Otero County Democrats met with Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Joe Salazar on Thursday evening at Thymes Square.

Otero County Democrats met with Democratic Candidate for Attorney General Joe Salazar on Thursday evening at Thymes Square. Salazar is a state representative who has worked in every aspect of the Attorney General’s job. He is vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has been an attorney for 14 years and has co-counseled on civil rights cases. He has sued federal and state agencies on behalf of his constituents. His opening statement was “Most people don’t know that 80 percent of the Attorney General’s job is not criminal justice.” It is that 80 percent he wishes to address. “The attorney general is the people’s lawyer,” he said. He has a background as a community activist.

He has served in the state legislature for five years. “I have never accepted corporate or big money. I am not beholden to anyone.” In his next to last election, the opposition “threw a lot of money into the campaign for my opponents,” but he was elected anyhow. In the last election Bernie Sanders took him under his wing and he crushed his opponent. Sanders said, “We need someone to represent the people. We don’t need to match them [in donations].”

He counts among his accomplishments the open records act, which prevents counties from charging fees to see public records. He also sponsored a bill preventing municipal courts from putting people in jail for non-payment of fees. “That’s debtor’s prison,” said Salazar, “a concept that was with us since the 1500’s.” He also wishes to curtail abusive oil and gas company acts toward people and the environment. Fracking takes a hectare of water out of Colorado for every well dug, and that water is not recoverable. There are 35,000 request permits for wells right now.

“Ask me any question, and I promise not to dodge it,” he said. “I had enough of politicians dodging my questions in my early career.” Ed Vela asked about Amendment 23, which was supposed to help support the schools but did not. The money was diverted for other uses. Salazar said this was unconstitutional, but in the Lovato vs. State of Colorado the court ruled otherwise and legislative attempts to correct the problem failed. He is not averse to suing federal or state entities on behalf of the people. Together with the Gallagher Amendment and the Tabor Amendment it is responsible for a financial formula which discriminates against the rural schools, said Salazar. “Denver is building one new school after another while the rural schools can only afford four days a week for school.” He is also adamant about preschools for everybody.

House Bill 1375 diverted $90 million from public schools to charter schools, said Salazar, and is unconstitutional. Salazar’s home town is Del Norte, where his relatives still live. Although he now lives in Thornton, his heart is still with the rural schools. “Denver can raise a half billion dollars with one point mil levy, but most rural counties can’t raise a million.”

He was asked about the death penalty. He is against it for many reasons: 1. It is immoral; 2. It is discriminatory in application; 3. It costs the state a million dollars to go through 20 or 30 years of appeals and incarceration costs $800,000 per prisoner for life. He does not think it works as a deterrent, because it is a way out of life in prison. He also believes in giving parole officers discretionary power. “Small offenses like being late to a meeting with a parole officer should not send a person back to prison.” He said prison overcrowding is the result of overly strict application of jail time to minor offenses.

He believes the state can defend itself against the federal government on the  marijuana issue by invoking the 10th Amendment, which reserves the right of the states to legislate what is not covered in the powers of the federal government. He also sees hemp as a savior crop for the southern plains. “Hemp has 25,000 uses,” he said. “I am working with a Republican on a bill to help spur the industry in bringing the product to market.”

Salazar was favorably received by the local Democrats. He will take individual donations, “not more than you can afford,” he said. He urged his constituents to serve as delegates to the Democratic County and State Caucuses. His website is www.salazarforhd31.com