Although a full campaign will not begin until after the current state legislative session ends, Boulder got an advanced look at the platform of one candidate Representative Joe Salazar who in March announced his candidacy for Colorado’s Attorney General.
In a forum hosted by Boulder County Progressive Coalition on Sunday, a coalition of activists that supports any progressive candidate regardless of party affiliation, Salazar appeared with 20th Judicial District Attorney Stan Garnett who has been in office since 2009 and was a former candidate for Colorado’s Attorney General in 2010. The Boulder County Progressive Coalition self-describes as working for a “fair and just society.” The two addressed the forum titled What Would a Progressive Attorney General Look Like?
In describing a progressive attorney general, Garnett referred to the administration of J.D. MacFarlane who served as Colorado’s Attorney General from 1975-1982. “To have a progressive Attorney General, you first of all have to have a really, really top-notch lawyer. The litigation the Attorney General’s office is very complex. You need somebody who’s politically in tune, but you also need somebody that understands complex litigation, understands the federal courts, and understands how and when to initiate tough litigation.” Garnett added that a progressive attorney general would protect the more vulnerable in our society and would make the community and state more fair. Working with law enforcement is also key in establishing a successful attorney general’s office according to Garnett, “If you can convince law enforcement that progressive principles are important, you can really make a difference.”
Salazar agreed about the legacy of J.D. MacFarlane but added that with the current federal administration, and under current circumstances, that the needs of the community have changed since the MacFarlane days, “We need a street fighter. We need somebody who is going to stand up to this federal administration and lead the effort and not just sit back and wait for other states to do things. We see Washington, and Hawaii, and New York leading in so many areas against this administration, and Colorado does nothing.” In January, the state of Washington filed a lawsuit to block President Donald Trump’s executive order on immigration from Muslim-majority countries. Attorneys General in Massachusetts, and New York challenged the order and California, Maryland, Oregon and Hawaii also filed to stop a Muslim travel ban from taking effect in March.
Salazar was successful in helping to prevent a 10-acre proposed fracking well site at Big Dry Creek Open Space near Silver Creek Elementary school in his district in 2016. He said he has never accepted oil and gas funding for his campaigns. In fact, he says that oil and gas companies waged a campaign against him when he refused to take campaign contributions from the industry.
Salazar reprimanded the current Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman for her lawsuit against Boulder County for its moratorium against accepting fracking applications, “This whole idea of suing a county on behalf of a multibillion dollar industry is repulsive to me. I hope the next attorney general who comes in, hopefully a Democrat won’t tolerate any of that stuff, and instead will start going after the polluters themselves because we haven’t had an attorney general in such a long time willing to go after the industry.”
Salazar extended his definition of what he meant to say he intends to be a “people’s attorney general.” In January in response to Trump’s failed Executive Order to ban travel from initially 7 Muslim-majority countries, he and State Representative Leslie Herod stood with the public who showed up to Denver International Airport in support of travelers arriving there. The Nation Report documented negotiations and eventually Denver Police withdrew the threat of arrest and the rally of hundreds in the airport continued without incident. “Everyone says that the Attorney General is the chief law enforcement officer of the state. The Attorney General is also the people’s lawyer. And that means that the Attorney General needs to hold DAs and law enforcement accountable when they are not obeying the law, or when they are fudging the law, or bending the law.”
Representative Salazar sat as Vice-Chair of the Judiciary Committee in the legislature for the past five years and was reminded of the resistance from law enforcement regarding some of the bills that he co-sponsored, “They have an enormous amount of power, and we see how they use their power here in the state of Colorado. I have to say by and large we have really good law enforcement and we have some pretty good DAs and I think you have the very best DA here in the state of Colorado in Stan Garnett. But I’ve seen the real bad ones too. And they’ve come in front of my committee bringing bill after bill after bill that Stan won’t come to testify in favor of because they’re that bad, where they try to get more and more power to be able to use that power against people. That’s a really tricky balance trying to partner with them, but yet letting them know that there are certain lines that you’re just not willing to cross.”
In September of 2016 he spoke at a rally of over a thousand in support of Standing Rock that worked for months to prevent the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline on treaty territory in North Dakota. Salazar said that his support for just causes wouldn’t stop as Attorney General, “As Attorney General, I’m still going to go to rallies. I’m still going to go to the protests, ’cause that’s the right thing to do. Just because you’re an elected official [this] doesn’t immunize you from being there with the people. I’ve always believed that before becoming an elected official, as a civil rights attorney, as a community organizer. I was always there to be there with the people because that’s the right thing to do. That’s how democracy works.”
In August of 2016 he spoke before the Boulder City Council in support of an initiative to adopt Indigenous People’s Day. Salazar himself sponsored a bill to replace Columbus Day with a state holiday honoring Indigenous Peoples. The bill passed out of the House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on first reading. The legislative session ends on Wednesday, May 10.
Salazar also co-sponsored a bill for the third year that would have legitimized sleeping, sharing food, and sitting in public spaces for everyone, the Right to Rest Act. The bill failed on a party line. It’s unclear whether the bill will be brought back next year. (photo below)