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Vice President Ken Salazar?



So far, the race to the 2016 presidential election has looked more like a horror show than our democracy at work.

For those of us old enough to remember, this campaign is bringing back ugly memories of 1968. That summer, protests and brutality disrupted the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and might have done the same at the Republican convention except authorities pulled up the drawbridges and stopped protesters trying to cross from Miami to Miami Beach.

This election year, while rising chaos and weirdness have reigned, Colorado has played an insignificant role so far. National media gave us a passing glance on Super Tuesday, March 1, thanks to our farcical caucuses: no GOP straw poll, Dems' presidential polls lacking the reward of delegates. As in some other states, Bernie Sanders clearly won more popular support in Colorado, but Hillary Clinton locked up nearly all the super-delegates.

Colorado's net impact so far: not worth reporting. But that may soon change. Colorado could be pushed onto center stage, thanks to one person poised to emerge as the state's most important political figure for the rest of this decade — and beyond:

Ken Salazar.

Salazar, who recently turned 61, is said to be on Clinton's short list of serious options for a running mate if she wins the Democratic nomination. Salazar quietly has confirmed as much to political friends in Denver, and from what sources close to him tell us, he's prepared to accept the offer if or when it comes.

Salazar grew up in the San Luis Valley before coming to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College. He graduated in 1977, well before entering public life, which has included the elected offices of Colorado attorney general (1999-2005) and U.S. senator (2005-09). In 2009, Barack Obama appointed Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior.

Few expected Salazar to resurface as a political leader since departing the Obama Administration in 2013 and opening a law office in Denver. But he's reappeared recently, campaigning for Clinton in states such as Texas and Nevada with positive results. And when Bill Clinton came to Colorado Springs last month to speak at CC, Salazar introduced the former president.

What's not to like about Salazar as VP? For starters, he's as spotless as politicians come — and qualified. He's spent much time in D.C. and, more importantly, he served alongside Hillary Clinton as a fellow Democrat in the Senate and then inside the much tighter circle of the Cabinet. Salazar's experience is a positive, and even more substantial when compared to another oft-mentioned Latino running mate, 41-year-old Julian Castro, the current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former San Antonio mayor.

Clinton has other alternatives, such as Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (who could deliver that key state) and, who knows, maybe even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (who could magnetize Sanders supporters). Still, Salazar just might be the best fit.

Even if he's not, his story won't likely end there. The same whisperers say if Salazar doesn't join the Dems' national ticket, he surely will run for governor in 2018 when Gov. John Hickenlooper reaches his term limit.

In a race for governor, Salazar would be heavily favored against almost any Republican except for Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, who has said he's not interested. (Notably, Salazar edged Suthers for attorney general in 1998.) And it's safe to say that if Salazar announces a campaign for governorship early next year, the state party will unite to support him. Former State Treasurer Cary Kennedy is another rumored possibility, and if Salazar returns to D.C., she's likely the Dems' best hope, though not a certainty.

But first thing's first. We should pay closer attention now to Salazar to see if he continues to help Clinton on the campaign trail. Certainly, if the national race becomes Clinton v. Trump, the Latino — and African-American — vote might make the difference in many states.

But wait, you might be saying, what about Bernie? He certainly isn't going away. There's no room here to dig deep, but as long as Clinton remains the Dems' frontrunner, it makes sense to begin speculating about who can help push her over the top.

Vice President Ken Salazar? That has a nice ring to it. Then again, so does Governor Salazar.

Colorado College certainly wouldn't mind either outcome. Colorado Springs shouldn't, either.

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