The second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives came to Pueblo on Tuesday to boost the congressional campaign of state Rep. John Salazar. His appearance was another reminder of how vital both national Republicans and Democrats consider the 3rd Congressional District race.
Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland met with Salazar on Tuesday morning before speaking to local campaign volunteers. Hoyer, the House Democratic whip, is in his 12th term.
"The Third District race is one we can win with John Salazar and one of the top 10 House races we are concentrating on," Hoyer said.
On the other side, Republican candidate Greg Walcher was invited and spoke to the Republican National Convention in New York City on Monday morning. Walcher's campaign has begun using the term "radical liberals" when talking about Salazar's supporters among national Democrats. Hoyer laughed at the label Tuesday.
"Anyone who knows John Salazar's legislative record would have to consider him to be a moderate conservative," Hoyer said. "John's position on protecting the district's water from the big cities is well-known, hardly radical."
Salazar said his record - such as voting for a resolution in the Legislature to repeal the federal inheritance tax - could not be considered liberal positions either. Reacting to Walcher's claim that Salazar wants to grant legal status to illegal aliens, Salazar said: "That's simply false. What I support is President Bush's plan to document these workers as a matter of national security, not to make them legal residents."
Asked whether the war on Iraq - and the White House race between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry - would affect the outcome in the 3rd District, Hoyer said he believes the congressional contest would be settled on more regional issues.
"It's going to be a matter of what local voters know about the candidates and who would represent them best in Congress," he said.
Salazar said his campaign polls show that he is receiving support from Republicans who are probably going to vote for Bush as well as himself.
"Part of that is they also know that I'm a veteran, I've stood up to defend this country," he said - an indirect reference to Walcher's lack of military experience.