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Joe Salazar; Can’t Be Bought. Can’t Be Bullied
Photo courtesy: Dave Russell

By James Mejía

Salazar was busy working for the underdog in 2017. Of the nine bills he sponsored in the Colorado House of Representatives, Salazar forwarded bills on reproductive health, repealing Columbus Day as a state holiday, protecting immigrants and preserving the rights of Colorado’s homeless.

Salazar was also the Democratic sponsor for a bipartisan resolution requesting the pardon of inadvertently released convicted criminal, Rene Lima-Marin. Since release, Lima-Marin had rebuilt a model life and was re-released after a judicial ruling. In a prepared statement at the time, Republican co-sponsor of the legislation, State Representative, Dave Williams said, “I believe, in some small but significant way, the resolution that Rep. Salazar and I passed in the legislature helped give Judge Samour additional confidence in his decision to free Rene. Justice has been served, and now Rene can live out his second chance with a loving family that’s been waiting patiently for his return.”

Salazar is more accustomed to criticism and condemnation from Republicans than the praise he received from Williams. In fact, Salazar along with fellow legislators Representative Jovan Melton and former Senator Jessie Ulibarri founded the informal group known as the “Doghouse Dems” for their willingness to get in trouble from their own party in pursuit of justice and human rights. Salazar noted, “We serve as the moral conscience of the General Assembly. When we feel our leadership is doing something that benefits special interest over people, we hold our position and fight for the people. It has gotten us in trouble with party leadership.” Since Ulibarri’s departure from the legislature, Melton and Salazar have added recently elected State Representative Leslie Herod to the group.

In November of 2016, Salazar won his 3rd legislative term, representing Thornton and parts of Adams County, repeating his electoral success of 2012 and 2014. His election tag lines for 2016 were consistent with the values for which he has become known in the House, “People first,” “Addressing inequities,” and “We have to do something better for our children.”

Next year, Salazar will take his credentials to the Attorney General’s race. With a statewide election taking place concurrently with midterm congressional elections, the race is likely to focus on sharp differences between the major political parties. Salazar must win a tough Democratic primary before taking on the general election. Other Democrats in the race include Amy Padden, a former Assistant Attorney General, Michael Dougherty, an Assistant District Attorney in Jefferson and Gilpin Counties, Denver lawyer Michael Levin, and former CU Law School Dean, Phil Weiser.

Salazar says he decided to run for Attorney General, “As soon as the Trump admin came about, in order to protect people from the overreach of the federal administration.” He doesn’t want to run a traditional campaign, but rather wants to, “Change the way the Democratic Party does things. I’m tired of people who promise big and deliver small, who have no real connections to community. I’m in the community all the time.”

Salazar wants to run a grassroots campaign, “We are at a strange time politically. The tenor of politics has changed tremendously. What we need now are front line streetfighters willing to fight on behalf of the people. I’m a person on the front lines. People know where I stand.”

The winning Democrat will face off against incumbent Republican Attorney General, Cynthia Coffman. Coffman is best known for fighting against Environmental Protection Agency regulation and President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. She is a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industry. There have been rumors that Coffman would enter the race for Governor, but with fellow Republican statewide officeholder, State Treasurer, Walker Stapleton a much more likely and deep pocketed candidate, Coffman will likely stick with her Attorney General’s seat.

If successful in his Attorney General campaign, Salazar has pledged to reverse course on several issues. In a Facebook post, he said, “In 2018, I’ll reintroduce the Colorado Freedom Defense Act to stop this abysmal administration from attempting to commandeer our state and local resources for immigration enforcement. Once I’m elected Attorney General, I’ll join the other states in suing the federal government in order to protect our DACA family.”

The “DACA family” to which Salazar refers are Colorado immigrants falling under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protected from deportation by Obama’s executive action in 2012. President Trump recently announced plans to scrap protection for DACA residents. Salazar wants to ensure the state doesn’t make it easier to deport Colorado’s DACA population.

Salazar has taken to digital media to criticize Attorney General Cynthia Coffman’s husband, U.S Congressman Mike Coffman, for backing then reneging on support of DACA Coloradans. Two years ago, Salazar wrote an Op-Ed for the Aurora Sentinel criticizing Congressman Coffman’s “anti-immigrant agenda.” In the article, Salazar said, “…Coffman has been bottling up his true positions, leaving minority communities in the 6thCongressional District feeling concerned that his xenophobia will soon uncork itself.” Salazar reminded voters of the Op-Ed to underline differences on DACA.

Salazar has recently pivoted his attention toward Attorney General Coffman. In a recent Facebook post, Salazar said, “Attorney General Coffman’s decision not to join the lawsuit with multiple other states to protect DACA students is a dereliction of her duty. DACA kids and DREAMERS are Coloradans, our family, imbued with constitutional and human rights. You’re damn right that as Attorney General, I will not only join the lawsuit, but I’ll be on the front lines leading the effort!”

If elected, Salazar will focus on criminal justice reform, the environment, civil rights and economic disparity. “The current administration has been unimaginative. My administration will be imaginative for the people, making the position what it can and should be.” He continued, says “I run my entire political career on working for the people not for special interests and corporations. I want to return the people’s lawyer back to the people.”

Salazar is keeping an ambitious campaign calendar traversing the state, more than a year before the November 2018 election. At the end of the month he will have events in Adams County, Colorado Springs and Durango. His campaign tag line – “Can’t Be Bought. Can’t Be Bullied.”

Salazar is a Colorado native and graduate of the University of Denver law school. He works in the off season for private law firm, Smith, Shelton, Ragona and Salazar, LLC. As in the House of Representatives, much of his private work focuses on civil rights.





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