Sen. Ken Salazar spoke Monday at the UMC to support the Democratic candidates in national and local election races in Colorado.
The event, sponsored by the College Democrats, featured Democratic candidate for CU Regent-at-Large Steve Ludwig and Boulder Valley School Board member Lesley Smith.
Katie Kelley, a junior communication and political science major, helped plan the event as an officer of the College Democrats. The purpose of the rally was to make information available to students and to help get out the vote for the upcoming elections, Kelley said.
Salazar spoke about congressional races in Colorado and the important role young people could play in getting Democrats elected in tight house races.
“We are just beginning the march” to a Congress controlled by Democrats, Salazar said, wearing a white cowboy hat and a black suit and tie. The senator said he had traveled 3,000 miles in the last week to support Democratic candidates in Colorado and mentioned that the races were close enough to swing either way.
“People had almost written off Colorado as another Utah or another Wyoming, but I can almost guarantee you we’ll host the next national convention to elect a presidential candidate (in 2008),” Salazar said.
Salazar spoke to students in the crowd about funding for higher education while endorsing democrat Ed Perlmutter in the 7th Congressional District.
The senator also criticized many of the President Bush’s policies.
“We need a new direction in Iraq. The isolationist policy of Bush and the republicans need to go,” Salazar said to scattered cheers from the crowd. He also spoke about other prominent political issues.
“Health care is bankrupting families in America,” Salazar said, adding that he believes the country needs to move in a new direction. He did not mention any specific plan or ideas he might have for the health care system.
The crowd of about 30 students and citizens reacted quietly to Salazar’s remarks, but most remained silent throughout the speech. One protester held a sign in the back of the crowd opposing the senator’s vote for the Military Commissions Act of 2006. The sign read, “Salazar voted to take away our most basic rights: Habeas Corpus.”
Salazar answered questions from the crowd after his speech, and one man who identified himself as a student asked him about the habeas corpus provision of the Military Commissions Act. The bill, which Bush signed on Oct. 17, allows the president to declare any American citizen who meets certain criteria an “enemy combatant” and hold them indefinitely without charge while barring them from appealing their detention to a federal judge. Salazar voted to support the bill.
“Frankly, I was alarmed at what the White House proposed to Congress,” Salazar said. “We fought back. I think torture is abhorrent.”
The senator said he fought for inclusion of habeas corpus for the bill and that a vote to amend the bill to include habeas corpus language failed by two votes. Salazar said he was disappointed with the result but that the law would change if Democrats controlled Congress.
“We will restore habeas corpus,” Salazar said.
Salazar addressed more questions about habeas corpus after stepping down from the podium.
“This will be corrected in one of two ways,” Salazar said. “Either Congress will write a law to fix this, or a court decision will probably declare it unconstitutional.”
While the senator said he was focusing on Colorado issues since returning to the state, he said that he was concerned with the habeas corpus provision. When asked if he had plans to draft legislation himself to restore habeas corpus within the Military Commissions Act, he said, “I would be interested in doing that.”
CU graduate Steve Fenberg attended the event with New Era Colorado, an organization aiming to engage young people in the political process. Fenberg said he was disappointed with the turnout and that the location of the event hurt the numbers of students in attendance.
“A different location would have helped. Even the crazy church guys get an audience (by the UMC fountain),” Fenberg said.