Democratic Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar of Thornton, who on Friday will become a former lawmaker, has been named executive director of Colorado Rising, the group responsible for the oil and gas setbacks measure Proposition 112 on last November's ballot.
Salazar, a civil rights attorney, served three terms in the Colorado House before deciding to run for attorney general. He was endorsed by former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, but lost the race in last June's primary to eventual Attorney General-elect Phil Weiser.
Salazar was a strong supporter of Proposition 112, the ballot measure that sought to increase setbacks between new oil and gas drilling activity, and occupied structures, from the current 500 feet to 2,500 feet.
The measure lost by 10 percentage points in November. Supporters were outspent 40-1 by the oil and gas industry, which put up a record $41.7 million to defeat Proposition 112 and to back Amendment 74, a property rights amendment that also failed.
Salazar sponsored bills regarding oil and gas during his time in the General Assembly, such as a 2018 measure to regulate energy operations, and a 2016 bill that would have made operators liable for oil and gas operations.
Salazar was also the founder of the Dog House Dems, which was sometimes a thorn in the side of Democratic leadership at the Capitol on issues such as the homeless. The group also included Reps. Jovan Melton and Leslie Herod.
He spoke bluntly about that experience with the Denver weekly paper Westword last summer. "I will never serve in the Colorado General Assembly again, so help me God," he told Westword. "I am done with the General Assembly. It is the most sophisticated high school I've been to, and I don't want to go back to that."
Colorado Rising President Tricia Olson said in a statement Wednesday that “I am excited to have Joe on board as Colorado Rising’s Executive Director. Joe brings great energy, a proven track record, knowledge, skills and an understanding of the urgency around environmental issues. Colorado Rising is committed to protecting communities from being exposed to explosive and toxic chemicals, and to stop industrial oil and gas activities from infiltrating our neighborhoods. Joe is the right person to lead that charge."
The organization also announced Wednesday that Suzanne Spiegel will become director of development and Anne Lee Foster will become director of communications and volunteer engagement. Both served as the proponents for Proposition 112 and were key players in the Proposition 112 campaign.