A former congressman of Colorado’s 3rd District, John Salazar, announced his endorsement Monday of James Iacino for the Democratic primary.
The last Democrat to represent Colorado’s 3rd District, Salazar said Iacino has what it takes to beat Republican Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez in November’s general election.
“Partisan special interests have left us behind, and James’ record of building strong working relationships and bringing people to the table is what we need to make sure our communities are thriving in the future,” Salazar said in a statement Monday.
The endorsement by a former congressman who was born and raised in the San Luis Valley is important to Iacino, who recently moved from Denver to Montrose.
“Having stood for the people of the San Luis Valley and Colorado for over a decade, his leadership and counsel will be invaluable as I visit communities and work to earn their support,” Iacino said Monday in response to the endorsement.
Former state Sen. Gail Schwartz also endorsed Iacino earlier this month. Schwartz ran against Tipton as the Democratic nominee in 2016.
“Having worked his way from the loading docks to running one of Colorado’s most successful businesses, we can trust James to look out for the hardworking families of Western and Southwestern Colorado,” Schwartz said in a statement.
As former CEO of Seattle Fish Co., which has been based in Colorado for 101 years, Iacino has had an office in the 3rd Congressional District for six years. The three key issues Iacino has pushed throughout his campaign are economic mobility and jobs, affordable health care and preservation of public lands.
The endorsements “show our support across the district,” as well as from “folks who have done this before,” Iacino said Monday in an interview with The Durango Herald.
Iacino’s challengers in the Democratic primary are Diane Mitsch Bush and Root Routledge, both of whom are pushing climate and the environment as their main priorities in office.
Bush said that while she has always supported Salazar, her campaign has a “host of endorsements” from people like former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and 35 other state senators and representatives.
As far as tackling environmental sustainability, Bush told the Herald she is “not just talking about it, but already doing it.”
Bush said she has “built ties across the whole district,” and “people know I will fight for them.”
Routledge said he is not surprised that Salazar is supporting Iacino because they are “cut from the same mold” as centrist Democrats.
“The Democratic Party establishment is the absolute wrong direction that we need to go,” Routledge told the Herald.
Routledge advocated for a more progressive approach to climate change than what Iacino is offering, saying Iacino has “no strategic vision about what to do about the enormous climate crisis that we’re facing.”
But as the energy economy transitions from coal to renewable energy in Colorado, Iacino said he will focus on helping employees in the energy industry make the transition while investing in the renewable sector.
Iacino recently visited farmers in Gunnison and Hotchkiss, where they are sequestering carbon. He said he would invest in agriculture and farmers in Southwest Colorado so that they can do the same.
“We need to pay them for their ability to capture carbon” and encourage healthy soil management, Iacino said.
Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District will decide the Democratic candidate in the primary vote June 30.
Emily Hayes is a graduate student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.