red population center, has grown to be as large as Pueblo, with a good number of Mormons, and oil-field workers. A lot of Mexican immigrants are moving in to handle service jobs in the resort areas. The old, land-grant hispanics tend mildly toward the Democrats.

Voter Registration data shows that the district is only a point or so more Republican than Colorado as a whole: 36.0/31.8/31.7 (R/D/I), and those ratios haven't changed very much in the past three years.

When Colorado was redistricted, Pueblo was the big blue donkey that would have to go to CO-03 or CO-04 (Marilyn Musgrave). Basically, whichever district lost Pueblo would be fairly safe Republican, while the other district would be possibly viable for the Dems.

Salazar probably fits his district

John Salazar won his freshman seat in 2004 based on name association with his brother, Ken Salazar (who strikes me as smarter and more purposeful), declining Bush approval and the steady growth of Democrats in resort areas. Perhaps somewhat conservative in a "Western Rancher" sort of way, Salazar in Colorado of the new millenium, Salazar doesn't have anything in common with the reactionary, religious-right which controls the Colorado Republican Party.

Both Salazar's grew up relatively poor as Western ranchers/farmers in the San Luis valley. So, it is probably fair to say that John Salazar is is seen by a lot of his constituents as "one of them". This makes Salazar reasonably appropriate for his district, and difficult for a right-wing Republican to dislodge. But the same problem would face any strongly Liberal or Progressive challenger. 

Persuade Salazar rather than Primary him?

John Salazar's virtue and flaw are sort of the same thing.  Following brother Ken's lead, he is working diligently to hold up the center. Both the Salazars seem strongly attached to the ideas of compromise and bi-partisanship, despite long experience with viscious, hard-ball Republican tactics in the Colorado legislature. From the progressive standpoint, this ends up being pretty conservative ideologically, if not stupid given all the Republican back-stabbing. (I mean, How many Bush lies does it take to wake up a centrist?)

This centrism may be ideological, but it in the practical sense, it probably corresponds to a lot of Salazar's constituents. We aren't talking mega-church, religious right, rather small-town, traditional Westerners who believe in Guns and the American Way mythology. I wouldn't call them Fox-news reactionaries, rather they just don't question institutions like The Presidency.

With respect to the major progressive issues: Iraq, Universal Health Care, Energy Policy, and Labor, my feeling is that Salazar is best targetted for persuasion rather than removal. But that is really a story about persuading small-town America.

Salazar is more likely to follow his constituents rather than lead them.


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