Monday, June 13, 2005

Making the Party Line Invisible

Via Stygius and Red Hawk at Colorado Pols, I came across this Rocky Mountain News profile of John Salazar, who represents Colorado's Third District in the House of Representatives. Salazar is the older brother of the Gang of 14's Ken Salazar, who represents the state over on the Senate side.

I don't know nearly as much about Colorado politics as either of the two bloggers linked above, who each have excellent analyses covering John Salazar's chances for reelection in 2006. I certainly agree with both of them, however, when they say that any Republican's chances of taking Salazar's seat away seem pretty slim. As Red Hawk (a Republican) notes, the congressman's "open-door policy, together with his down-home rhetoric, almost guarantees another term of service." Stygius agrees, noting how difficult Republicans have it when they try to campaign against the Salazar brothers: "they can't turn them into cartoons very effectively, and come off looking silly when they try."

The Rocky Mountain News profile, which Stygius accurately describes as a "puff piece" - if you had doubts, the first sentence reads "A moderate breeze blows across southwestern Colorado, and an old seed potato farmer has his finger in the wind" - for all its cliches actually turns into an interesting profile. Salazar told the paper "he thinks so much about matching his constituents' wishes that he sometimes doesn't decide how to vote until the short walk from his office to the House of Representatives floor", a strategy that has resulted in votes that take the Republican position nearly a full third of the time.

Salazar said that with each vote, he tries to "ignore the party line," and think about what's in the best interest of his constituents and their values - as the RMN notes, probably a wise strategy in a district President Bush won with 55% of the vote in 2004. Of course, Salazar has stuck with Democrats in some important instances, including the recent energy bill and expansion of federal funding for stem cell research. His philosophy seems to be similar to that of Nebraska's senator Ben Nelson ("
I'll support the president when I can, oppose when I must. I'll always look for a compromise and solution when possible, and I won't obstruct"), a credo that I think is a fair one no matter which letter you put behind your name.

Would that we had a whole Congress full of those who thought this way.


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