McCain’s Rancher Problem

by Shawn Scanlon; Every_Man_A_King

Are you a part of the Republican base? Are you integral to any campaign strategy in Colorado? Well, I have a message for you, straight from John McCain.

You aren’t important.

Oh sure, he’ll say nice things about you, and give good answers to easy questions. But recently, he staked out a position that no Colorado politician would seriously consider. He said he wanted to renegotiate Colorado’s water rights. This isn’t a very hot issue in the media, but Coloradoans care about this issue.

The last time Colorado had the chance to vote on a water issue was in 2003. Referendum A was on the ballot, headed up by then-governor Bill Owens. It got crushed at the ballot box. In fact, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office, 67% of Coloradoans voted against it (warning, large PDF file!).

Voters perceived it as urban centers taking water away from rural communities. It was deeply unpopular on the Western Slope. Now, it’s one thing to be on the unpopular side of an issue, and it’s entirely another to commit electoral suicide. Take a look at the Western Slope counties that Bush won in 2004; his wins are in red.

Here’s a lesson in local politics for John McCain: don’t mess with Colorado water. Referendum A failed in every single county. That said, opposition was strongest on the Western Slope. Western Slope counties in red voted 70% or higher against Referendum A.

In San Juan county, only 12 voted for Referendum A. That’s not a typo. 12 people, total.

Lest you think Coloradoans aren’t passionate about water, keep in mind that 622,716 people voted against the issue in an off-year election. Ken Salazar sums up his thoughts on renegotiating the compact:

Senator McCain’s position on opening up the Colorado River Compact is absolutely wrong and would only happen over my dead body.

Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer has a position on renegotiation as well:

Opening it for renegotiation would be the equivalent of a lamb discussing with a pack of wolves what should be on the dinner menu.

Whether he realizes it or not, John McCain just gave the political equivalent of the middle finger to Colorado ranchers and farmers.

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2 Comments

Filed under American Electorate, Colorado, McCain, Republican, Rocky Mountain West, Uncategorized

2 responses to “McCain’s Rancher Problem

  1. Stephen Noriega

    This is perhaps the only time I will agree with Bob Schaffer in the history of the earth. Any discussion about water rights is a seriously sensitive political scab. As Colorado becomes more important in the election, this could be a real sledge hammer. Folks in the San Luis Valley to Wellington have big time issues with diverting water resources. If it were presented correctly, and if Obama would speak favorably on it, Colorado could flood the polls for Obama!

  2. johannhellkite

    Truly the most important issue in Colorado is Water Rights, especially in the Western Slope. Any attempt to renegociate that particular set of laws would not only result in political suicide for this state but the same for any mountain state with head waters. Now while only Colorado carries a significant number of electoral votes this is one of those elections where 3 ev’s would change the nature of this beast.

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