Salazar's Colorado roots run deep -- very deep.
He is part
of the fifth generation of Salazars to live and work in the San
Luis Valley in southern Colorado. Their
settlement in the area dates back to 1850, some two decades before
Colorado became a state.
up with seven siblings on a rural farm that was so poor it didn't
have electricity or phone service until the mid-1980s. Many, including
Salazar, say it was on that farm he developed his work ethic,
hand picking and learning English from his three older brothers.
were farmers -- poor but humble people, but with the strongest
of America's values -- hard work, integrity and honesty, faith
and love for America," Salazar said in his speech at the
state Democratic convention. "Those values are my values.
Those values are Colorado values."
is now in his second term as the state's attorney general, a position
he won based in part on his hard-working reputation and his family
But his road
from the San Luis Valley to Senate candidate has been a long one.
He left the farm to attend Colorado College, paying his own way
and earning a degree in political science in 1977. He then received
his law degree from the University of Michigan in 1981, using
scholarships, work study and student loans to attend school.
school Salazar returned to Colorado and practiced water, environmental
and public lands law for 11 years in the private sector.
In 1986 Salazar
made his first foray into public service when he was recruited
to work as chief legal counsel for then newly elected Democratic
Gov. Roy Romer.
position, Salazar jumped to executive director of the state's
Department of Natural Resources, where he served from 1990 to
his race attorney general's office on Nov. 3 1998, becoming the
first Hispanic elected to a statewide office in Colorado.
general Salazar caused controversy and earned respect.
even entered office Salazar called for all 180 lawyers in the
attorney general's office to resign -- a move that angered both
parties. Even though only 11 attorneys were not rehired, many
maintained Salazar fired valued and experienced lawyers.
six years as attorney general, Salazar championed a "do-not-call"
telemarketing law and police training bills.
He also garnered
public attention and praise for his response to the April 20,
1999 Columbine High School killings. Salazar pushed for anti-bullying
clauses, safer schools, and the release of investigation documents.
He also is calling for a grand jury probe into the mishandling
of police reports about the killers.
the only one, I think, in the political arena that has stuck by
his word and has done everything he told us he would do, "
said Joe Kechter, whose 16-year-old son was killed at Columbine,
to the Rocky Mountain News.
a more moderate view on social issues than many national Democrats
but says he remains loyal to party lines.
have any situations where I'll be breaking with the party, but
I'm not going to be a rubber stamp for either party, and I'm not
going to be a rubber stamp for the president, whether it is Kerry
or Bush," Salazar said.
Salazar decided to run for U.S. Senate when incumbent, Republican
Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell dropped out of his reelection race
because of health reasons.
predicted an easy reelection campaign for Campbell, but his decision
to retire brought national attention to Colorado as both Democrats
and Republicans scrambled to find their top candidates for a race
that could help determine which party controls the Senate.
the primary in what the Democrats believed would be an easy sweep,
but fellow Democrat and political rookie Mike Miles, a teacher,
put him to the test when he narrowly defeated Salazar at the state
convention, winning the top primary ballot slot.
back in full force, however, defeating Miles with a resounding
73 percent of the vote in the Aug. 10, 2004 primary.
With his full
attention on the Senate race, Salazar has focused on a race free
of political attack advertisements and has called on his opponent,
brewing magnate Pete Coors, to do the same.
He has emphasized
the issues of terrorism and security, taxes, education and the
economy. Salazar says that even though he believes the Iraq war
was based on poor intelligence, the nation still needs to provide
a sound reconstruction effort. He suggests a more international
approach to Iraq.
But much of
Salazar's campaign focus is on his compelling biography and family
history. In all of his campaigns he has traveled the state in
a green Ford pickup, often with his wife Hope and two teenage
daughters by his side -- once again emphasizing his down-home,
for the Online NewsHour by Deirdre