Sean Salazar - potential GOP candidate against Patty Murray

(I spoke with Sean Salazar in a one-on-one interview on December 15. He is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate against Patty Murray. This is part of a series of articles on the five major contenders for the Republican nomination.)

Sean Salazar, running for Senate, says "Constitution First!"

Campaign website:

Sean Salazar was the first Republican to enter the race against Senator Patty Murray, submitting candidacy paperwork to the Federal Election Commission on November 5, 2008. He takes pride in that early start, and points to the large number of campaign events and speaking engagements in over a year of campaigning.

The theme of Salazar’s campaign, he says, is “Constitution First.” And he says that he is “on a crusade” to get the federal government’s house in order by going back to constitutional principles, reducing the size of government, and reducing taxes. He calls for the elimination of the Department of Energy and the Department of Education, and has put forward comprehensive proposals on such issues as healthcare reform and immigration.

Salazar says that he and his campaign staff are not making any personal or negative attacks against the incumbent. Patty Murray's "only flaw," Salazar says, "is that she is an extreme liberal."

Salazar has made a special effort to reach out to voters in the black and Hispanic communities. “I will do whatever I can to honorably regain our voice and history within the African-American community,” Salazar says, pointing to the historical role of the Republican Party in eradicating slavery and in the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the constitution.

Salazar has received the endorsement of Reverend Wayne Perryman, who appears in a YouTube video in support of Salazar’s campaign.

“The black community has been scammed,” says Salazar, leading to an inaccurate positive image of the Democratic Party and an inaccurate negative image of the Republican Party. Salazar believes the Republican Party has not made an adequate effort to address this problem. “I can offer the Republican Paty something that maybe they don’t get,” he says. “I feel that the Republican Party has missed a very important concept.”

Salazar traces much of the GOP’s negative image in the black community to the civil rights debate in the early 1960s. Barry Goldwater, a prominent Republican senator and the party’s 1964 presidential candidate, viewed civil rights as an issue to be decided on the state level. Goldwater’s opposition to the federal civil rights bill, Salazar says, made it impossible for black leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. to support the GOP, and was “the beginning of the end for the GOP in the community they had helped from the beginning.”

Salazar says that Ronald Reagan used the phrase “welfare queens” as part of an otherwise correct and well-meaning critique of the welfare system. But this was a “poor choice of words,” Salazar says, and “the Democrats capitalized on it.”

As part of his outreach effort, Salazar and his campaign volunteers are participating in the upcoming Martin Luther King, Jr. Day activities in Seattle.

On the issue of healthcare reform, Salazar voices strong opposition to the so-called public option. And he feels it is important to reach out to others who diisagree - without compromising our principles.

He has put forth a comprehensive proposal on healthcare (CLICK HERE, see pages 3 to 5) which includes seven proposed federal regulations and eight steps the federal government should take immediately. Among Salazar’s ideas:

(1) health insurance premiums should be regulated by a board of patient advocates and doctors, (2) pay scales for doctors and hospitals should be set by a board of medical peers, (3) the federal government should subsidize, on a sliding scale, those individuals who can’t afford insurance premiums, (4) the federal government should pay for the private insurance premiums of senior citizens who wish to opt out of Medicare, (5) the federal government should insure private insurance companies against failure, (6) congress should pass medical tort reform, (7) there should be a 100% tax deduction for all healthcare insurance premiums and for all medical and dental expenses, and (8) there should be a federal mandate that all healthcare insurance companies be shifted to become either not-for-profit or sole proprietorships.

I asked Salazar how he squared some of his healthcare proposals with his “Constitution First” theme.

“My plan is more of an olive branch to the ultra-liberals,” Salazar explained. “It’s patterned after the Washington state model.”

On the issue of abortion, Salazar told me that he is pro-life, and that he is for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. If elected to the Senate, he would not introduce a human life amendment, but he “probably” would support such an amendment if were introduced by other Senators. Salazar says that abortion is a state issue. “The federal government should not be involved in abortion,” he says. He argues that if the issue of abortion were returned to the states, the pro-life position would win.

“Pro-choice groups want to polarize the Republican Party on the abortion issue, and I don’t want to fall for their trap,” Salazar says. “It can be a win-win situation – I don’t believe anybody is pro-abortion. I don’t believe anybody is for killing babies.”

Another issue of concern to Salazar is immigration. He he is strongly opposed to amnesty, and recently posted on his campaign blog:

“An immigration overhaul is on the hook for 2010…. The Democrats believe this is their only move/solution to diminish the 10-15+ million votes they will lose because of the unpopular President. Behind the scenes the President has been quietly promising the congressmen and senators to ride out the tide of the tea party movement and vote for his [healthcare and cap-and-trade] bills in return for AMNESTY.”

Salazar warns that the Democrats have manipulated the immigration issue to the point where the Republican Party “is on the verge of losing the Hispanic vote.” Liberals paint us as “anti-immigrant” and “anti-Hispanic” and “anti-family.” What the Republican Party needs to do is “build bridges with the Hispanic community, which is a conservative community by nature,” Salazar explains.

“I’ve developed a very specific immigration platform where we are all winners,” Salazar states. “I encourage people to read it. It’s a 100% hit with the Hispanic community.” Salazar’s immigration platform is available on his website (CLICK HERE, see page 8), and includes a proposal for a guest worker program: “As a U.S. Senator, I shall propose a bill that will implement a guest worker pass for 15-20 million immigrants with priority to those who are already here.”

Salazar told me that the guest worker program he envisions would be managed by the states, not the federal government, and that participation would be optional for each individual state.

Salazar recognizes that his immigration platform differs from that of those who advocate a strict policy of “border security first.” His strategy is to put forward a combined policy with three simultaneous components: support for border security, opposition to amnesty, and support for a guest worker program.

He said that pure advocates of “border security first” without a guest worker program are being “completely unrealistic” and are making a “big mistake” by not immediately working on both a guest worker program and border security. Salazar told me that we must realize that the border security issue is “not anti-immigrant, not anti-family.” Rather, he points out, it is a matter of national security.

Salazar says “it is important and realistic to recognize that agriculture is the largest industry in the state, and they need the workers.”

I asked Salazar if he thought his immigration policy would hurt him with conservatives. He doesn’t believe so. He is “absolutely confident” that if people “read it very carefully, sentence by sentence, and listen and consider” his proposals, they will be won over.

“I don’t want to give the Democrats ammunition to say we’re breaking up families and harming children. I’m diffusing every single argument, and every single ‘divide and conquer’ tactic they use.”

Salazar is confident about persuading blacks and Hispanics to support his campaign, and he is confident about persuading conservatives to see the wisdom of his immigration platform.

After all, Salazar is no stranger to persuasion and interaction with those of differing viewpoints. He grew up in Seattle’s Holly Park neighborhood, surrounded by liberals who supported the Democratic Party. But he eventually became a Republican – in good measure, he says, due to his experience serving in the Navy. He feels he knows how to reach voters that don’t yet support the GOP.

This is not his first campaign. Back in 2001, when he lived in California, he briefly was a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. Congress in California’s 53rd congressional district. But he dropped out of the race, and his name did not appear on the March 2002 Republican primary ballot.

Sean Salazar is again in the race early, but this time he intends to stay in the race.

He has been on the campaign trail longer than any of the other Republican contenders, placing his message before voters, including those not usually inclined to vote Republican. “The people who need the conservative message the most,” Salazar says, “are the ones who dislike us the most.”

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