`Strick’-ly business: Colorado U.S. Senate challenger makes brief visit to Democratic rally in Glenwood | PostIndependent.com

`Strick’-ly business: Colorado U.S. Senate challenger makes brief visit to Democratic rally in Glenwood

Carrie Click

Wearing a wool baseball jacket given to him by the Colorado Professional Firefighters Association, Tom Strickland greeted a crowd of about 50 people at Centennial Park in Glenwood Springs on Friday afternoon.

Strickland was in town as part of his 13-day “One Colorado” campaign tour, which is taking him to over 30 cities and towns throughout the state.

Sounding slightly hoarse after a full day of campaigning, yet energetic and upbeat, Strickland was received in Glenwood by people carrying dozens of campaign signs, and a round of warm applause and cheers as he stood on a picnic table and addressed a bundled-up crowd.

He’s campaigned for the U.S. Senate seat before. In 1996, Strickland and Wayne Allard faced off, with Allard winning the election. After six years, the two are squaring off again.

After a brief presentation, Strickland walked up Grand Avenue and down 8th Street to the Glenwood Springs Fire Department, where he was greeted by several firefighters before boarding his campaign bus and hitting the road for Aspen.

“We call this tour `One Colorado’ because we know that together we are stronger than when we are divided,” Strickland said. “Our state is a place of broad diversity, but with a common vision.”

The 50-year-old Democrat cited his moderate and bipartisan stance as a key strength in his run for the U.S. Senate. Strickland is running against Republican incumbent Wayne Allard, who, Strickland said, “has voted partisan 98 percent of the time. Only Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond match that partisan party-line record.”

Only once was the rally interrupted by a passing motorist shouting, “Wayne Allard!” to the Centennial Park crowd. That was countered later at the fire station when a woman called out, “We love you!” from a passing truck.

Another Democrat named Tom – incumbent Garfield County sheriff Tom Dalessandri – whom Strickland called “a tremendous public servant,” was one of several local and state Democratic candidates who joined the rally.

State House District 61 Democratic candidate Rick Davis, a Glenwood Springs City Councilman, opened the rally by introducing Strickland, 2nd District Congressman Mark Udall of Boulder, Colorado Secretary of State Democratic candidate Anthony Martinez, Dalessandri and Garfield County commissioner candidate Tresi Houpt.

Udall, whose 2nd District now includes Eagle County, formally endorsed Davis in his bid for the statehouse seat now held by Republican Gregg Rippy.

Even though several Colorado newspapers, many environmental groups, and the Colorado Professional Firefighters Association and the Fraternal Order of Police have endorsed Strickland, the U.S. Senate race is currently too close to call.

“Channel 4 is just announcing that we’re leading Wayne Allard in the polls,” announced Strickland, “39 percent to 38. It’s not a big lead, but if the presidential election can be won or lost – depending on how you see it – by 500 people in Florida out of 285 million Americans, we can win this race with the help of all of you here today.”

The race is attracting national attention because of the narrow hold Democrats have on the U.S. Senate. The balance is at risk in the race, and with the death Friday of U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, a Minnesota Democrat.

Strickland told the Glenwood Springs crowd his main priorities are rejuvenating the economy, confronting health care issues, protecting the state’s environment and representing the people of Colorado.

Strickland press secretary Chris Watney said Strickland’s ability to bring different entities together has helped him be a positive political force.

“Project Exile is a good example,” Watney said of Strickland’s work as U.S. Attorney enforcing gun laws. The effort brought the NRA and gun control advocates together in an initiative that tripled federal gun crime prosecutions.

Watney said even though Strickland has never held an elected political office, his more than 20 years of public service proves his effectiveness as an advocate for Coloradans. Strickland served as U.S. Attorney for Colorado under the Clinton administration and was a chief policy advisor to former Governor Dick Lamm.

He was a co-founder of Great Outdoors Colorado, which has raised over $260 million from the state’s lottery program to preserve thousands of acres of Colorado’s parks and open space.

Both Strickland and Watney are enthusiastic about the positive reception they’ve had on the campaign tour, though Strickland said it’s been challenging to deal with the attacks that have come out of Allard’s camp.

“From the moment I announced my candidacy in August 2001, the Allard campaign has been attacking my character,” he said. Strickland said that he’s countered with factual data on Allard’s record in the Senate, not personal affronts.

Watney said Allard is a good man, but not the best man for Colorado’s Senate seat.

“You can be a nice guy and a good person, but that doesn’t mean that you can represent issues that Colorado citizens are concerned about,” she said.

Following the stopover in Glenwood Springs, Strickland, his wife Beth, Udall and campaign staff were headed to Aspen for an overnight stay at the Boomerang Lodge. The tour continues to Vail, Greeley, Ft. Collins, Colorado Springs and 10 other Colorado cities.

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