Walcher rolls into race on heels of big win at convention
Editor’s note: Today begins five days of profiles of the candidates competing in the Aug. 10 Republican primary in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District race. The candidates are Greg Walcher, Matt Smith, Gregg Rippy, Dan Corsentino and Matt Aljanich. The winner will face Democratic candidate John Salazar in November. Salazar is unopposed in the August primary.By Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentGreg Walcher isn’t taking things for granted in the Aug. 10 Republican primary race in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District.But he’s going into it with a whole lot of confidence after his success at the state Republican convention.”We had a huge victory at the convention, 55 percent of the vote with five candidates on the ballot,” he said.The Mesa County native and resident believes his success was no accident, but the result of several factors. A fifth-generation Coloradan, he has spent his life building a geographic base of support across the sprawling district, which covers western Colorado and Pueblo.He built his base while working as a staff member for former U.S. Sen. Bill Armstrong, as president of Club 20 and as executive director of the state Department of Natural Resources. Through this work, he’s also been intimately involved in the issues in the district.And the base he has built also has helped him to raise more than anyone else in the race, Walcher said. His $300,000 war chest includes more than 800 individual contributors, 93 percent of whom are in Colorado and 60 percent of whom live in the district.”I’ve demonstrated the ability it’s going to take to raise the money to win,” he said.If he is chosen to be the next 3rd District congressman, he believes his long involvement with district issues makes him “ready to hit the ground running,” he said.Walcher espouses a conservative platform, beginning with fiscal policy. A top goal of his is to cut taxes.”I believe government is way too big and taxes are way too high,” he said.In this regard, he believes he is different from state Reps. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs and Matt Smith of Grand Junction, two top opponents in the primary.Both received failing grades from the Colorado Union of Taxpayers, Walcher said.”A big part of my campaign is I want to cut taxes dramatically, not just tinkering around the edges,” he said.He said he would start by supporting making President Bush’s tax cuts permanent. He also would abolish the death tax and marriage tax “once and for all,” he said.He also supports a cut in overall tax rates, and opposes the capital gains tax.Walcher said the government should tax what it wants less of, and subsidize what it wants more of. Instead, he said, it subsidizes things such as homelessness and welfare, and taxes economic productivity and job creation, “all the things we ought to be encouraging.”Also a paramount part of Walcher’s platform is the environment, something he has been involved with in his previous jobs, from his Armstrong days to his time heading up the state Department of Natural Resources.Walcher is particularly interested in reforming the Endangered Species Act. He said he’s a strong supporter of protection and recovery of endangered species, but believes the act has “become about everything but recovery of species.””It becomes a big giant debate about land use and the focus just kind of gets lost,” he said.Some 1,200 species have been put on the endangered species list, but only 30 or so have been removed, Walcher said. He believes more focus needs to be placed on improving population numbers so species can be delisted. He is proud of DNR’s role in reintroduction and recovery programs, such as those involving the lynx and blackfooted ferret.At the federal level, the lynx program is focused on discussions such as closing roads, banning snowmobiles and stopping logging.”It’s everything in the world other than the lynx,” Walcher said.Walcher is interested not only in the health of species but in the health of the forest. He said he wants to return a healthy natural condition to forests all over the West, but primarily in western Colorado.He said he’s proud of the Healthy Forests Initiative that retiring 3rd District Congressman Scott McInnis, R-Grand Junction, shepherded through Congress. He also likes to think he played a bit part in helping create it, because a similar initiative was undertaken earlier in state forests while he was DNR chief.Walcher also thinks passage of McInnis’ bill was just the beginning of the process of improving forest health.In Colorado, he said, the biggest threat is that the Forest Service will spend most of its money doing logging and other fuel reduction projects on the Front Range, “as if the Coal Seam fire never happened and the Missionary Ridge fire never happened.”Those two fires destroyed homes in Glenwood Springs and Durango, respectively, during the state’s destructive wildfire season of 2002.Walcher believes it is the role of people like western Colorado’s congressman to advocate on behalf of forest projects west of the Continental Divide.”There’s a dangerous potential that the Western Slope will get left out if we don’t do that,” he said.
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