Campbell talks up campaign, Senate’s successes |

Campbell talks up campaign, Senate’s successes

by Heather McGregor
GSPI Managing Editor
Post Independent Photo/Kelley Cox

U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell has $1.8 million in his campaign war chest for the 2004 elections. The Ignacio Republican expects a primary and general election race, and said there’s still time for a self-financed millionaire to emerge as a challenger.

While 2nd District Congressman Mark Udall says he won’t run against Campbell, former U.S. senator Gary Hart is considering the idea. Hart is the kind of “heavyweight” candidate Campbell is gathering money to defend against.

“I don’t know if he is getting in or not. Beats me,” Campbell said Tuesday during a brief stop at the Post Independent office.

The two-term U.S. senator and former 3rd District congressman is on a swing through western Colorado, visiting newspaper offices to pump up his re-election campaign and explain the major accomplishments of the U.S. Senate in the past year.

Campbell pointed to passage of the prescription drug bill, government agency restructuring for homeland defense and positive results from the economic stimulus package as proof of a successful year.

The prescription drug bill will cost the government $400 billion over the next 10 years, but Campbell called it “the right thing to do.”

“It’s probably the largest social services bill we’ve passed since Social Security,” he said.

Patriot Act needs adjustments

Restructuring the president’s cabinet and the main agencies of the federal government to accommodate the new Department of Homeland Security was essential, Campbell said. “We’re facing a different kind of enemy than we’ve ever faced before.”

But just as the prescription drug bill will need some adjustments in the coming years, Campbell said Congress must consider changes to the Patriot Act, which limits some civil liberties in the interest of security.

“The Patriot Act was passed in the heat of the moment, and many people are concerned we might have gone too far,” Campbell said.

The act must be reauthorized next year, he said, and that will be the time to tweak the legislation for fairness.

Campbell crowed over the upward-trending economic indicators that have followed passage of the president’s economic stimulus package.

The nation’s gross domestic product grew by 7 percent in the first year, unemployment dropped from 6.5 percent to 6 percent, and the stock market is headed upward, as are home sales and consumer confidence indicators.

“We are on the verge of not just an economic recovery but an economic boom,” Campbell said.

He noted that 1.5 million Colorado residents will see a lower tax bill this year, and called the president’s previous tax refunds “the primer that helped the recovery start.”

Local input valued for Roan Plateau

Campbell also supports the president’s energy bill, which includes incentives for wind and solar energy and tax breaks, subsidies and environmental passes for gas and oil drilling.

He conceded that it’s “not a perfect bill,” but favors approving it in 2004 and adjusting it with amendments later on.

“You’re never done tweaking, especially with a bill as monumental as the energy bill,” he said.

Campbell carried the legislation that transferred management of the Roan Plateau from the U.S. Department of Energy to the Bureau of Land Management. Now BLM is in a lengthy planning process to decide how much of the plateau to devote to energy development and how much to preserve.

Campbell said he doesn’t intend to micro-manage BLM in its decision-making, and said he doesn’t know the area well.

He supports the public comment process, which is expected in the coming months, as a way for residents and interest groups to tell BLM what they want to see on Roan Plateau.

“Hopefully we’ll end up with a plan that’s beneficial for most people,” he said.

He noted that some people will oppose any drilling in the area, but said the decision about how to manage Roan Plateau also needs to be made in the context of what is best for the country.

Contact Heather McGregor: 945-8515, ext. 517

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