U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., made his rounds in Durango on Saturday, meeting with supporters, trumpeting his platform and sticking around for a dinner reception and benefit.
During a meeting with The Durango Herald’s editorial board, Udall displayed a “record of doing right by Colorado,” which highlighted efforts on his part to help Western Slope veterans, protecting Colorado’s water, working for local television in the Four Corners, environmental protection and more.
Udall has taken heat for voting against the Keystone XL pipeline, and he would vote against GMO labeling.
But Udall said the major issues shaping the race start with the economy.
“There’s a lot of encouraging signs, and there’s a lot of optimism, but there are still signs that the middle class is not catching up,” he said.
He said, among other things, he’s pushed for a minimum-wage hike, which hasn’t occurred since President George W. Bush’s administration.
He spoke about college affordability, calling it a burden for many others than just students.
“That debt load is not just young people, but parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles,” he said. “It’s about a trillion dollars.”
He was excited about energy, calling it his passion.
“We’ve got a lot of good news,” he said. “We’re importing less oil than ever and starting to export some natural gas.
“There’s a lot of pressure to respond to climate change now,” he said, “and if you deny that something is occurring, how can you be a part of the solution?”
Udall was recently knocked by The Denver Post, who said the U.S. Senate needs fresh leadership, and he uses fear to drum up voters instead of inspiring them.
In response to a MSNBC news anchor saying he “looked like Colorado,” Udall said he does reflect the state’s values and rugged individualism.
“My blood runs the waters of the Colorado, the Platte and the Arkansas,” he said. “The example (my parents) set is why I’m a Coloradan and why I’m a Westerner. We’re all rugged individualist, and we’re all taught to stand on our own, but in the end, we’re all rugged collaborators. We know if we can’t work together, we’re not going to get our crops to the market, or heal our sick, and we’re certainly not going to educate our children.”
An avid outdoorsman who has climbed Mt. Everest, Udall said he has reverence for the natural world and wants a balance between energy development and the environment.
He said his race against U.S. Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Yuma, is close – a state-of-the-art ground race.
He also said his opponents need to reconsider the needs of minorities, gay communities and immigration.
“If they don’t shine their brand up, they’re going to get wiped out in 2016,” he said.