Salazar good middle-of-road pick for Congress |

Salazar good middle-of-road pick for Congress

The race for Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District has come to focus most on issues that matters least: whether candidates are dodging debates, and who stands where on water.What’s more important is that it is a contest between a moderate Democrat and a conservative Republican, in a district that would best benefit from leadership from the middle of the road, not its right edge.That makes Democrat John Salazar of Manassa the candidate of choice in the race to replace U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis. The Grand Junction Republican and Glenwood Springs native is stepping down from office after 12 years in the House of Representatives.In the August primary, Republicans narrowly chose Greg Walcher of Palisade over a more moderate choice, Matt Smith of Grand Junction, with another moderate, Gregg Rippy of Glenwood, coming in third.There’s no questioning Walcher’s knowledge of the issues of the 3rd District. He’s been dealing with them for 25 years as a staff member of former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, R-Colo., then as director of the Club 20 Western Slope lobbying group, and finally as executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources.Walcher could be a strong leader in Congress, but the concern lies in where he would lead us. He got a lot done as head of DNR, but came across as heavy-handed as well. A prime example was his heavy editing of pro-conservation comments by employees in the Division of Wildlife, part of DNR, during formulation of the White River National Forest plan, and his heavy editing of their comments in the forest’s travel management planning process.Walcher, who opposes abortion and gay marriages, also says Salazar is out of touch with 3rd District residents on these issues. But we suspect Salazar’s desire to limit government’s reach on personal matters is more in keeping with most people’s views.At the same time, Salazar is making too much of Walcher’s support of Referendum A while DNR chief. Some saw the measure as an attempt at a Front Range water grab. But Walcher’s constituents as head of DNR included all Coloradans; we trust that if he were elected to Congress he would put Western Slope water interests ahead of statewide ones.We also have tired of how much this campaign has degenerated into carping and gamesmanship over debates, including local ones. Generally speaking, though, Salazar has been a scarce presence in Garfield County during his campaign. If he is elected, it is incumbent on him to have a larger presence in this part of the 3rd District, far from his home in the San Luis Valley.Still, Salazar is the best choice to represent the interests of the district as a whole. He merits the support of voters this fall. Still, Salazar is the best choice to represent the interests of the district as a whole. He merits the support of voters this fall.

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