MONTE VISTA In a political campaign in the San Luis Valley, it cant hurt to drop John Salazars name.
Democratic state Rep. Sal Pace used to work for Salazar, who lost his congressional seat to Cortez Republican Scott Tipton in 2010. Pace wants to wrest the seat back from Tipton this fall, and he knows the Salazar name carries weight in the San Luis Valley, where the family settled before Colorado became a state.
On a campaign swing through Monte Vista on Thursday, Pace stopped in at Final Touch Auto Detailing. When Pace told the shops owner, Gabe Duran, that hes running for Congress, he was met by a brief blank stare.
This is the old John Salazar seat, Pace said, causing Durans face to brighten.
Youve got my vote, he said.
Not every interaction is that easy for the aspiring congressman.
At the Monte Vista Co-op, Pace met Miguel Diaz, a farmer who wore a white cowboy hat and a pair of pliers in a sheath on his belt.
You want to beat Scott Tipton? Diaz said. You know, Scotts done some pretty good work for us.
Well, Ill do better, and Im going to work in a bipartisan fashion, he said.
After a five-minute talk, Pace gave Diaz his cellphone number, and Diaz said he was glad Pace is in the race.
The bipartisan message is usually at the top of Paces pitch to voters as he makes the rounds in this 54,000-square mile district. One-on-one campaigning is tough in one of the countrys largest districts, but Pace usually tries to stop at local businesses whenever he is on the road especially at auto shops. His dad and five older brothers are all mechanics.
Its a business I grew up in and understand, Pace said.
At Cowboy Up, a new western wear store in downtown Monte Vista, Pace introduced himself to Margot Alexander, the shop clerk.
Why are you running? Alexander asked.
Well, Pace said, Im running to stop the partisanship and work together for the good of the country.
Alexander seemed pleased.
Really! What a concept, said Alexander, who said shes an independent voter.
Republicans hold a 100,000-voter advantage in the district, so if Pace hopes to win, hell have to hope Alexanders reaction is shared by other unaffiliated voters, who make up 30 percent of the district.
Tipton will be meeting voters this Saturday with town hall forums in Westcliffe and Pueblo.