To Bee or Not to Bee |

To Bee or Not to Bee

The Colorado GOP has a problem.Palisade Republican Greg Walcher trails San Luis Valley Democrat John Salazar in the U.S. 3rd Congressional District race for the seat being vacated by six-term Republican Scott McInnis.McInnis generally got re-elected in landslides. This happened so many times that I used to think the district was a safe Republican seat. But Walcher blundered when he supported “Referendum A” in last year’s election. At the time, he ran the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Referendum A sought to raise money for unspecified future water storage projects in Colorado. But unless you’re new here, you know that “water storage” is political code talk for pumping Western Slope water through the Continental Divide to the thirsty Eastern Slope, and storing it over there.We Western-slopers would prefer that our water flow downhill towards the Pacific Ocean, not the Atlantic, to irrigate our crops and fields and nurture our beloved and endangered Colorado squawfish.Referendum A got pummeled statewide. It was particularly unpopular here in the 3rd District, where voters rejected it four to one.I don’t pretend to understand the politics of why Walcher committed political hara-kiri. But look, this is how it works: To carry the rancher vote and the good old boy vote – a piece of which you need in order to win – you have to pass a two-part litmus test. Part one is you protect our water. Part two is you support gun rights. Part one is probably more important than part two, because irrigation water is the lifeblood of the arid West. Without it, a lot of this country would revert to sagebrush and cactus. The twin issues of guns and water go to the heart of what it means to be western.This is a pretty conservative district. Folks here don’t much care for taxes or government meddling, unless it’s maybe a little federal money when the ditch washes out. And Walcher gets a five-star rating from the American Conservative Union. Now you listen to me. None of this matters. It’s water first, then politics.Walcher’s water record already has GOP party loyalist McInnis backpedaling. “The election is about more than water,” he said, basically conceding the issue to Salazar.Of course the election is about more than water, but only after both candidates pass the water loyalty test, and Walcher doesn’t. Potato farmer Salazar says, “A farmer knows water.” This plain talk will play in the district, particularly since Salazar vigorously opposed Referendum A. Plus, Democrat Salazar supports gun rights. And it won’t hurt him politically that he and Mary Lou named their boys Jesus, Esteban, and Miguel. How did Walcher get on the ticket in the first place? He won a plurality, not a majority, in the August five-way GOP primary. You voted in that one, right? Walcher garnered 32 percent of the primary vote, barely edging out McInnis’s brother-in-law Matt Smith, who ran a shoestring campaign based on – guess what – protecting water rights. But how can Walcher live down his Referendum A past and prevail in a general election? I’ll pick Salazar, barring a scandal, unpardonable gaffe, or Swift Boat attack. The latter can be deadly effective. Maybe you noticed. But so far this campaign’s stayed fairly clean.Term limits was a hot button GOP issue when Democrats ruled the House, although after the Republicans took over in 1994, you pretty much stopped hearing about term limits. In his 1992 campaign, McInnis promised to retire after three terms. But when the popular congressman flip-flopped and ran a fourth, fifth, and sixth time, the voters forgave him and re-elected him.I suspect they’re not going to go so easy on Walcher. Water’s a much more serious matter. The Republicans have a problem here.Peach Valley beekeeper Ed Colby waters his apple trees from the Roseman Ditch. Ed’s e-mail: Valley beekeeper Ed Colby waters his apple trees from the Roseman Ditch. Ed’s e-mail:

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