McInnis: Campaigns about more than water
GRAND JUNCTION – As a leading advocate for protecting Western Slope water interests prepares to leave federal office, he says this fall’s election campaigns should be about more issues than water.U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, who is retiring after six terms in office, said at Club 20’s fall meeting Saturday that it’s impossible for anyone to run for office in western Colorado and not be in favor of protecting the region’s water resources, including through storage projects.But it’s important to look at where candidates stand on other issues besides water, he said.”I’m afraid that it’s going to shield some of the important issues,” he said.McInnis joined U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, and U.S. senators Wayne Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell Saturday morning at the Two Rivers Convention Center in addressing Club 20, an advocacy organization for the Western Slope consisting of governments, businesses, organizations and individuals.Their speeches served as an opportunity for McInnis and Campbell to say goodbye to Club 20 members. Campbell also is stepping down from federal office.But while McInnis, a Glenwood Springs native, is no longer on the campaign trail, he spoke as fervently as ever about political issues of importance to him.He said he finds himself feeling like the football player on the bench who has a hard time not jumping out onto the field to stop an opposing player’s charge toward the goal line.”I’ve got to remember, I’ve got to stay on the bench,” he said.Water has been a cornerstone issue for McInnis starting in 1982 when he was elected to the Colorado House of Representatives, and continuing with his election to Congress in 1992. But he said other issues are important as well. As a congressman, he helped to do away with the so-called “death tax” on estates, which he said harms small businesses, and leads to the loss of agricultural land when farms and ranches can’t be passed to new generations.It’s important that the death tax not be reinstated, and that other recent tax cuts be preserved as well, McInnis said.Speaking on the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, McInnis also spoke in favor of the doctrine of pre-emption – taking the war against terrorism to other countries to keep them from attacking the United States.He called pre-emption “the only way we have to protect this country.”McInnis said he and Campbell have been strong voices for western Colorado in Congress, and it’s important during political debates to get commitments from candidates “to make sure those voices are continued after our voices leave.”Water became a chief issue in the Republican primary in McInnis’ 3rd Congressional District. State Rep. Matt Smith, a Grand Junction Republican who is McInnis’ brother-in-law, emphasized his opposition last year to Referendum A, a state water initiative that many on the Western Slope feared would lead to more diversion of its water to the Front Range. Greg Walcher of Palisade, who narrowly defeated Smith in the primary, had supported the measure while head of the state Department of Natural Resources. Voters rejected the measure last November.McInnis did not endorse any candidate during the primary, but quickly backed Walcher afterward, even before Smith had conceded the victory.Walcher is running against state Rep. John Salazar, D-Manassa, in the general election. Salazar, like Smith, had opposed Referendum A.In an interview Saturday, Salazar said he believes McInnis’ comments were aimed at him, though McInnis didn’t name him.Salazar said he thinks water is a key issue in the race.”Without water, we don’t have to worry about taxes,” he said.Yet Salazar said he is a political moderate in general and opposes the death tax. He sponsored a resolution in the state House of Representatives encouraging Congress to repeal it. A farmer himself, he agrees with McInnis that it threatens the future of family farmers and ranchers.Udall said it’s no secret where his political allegiances lie this fall. But the Democrat had praise for Republicans McInnis and Campbell, and said they have done much during their tenures for their constituents.”We’re going to miss these two gentlemen. They’ve been powerful advocates for Colorado, for the Western Slope,” he said.Colorado’s relatively small population means that it has a small congressional delegation, compared to such big states as California. As a result, Udall said, members of that delegation often work in bipartisan fashion to look out for the greater good of the state.”We hang together a lot, contrary to what you might read,” said Udall.While he and McInnis initially “banged heads” on McInnis’ Healthy Forests Initiative, Udall ended up supporting the compromise version that was passed into law, he said.He also expressed gratitude for McInnis’ work in breaking the legislative logjam to get the James Peak wilderness bill passed, and in leading the charge in the House to designate Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes as a national park.Udall said McInnis also has worked hard in such areas as rural health care, and fighting on Colorado counties’ behalfs so they are adequately compensated under the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, which reimburses them for federal lands not on their tax rolls.Allard also saluted McInnis and Campbell’s service in Washington.”Congressman McInnis is one of the hardest-working members of the House. All you have to do is turn on the TV set,” Allard said, in a reference to the frequency with which McInnis is seen giving speeches on the House floor.”He’s working hard on the floor, he works equally hard in committee.”McInnis said his time in Congress has involved a lot of long nights and hard work, but he doesn’t regret the time he spent in Washington.”It’s been a wonderful ride, and as I’ve told you before, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world, not at all.”Campbell, who said he has recovered from recent health problems and who reportedly is considering a run for governor when Gov. Bill Owens is forced to step down due to term limits in 2006, said he is leaving the Senate due to a desire to spend more time at home in Colorado.”I’m just tired of the city of Washington,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.org
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