Sen. Salazar tapped for Secretary of Interior

Continuing his transition into the White House, president-elect Barack Obama has tapped Colorado U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar for a cabinet position, nominating him to head the Department of the Interior.

Salazar replaced Ben Nighthorse Campbell in the Western Colorado district and was elected in 2004. Since then, Salazar has earned a reputation as a conservative democrat and the appointment nomination has not been without controversy. Salazar’s ties to the ranching and mining industries have already led to objections by some environmentalists.

However, many others are excited by the Salazar nomination. In a press release through his press office, Colorado’s newest senator Mark Udall said of Salazar’s nomination, “This is great news for Colorado and the nation. Given Ken’s unique roots and history as a Westerner, I believe he will make an outstanding Secretary of the Interior. Ken Salazar has deep experience with issues that concern the Department of the Interior, not only as a United States Senator, but as Colorado’s Attorney General and as the former Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources; he brings a passion for protecting the land, water and people of the West. I will miss the opportunity to serve with him in the Senate, but I look forward to working closely with him in his new role.”

Salazar will face congressional scrutiny during hearings held on or after inauguration day, Jan 20. Despite some objections to Salazar’s appointment, his role as a centrist in the Senate almost guarantees quick congressional approval.

Salazar’s Senate seat would be open immediately upon his appointment to the Obama cabinet. In a press release regarding a potential Salazar replacement, Governor Ritter’s office said, “We’ll have a process in place when the process is final, but I’m really not going to do more than to say today that Ken Salazar is a very effective United States senator,” adding, “We’ll miss him. But I also think he has the potential of being one of the greatest secretaries of Interior that this country has seen.”

jim@pagosasun.com