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Preview: RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ken Salazar

RealClearPolitics - Articles - Ken Salazar

Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Jul 2006 00:47:38 -0600

Copyright: Copyright 2007

How to Win in a Red State

Fri, 28 Jul 2006 00:47:38 -0600

I had almost none of those things. I come from a very humble background. My parents were 11th generation immigrants whose families had farmed in the San Luis Valley for 150 years. None of my ancestors had been to college. And while I had served as Colorado attorney general, I had never run for a statewide office with this kind of national attention. But we went into it with everything that we had. In seven-and-a-half months we raised over $9 million. Yet money was only part of the challenge. What made the biggest difference was that I emphasized the right issues. I was able to connect with the people of Colorado in a way that made them feel that I was going to be on their side. People just weren't sure that Coors, the CEO of a big company, would ever be able to understand the issues that they were facing every day. They understood that I would be a strong supporter of the issues that the people in Colorado care about every day. During my campaign, I often talked about what it's like to get up in the morning and wonder what the day holds for you. People wonder whether they're going to have a job; whether or not they're going to have health insurance for themselves or for their families; whether or not their children will be able to get access to higher education; whether or not there is a level of violence around the world that has become really dangerous. Security first. The number one issue on people's minds is security. As a Democrat who had spent six years working with 14,000 law enforcement officers and who had argued numerous criminal law cases, I knew that security was central to the election. And as the person who had dealt with major crimes such as the Columbine school shootings, security was an especially important issue to me. So I told people that, in our post- 9/11 world, security was at the very top of our agenda. The function of the national government is to make sure that we have a strong defense and the safest homeland we possibly can. Because of my work with law enforcement, I had support from most of the law enforcement organizations. This theme strongly contrasted me with Coors, who had no experience working with security issues. The second defining theme for me was my work in the rural parts of Colorado. As the son of farmers, I made it a point to spend a lot of time as attorney general working to protect water resources for farmers and ranchers. I also worked on rural law enforcement issues, such as the methamphetamine crisis and law enforcement training for deputy sheriffs in our rural communities. I promised to visit all 64 counties in the state, no matter how small -- and I did. People in smaller, rural communities always feel that the golden curtain somehow drops at the city limits of the bigger cities and that rural areas are forgotten. They appreciate the fact that somebody cares about them. I made rural America a major part of my agenda -- and I got treated very well in comparison to other people who were running. The third key issue was faith. I'm a Catholic, but I didn't talk about my faith in a way that people found offensive. I presented it simply as a very important part of who I am. My family founded the city of Santa Fe, N.M., in 1598. They named it the City of Holy Faith. The valley where I grew up is dotted with names that come right out of the Bible. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, which means Blood of Christ mountains, bordered us to the east, and the San Juan Mountains bordered us to the west. And the rivers that run through our ranch are named after saints as well. My first campaign commercial was a biographical spot that included a picture of the oldest church in Colorado. It's a Catholic Church with a cross on top -- the church where I was married. My great-grandfather is buried under that church. In that commercial, I wasn't trying to accentuate my faith so much as just say: This is who I am. If someone asked me about my faith, I explained that much of my own decision to become a public servant was based on my faith. As a Christian, I think the Beatitudes and other doc[...]