Strickland celebrates lead with whistle stop in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Strickland celebrates lead with whistle stop in Aspen

U.S. Senate candidate Tom Strickland was in Aspen Saturday to celebrate pulling ahead of incumbent Wayne Allard in a tight political duel being watched around the country.

Democrat Strickland flashed a Rocky Mountain News headline that said “Strickland ahead” to about 60 party faithful at the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies Saturday morning.

A poll for the Rocky showed Strickland pulled ahead by a razor-thin margin, 39 to 38 percent over Allard. Strickland has trailed by a small margin for much of the bitter campaign that’s featured negative advertisements by both sides.

“I know it ain’t a big lead but any lead is good,” said Strickland. “Today in Aspen, Colorado, is the day we seized the lead and we’re never going to give it back.”

One supporter, who didn’t want to be quoted by name, said it is too bad that Strickland is partaking in negative advertising rather than relying solely on his charisma and touting his strengths.

He certainly wowed the crowd in Aspen in that manner.

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Strickland said he would represent the voice of the people of Colorado rather than special interests, like Allard. He vowed to fight to improve the economy and protect the environment, which hit a special chord with his Aspen audience.

Strickland said he wouldn’t buy into President Bush’s post-Sept. 11, 2001, claim that oil must be drilled in Alaska’s Arctic Wildlife Refuge to decrease America’s reliance on foreign sources. He also suggested that the administration’s efforts to drastically increase logging in national forests in response to a summer of unprecedented drought and wildfire damage in the West was a sham for the timber industry.

Colorado’s race is being watched closely around the country because it is a key to which party will control the Senate. The Democrats held a 50-49 majority, with one unaffiliated member, before Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) died in an airplane crash Friday. Wellstone was regarded as one of the most liberal members of Congress.

“I didn’t think the stakes in this race could get any higher,” said Strickland.

He told the audience that the race is so tight that their efforts to get people to vote for him are truly vital. “We need you to engage in this campaign like you’ve never participated before,” he said.

He was met with enthusiastic cheers from a crowd that included numerous current and past elected officials from the upper and midvalley. Several audience members left with yard signs for Strickland as well as for U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, whose district was expanded to include Eagle County this year. Udall also attended the rally.

Strickland was on the fourth leg of a 10-day, 40-stop tour around Colorado when he visited ACES Saturday. While he obviously wants to win the race, he was also able to make light of his situation.

If he is remembered for nothing else for his years of public service, he said, he wants to be known for the way he left the position as U.S. Attorney for Colorado when John Ashcroft became U.S. Attorney General in the Bush administration.

“Out of 93 U.S. Attorneys in America, John Ashcroft fired me first,” Strickland said with a smile.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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