Sen. Ken Salazar called on students to become more involved in the political process during a visit to the Lory Student Center Plaza Wednesday afternoon.
“When you think about the issues that are defining our world today, the issues of war and peace, the issue of energy independence, the issue of health care, the issue of access to higher education, those are all issues that affect each and every one of you,” he told a crowd of about 100.
Several other Democratic candidates running in the November elections were also in attendance, including Angie Paccione, who is running against Republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, and John Kefalas, a candidate for the 52nd state Congressional district.
Salazar stressed the importance of the upcoming Nov. 7 election and its national implications.
“We have to move forward with a strategy that brings the whole world together as we deal with securing a peace in our world that isn’t the isolationist and divisive failed policies of the Bush administration,” he said.
Salazar, a member of the Senate Energy Committee, recently secured $80,000 in funding for a bio-diesel production facility in Mesita, Colo., and $250,000 in funding for the Rocky Ford bio-diesel plant.
Salazar stressed the importance of energy independence, calling for political courage on the issue.
“We need to make sure that we move forward with an honest and realistic program to get us energy independence,” he said. “If the country of Brazil, a third world country, could do it, there’s no reason why the United States can’t do it.
“We know we have the technology to do it, but what has been missing is the courage to do it from the top to the bottom, we need to change that.”
In a later interview with the Collegian, Salazar addressed proposed Colorado Amendment 44, which would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for Colorado residents.
“If it is the legalization of an ounce of marijuana I would be opposed to it,” he said. “That’s where I have historically been in terms of the legalization of narcotics and historically have taken the position that I see them as a gateway drug.”
Paccione was also opposed to the pot-legalization measure, which she said should be addressed at a federal level.
Kefalas, however, has already voted “yes” on the measure. He said the money used to incarcerate non-violent marijuana offenders could be put to use more productively.
“The issue is bigger than legalizing marijuana,” he said. “It’s about our criminal justice system.”
Salazar is also a member of the Senate Ethics Committee. He addressed Amendment 41, which seeks to impose stricter practices for lobbyists in Colorado.
“My own sense is that it is the right direction, because I don’t think lobbyists should essentially be buying favors from members of the General Assembly or other elected officials,” he said.
Salazar, who is one of two Hispanic U.S. senators elected since 1977 (the other is Florida’s Mel Martinez), also spoke about the politicization of immigration reform in Washington and the importance of Referendum K, which would force the state’s attorney general to sue the federal government for enforcement of current immigration laws.
“I think that is a statement to Washington to get its act together on immigration,” he said.
Salazar was optimistic about the future and the potential for today’s young.
“I see you as the next U.S. senators, the next governors, the next presidents of the United States,” he said.
News managing editor Vimal Patel contributed to this report.
Staff writer Drew Haugen can be reached at email@example.com.