Strickland blasts Sen. Allard’s voting record | AspenTimes.com

Strickland blasts Sen. Allard’s voting record

Allyn HarveyAspen Times Staff Writer

Tom Strickland, the Democratic Party’s candidate for the U.S. Senate, was in town last week to speak to a local organization known as Women For Strickland.Strickland, 50, a former prosecutor with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver, will face incumbent Republican Wayne Allard, who is seeking his second term in office. Allard won his first term in the Senate by beating Strickland 51 percent to 46 percent.Strickland’s stop at the home of Alan and Gail Schwartz in Aspen was one of many during his tour last week around the Western Slope. At the end of his fund-raising rally at the Schwartz residence, he sat down for an interview with The Aspen Times.What’s different now over 1996, when Wayne Allard beat you the last time?A lot of things. Forty percent of the electorate is different than it was in 1996. We have a huge influx of new voters. This time there’s no primary; we have an organized, unified party. We have an opponent who has marginalized himself and not represented the interests of Colorado. We know if we get our message out that we will prevail because our views reflect the mainstream views of this state. His do not.The question the voters are going to decide in three months is which one of us better reflects their values, and which one of us is more likely to fight for their interests.Wayne Allard has made it clear with his voting record of the last six years that he is far to the right and substantially outside the mainstream of Colorado politics. He votes 98 percent of the time partisan. That qualified him for the rating in the Congressional Quarterly as the most partisan senator, tied with Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and Trent Lott.You mention that Wayne Allard has been “far to the right and substantially outside the mainstream of Colorado politics.” Can you name two or three issues that exemplify that?As far as specific votes, bad votes, I think his vote against the Family and Medical Leave Act, which passed back in the mid-1990s and is now a staple of people’s lives – it allows workers to be with their loved ones if there is a sickness or family emergency – is one. He voted to allow drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. He voted against Head Start funding. He voted to abolish the U.S. Department of Education in 1995.I would vote the other way on every single one of those.If you’re elected senator, what will be your top environmental issue, and what would you do to promote it?I think my top environmental issue would be to fight for a rational, progressive, balanced energy policy for this country. So much of what we’re doing to the environment is derived from the fact we do not have a balanced energy policy that takes into account not just additional oil and gas production, which is part of the equation, but a strong and growing commitment to alternative and renewable energy, energy conservation and improved energy efficiency. I believe we should make bigger commitments to research and investment for alternative and renewable energies.We should have passed an increase in the fuel efficiency standards for cars. Allard voted against it. I would have voted for it.As a follow-up, energy companies are vying for the right to extract coal bed methane near Delta and undertake expansive gas drilling in the Piceance Creek basin near Rifle. Have you thought about the viability of these plans and how you might react to them as a senator?My mom lives in Battlement Mesa, in Parachute, Colorado, so I’m very aware of the issues that have arisen there with respect to drilling. Let me say this: Often we’re presented with false choices – an either-or situation. Either there is no drilling, or there is drilling in people’s back yards in a way that is environmentally irresponsible.There’s a balanced approach to these issues. I do think we have significant energy reserves in this state that can be responsibly extracted. That means certain lands are going to be off limits. That also means certain lands will be allowed to be drilled, but only after they go through the regulatory process, the local land-use approval process and receive input from the community.The fact of the matter is that we have to continue to produce the energy needed to sustain our way of life. We can responsibly develop energy resources like those you mentioned, but we need to do it in ways that don’t compromise the environment.What other issues underpin your campaign for the Senate?Well, health care is an enormous problem for Colorado and the country. The current system is broken. We have the most vulnerable in our society who are most exposed to the lack of coverage or access to health care – both our seniors, for whom we have to pass a prescription drug benefit, and our children.In terms of dealing with our children and their health care – Allard voted against the Children’s Health Insurance Program Act. That’s probably the worst single vote he’s ever made, voting against the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The CHIP provides health care for 2 million children who are caught between their families not being able to afford for-pay services and not being eligible for Medicaid.Let’s focus on helping children by expanding CHIP. Let’s expand the patient Bill of Rights. Let’s provide for tax deductibility for health insurance premiums by individuals and small businesses. And let’s pass a prescription drug benefit and tackle the high cost of drugs. We actually have an agenda on health care. Wayne Allard’s comment on it is let’s let the market solve the problem.Folks, the market’s broken on health care, and people are feeling it all over the state.Transportation is on a lot of people’s minds these days. Some voters might note that Senators Allard and Ben Nighthorse Campbell have positioned themselves in the Senate to funnel a fair amount of transportation dollars to Colorado. What’s your take on Allard’s record on transportation, and what’s yours?Wayne Allard in the state Senate and the United States Senate has been anything but a leader on transportation. Literally, we went head to head in 1990 when I was serving on the state Transportation Commission – it was then called the Highway Commission.I sat here in this community in the mid-1980s and participated in debates about Highway 82 and the transportation problems facing this valley. And I fought for more transportation funding. I’ve been an ardent advocate for mass transit in urban areas and in other corridors where it makes sense. Wayne Allard has opposed transit. He cast a key vote in 1990 as a state senator to kill a transit bill we were trying to get on the ballot that, if voters approved it, would have built five lines of light rail throughout the metro Denver area.So whatever he’s doing, whatever efforts he’s launching now are not only a day late, they’re decades late. And they’re not just a dollar short, they’re billions of dollars short.What’s your position on the transportation of nuclear waste through Colorado to Yucca Mountain in Nevada?I oppose Yucca Mountain because we haven’t been advised of the transportation impacts, nor have we been assured that the waste would not come through the I-70 corridor. Ben Campbell couldn’t get the assurances he needs and voted against Yucca. I’m against Yucca.Wayne Allard voted for Yucca, and, I believe, gave a blank check to the Department of Energy to ship incredibly dangerous, high-level radioactive waste at volumes never before attempted throughout this country and across this state. It was incredibly irresponsible.Have you thought about potential military action against Iraq?Saddam Hussein is the most dangerous head of state in the world. The biggest foreign policy mistake since Vietnam was to not take him out in 1991. He’s used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. And we have every reason to believe he would use them against our country or would get them in the hands of the terrorists who would. The stakes are extremely high, and I strongly support the goal of removing him. Whether or not that can be done short of military intervention is what’s playing out right now.The president has made it clear that he is going to make the case to the American people and then take it to Congress, which I think is the proper approach, and then try and build a coalition around the world. I support the approach.How important is this race?It’s seen as one of the top three or four races in the country. It’s getting a lot of national attention, and there is a lot of interest.This is the race that could determine whether Roe v. Wade remains the law of the land. The Supreme Court is anticipated to have some retirements, and Roe v. Wade hangs by a single vote. I’m very much pro-choice, and Wayne Allard is very much anti-choice. It’s a clear distinction between the two of us.[Allyn Harvey’s e-mail address is aharvey@aspentimes.com]