Rep. Salazar endorses Sanders: ‘Of course Bernie can be elected’


State Rep. Joe Salazar is feelin’ the Bern.

Along with two fellow liberal lawmakers and more than a dozen activists and former elected officials from around the state, the Thornton Democrat plans to formally endorse Bernie Sanders Tuesday morning at the state Capitol, a week before the Vermont senator faces off against Hillary Clinton in Colorado’s precinct caucuses.

State Sen. Michael Merrifield, D-Colorado Springs, and state Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, are among the environmentalists, labor and civil rights leaders set to announce their support for Sanders at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on the West Steps of the Capitol.

Former House Speaker Terrance Carroll, D-Denver, the first African American to wield the speaker’s gavel in Colorado, has also said this week he’s supporting Sanders, though organizers were unsure whether he would appear at Tuesday’s event.

“Bernie Sanders’s platform lines up with the way I legislate,” Salazar told The Colorado Statesman. Salazar pointed to bills he’s sponsored to protect the rights of homeless people and to support the Native American community and added, “I feel he just aligns with me in terms of how he legislates on the position of humanity.”

Salazar dismissed arguments that Clinton — a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state — is more electable than the ultra-liberal Sanders, who campaigns on a call for a “political revolution,” confounding pundits as he’s made it a race for the nomination.

“This is Colorado,” Salazar said with a chuckle. “There were tons of people who told undocumented kids it was too idealistic for them to get in-state tuition in the state of Colorado. They worked hard for it, and, over the course of 10 years, they got in-state tuition. People were told they were too idealistic to want to get civil unions passed, and we passed civil unions in 2013.

“America is built off of big ideas and a lot of work. I don’t think there is any big idea that’s too idealistic for us to achieve.”

Salazar noted that naysayers made similar arguments about Barack Obama in 2008, “and boy did he prove people wrong. Twice.”

“Of course Bernie can be elected,” Salazar added. “With the circus clowns we have on the other side of the aisle who are running for their party’s ticket, he certainly can be elected.”

Salazar maintains that Sanders can win Colorado’s crucial Latino vote, as well.

“They’re affectionately calling him ‘El Viejito’ — ‘little old man,’ a term of endearment,” Salazar said. “That’s what we call the elders in our families.”

“Sen. Sanders appeals to the Latino community because we are the miner’s canary. When anything happens with the economy, we are the first to feel it, and we’re the last to recover from it,” Salazar said. That’s why Sanders’s proposal for a $15 minimum wage resonates with Latinos, he said, as well as proposals to bring an end to massive corporate welfare.

“We see that really rich people get away without having to pay taxes. We all are working hard, we are paying our fair share, and they should too. That’s why he appeals to the Latino community,” he said.

Noting that he’s been courted by both campaigns, Salazar said he would support Clinton — “front and center” — if she wins the nomination.

“I’m not trying to knock Clinton at all. She’s a very qualified candidate. But her values do not line up with mine the way Bernie Sanders’s do. When I found out she was accepting money from the private prison industry, that was a nonstarter for me,” he said, noting that he sponsors legislation every year to divert state funding from private prisons. “Private prisons are about as immoral as any industry can be.”

The Clinton campaign unveiled its Colorado Leadership Council in October, listing a good portion of the prominent current and former elected Democrats in the state, including U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, Gov. John Hickenlooper and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis.

State lawmakers endorsing Clinton include House Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, Assistant Senate Minority Leader Rollie Heath, House Speaker Pro Tem Dan Pabon, state Sens. Kerry Donovan, Pat Steadman, Nancy Todd, Jessie Ulibarri and Mike Johnston and state Reps. Jeni Arndt, K.C. Becker, Daneya Esgar, Mike Foote, Alec Garnett, Susan Lontine, Dominick Moreno, Tracy Kraft Tharp, Brittany Pettersen, Angela Williams and Faith Winter.

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