Ken Salazar: Wikis


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Ken Salazar

Assumed office 
January 20, 2009
President Barack Obama
Preceded by Dirk Kempthorne

In office
January 3, 2005 – January 20, 2009
Preceded by Ben Nighthorse Campbell
Succeeded by Michael Bennet

In office
January 12, 1999 – January 3, 2005
Governor Bill Owens
Preceded by Gale Norton
Succeeded by John Suthers

Born March 2, 1955 (1955-03-02) (age 55)
Alamosa, United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Hope Salazar
Residence Denver, United States
Alma mater Colorado College
University of Michigan Law School
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholicism

Kenneth Lee "Ken" Salazar (pronounced /ˈsæləzɑr/; born March 2, 1955) is the 50th and current United States Secretary of the Interior, serving in the administration of President Barack Obama. A member of the Democratic Party, he previously served as a United States Senator from Colorado from 2005 to 2009. He and Mel Martinez (R-Florida) were the first Hispanic U.S. Senators since 1977; they were joined by Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) in January 2006. Prior to his election to the U.S. Senate, he served as Attorney General of Colorado from 1999 to 2005.

On December 17, 2008, President-elect Obama announced he would nominate Salazar as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The environmentalist movement's reaction to this nomination was mixed.[1][2] Previously, Salazar supported the nomination of Gale Norton to Secretary of the Interior,[3] President George W. Bush's controversial first appointee who preceded Salazar as Colorado Attorney General. On January 20, 2009, Salazar was confirmed by unanimous consent in the Senate.


Early life and family

Ken Salazar was born in Alamosa, Colorado, the son of Emma M. and Henry (Enrique) S. Salazar.[4] He grew up near Manassa, in the community of Los Rincones in the San Luis Valley area of south-central Colorado. Salazar attended St. Francis Seminary and Centauri High School in La Jara, graduating in 1973. He later attended Colorado College, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1977, and received his Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Michigan Law School in 1981. Later Salazar was awarded honorary degrees (Doctor of Laws) from Colorado College (1993) and the University of Denver (1999). After graduating, Salazar started private law practice.

State Cabinet member

In 1986, Salazar became chief legal counsel to then Governor Roy Romer; in 1990, Romer appointed him to his Cabinet as Director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. In this position, he authored the Great Outdoors Colorado Amendment, which created a massive land conservation program of which he became chairman. Salazar also created the Youth in Natural Resources program to provide for environmental education in public schools. In his cabinet role, he established reforms that forced mining and petroleum operations to better protect the surrounding environment.[5]

Colorado Attorney General

In 1994, Salazar returned to private practice. In 1998, he was elected state attorney general; he was reelected to this position in 2002. Police operations were streamlined under Salazar, and several new branches of law enforcement were created: the Gang Prosecution Unit, the Environmental Crimes Unit, and the General Fugitive Prosecutive Unit, which targeted murderers. He also worked to strengthen consumer protection and anti-fraud laws, as well as to protect children through new policy designed to crack down on sex offenders.[5]

U.S. Senator

2004 campaign logo. Salazar's slogan was "fighting for Colorado's land, water, and people."

In 2004, Salazar declared his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell. Salazar considers himself a moderate and has at times taken positions that are in disagreement with the base of his party — for example, he opposed gay adoption for a number of years. Salazar lost to Mike Miles at the State nominating convention. In spite of this loss, the national Democratic Party backed Salazar with contributions from the DSCC and promotion of Salazar as the only primary candidate. Salazar came back to defeat Miles in the Democratic primary,and he narrowly defeated beer executive Pete Coors of the Coors Brewing Company to win the general election for the Senate seat. His elder brother John also had an electoral victory in 2004, winning a race for the U.S. House of Representatives from Colorado's 3rd congressional district.

He took office on January 4, 2005. Salazar and his wife, Esperanza, have two daughters and one granddaughter.

Soon after arriving in the Senate, Salazar generated controversy within his party by introducing Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales and sitting by his side during Gonzales' confirmation hearings.

Ken Salazar as U.S. Senator from Colorado

On May 23, 2005, Salazar was among the Gang of 14 moderate senators to forge a compromise on the Democrats' use of the filibuster against judicial appointments, thus blocking the Republican leadership's attempt to implement the so-called "nuclear option". Under the agreement, the Democrats would retain the power to filibuster a Bush judicial nominee only in an "extraordinary circumstance", and the three most conservative Bush appellate court nominees (Janice Rogers Brown, Priscilla Owen and William Pryor) would receive a vote by the full Senate. Salazar has skirmished with Focus on the Family, a Colorado-based conservative Christian group of national stature, over his stance on judicial nominees.

In 2005, Salazar voted against increasing fuel-efficiency standards (CAFE) for cars and trucks, a vote that the League of Conservation Voters notes is anti-environment. In the same year, Salazar voted against an amendment to repeal tax breaks for ExxonMobil and other major petroleum companies.[6]

In August 2006, Ken Salazar supported fellow Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman in his primary race against Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Lamont, running primarily as an anti-war candidate, won the primary. Salazar's continued support of Lieberman, who successfully ran as an independent against Lamont, has rankled the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party.

In 2006, Salazar voted to end protections that limit offshore oil drilling in Florida's Gulf Coast.[7]

In 2007, Salazar was one of only a handful of Democrats to vote against a bill that would require the United States Army Corps of Engineers to consider global warming when planning water projects.[8]

According to Project Vote Smart, Ken Salazar received a 25 percent vote rating for 2007 by the Humane Society of the United States,[9] a zero percent vote rating for 2005-2006 by Fund for Animals,[10] a 60 percent vote rating for 2007 by Defenders of Wildlife,[11] and a zero percent vote rating on the Animal Welfare Institute Compassion Index[12]. He also supported the Bush Administration's release of lands in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) for emergency haying in Colorado's Yuma and Phillips Counties.[13] Salazar has an 81 percent lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, including a 100 percent rating for the year 2008.[14]

Salazar resigned his Senate seat on January 20, 2009, upon his confirmation by the Senate to become Secretary of the Interior under President Barack Obama.[15]

Electoral History

Colorado U.S. Senate Race 2004
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Ken Salazar 1,081,188 51.3
Republican Pete Coors 980,668 47.4
Democratic gain from Republican

Secretary of the Interior

Maria Burks, commissioner of the National Parks of New York Harbor, and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar make their way to the crown of the Statue of Liberty in May 2009.

Salazar accepted Obama's offer to join his cabinet as the Secretary of the Interior.[16] His appointment required a Saxbe fix by Congress.[17] On January 7, 2009, Congress approved a bill, S.J.Res. 3, and President George W. Bush signed it into law, providing such a fix by reducing the Secretary of Interior's salary to the level it was prior to the time Salazar took office in January 2009.

The Senate confirmed Salazar's nomination by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama was sworn in as President.[18] As Secretary of the Interior, Salazar is in charge of the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and other federal agencies overseen by the Interior Department.

Salazar is one of two Hispanics currently serving in Obama's Cabinet, along with Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis of California. Salazar is the second Hispanic Interior Secretary after Manuel Lujan, Jr., who held the post from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

Several prominent environmentalist groups are wary of Salazar, noting his strong ties with the coal and mining industries. Kieran Suckling, executive director of Center for Biological Diversity, which tracks endangered species and habitat issues states "He [Ken Salazar] is a right-of-center Democrat who often favors industry and big agriculture in battles over global warming, fuel efficiency and endangered species."[19]

The nomination was praised, however, by Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters. Upon the nomination, Karpinski said, "Throughout his career, Senator Salazar has campaigned on a pledge of support for 'our land, our water, our people.' With a perfect 100% score on the 2008 LCV Scorecard, he has lived up to that pledge. As a westerner, Senator Salazar has hands on experience with land and water issues, and will restore the Department of the Interior's role as the steward of America's public resources. We look forward to working with him to protect the health of America's land, water, and people in the coming years."[20]

Although Senate Republicans were expected to raise questions concerning Salazar's stances on oil shale development and drilling in environmentally sensitive areas,[21] Salazar was one of several Obama Cabinet appointees confirmed in the Senate by voice vote on January 20, 2009, shortly after Obama's inauguration. Salazar became the 50th Secretary of the Interior succeeding Dirk Kempthorne, who praised Salazar's appointment.[22]

Colorado Governor Bill Ritter appointed Denver Superintendent of Schools Michael Bennet to replace Salazar and to finish his term in the Senate, which expires in January 2011.

On January 23, 2009, Salazar stated that he is considering reopening the Statue of Liberty's crown to tourists. The crown has been closed to the public since the September 11, 2001 attacks. "I hope we can find a way," Salazar said in a statement. "It would proclaim to the world — both figuratively and literally — that the path to the light of liberty is open to all."[23]

On March 6, 2009 Salazar agreed to move forward with the Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to remove the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming. Minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is at least 30 breeding pairs and at least 300 wolves for at least three consecutive years, a goal that was attained in 2002 and has been exceeded every year since. (There are currently about 95 breeding pairs and 1,600 wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.)[24]. Salazar, a former rancher has come under criticism of groups like the Defenders of Wildlife for this decision, and lack of protection of wolves.

On May 9, 2009, Salazar announced the upholding of a Bush-era policy that prevents the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions via the Endangered Species Act (ESA), a policy he pledged to reevaluate when he took office in January. The policy states that, despite the apparent negative impact global warming has on polar bears, an endangered species, greenhouse gasses cannot be regulated with the ESA. Salazar stated in a conference call announcing the decision that "The single greatest threat to the polar bear is the melting of Arctic Sea ice due to climate change," but the Endangered Species Act "is not the appropriate tool for us to deal with what is a global issue." The decision was met with criticism from environmental groups and praise from energy groups including the American Petroleum Institute, some Democrats and many Republicans. Salazar contended in the same conference call that the ESA was never intended to be used for the regulation of climate change, while sidestepping questions of how this situation is different from that of the Clean Air Act, which is currently being used by the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate emissions.[25]. Previous low ice levels (which the polar bear population survived) have been present during the Medieval Warm Period, between 1000 and 1300 AD and better candidate for the last significantly decreased ice levels was the period 6,000 - 8,500 years ago, when the Earth's orbital variations brought more sunlight to the Arctic in summer than at present[26].

With the announcement in early January 2010 that Governor Ritter will not seek reelection, Salazar is thought to be considering entering the 2010 gubernatorial contest in his home state. Representative John Salazar, the secretary's brother, told local media that he thought Salazar was likely to seek the governor's mansion. Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper indicated that while he was considering a run himself, he would defer to Secretary Salazar if the former senator opts to enter the race.[27] John Salazar is encouraging his brother to run for governor, according to The Pueblo Chieftain,[28] and the White House has indicated that it would have no objection to Salazar resigning his administration post to pursue the governorship, according to The Denver Post, though it cited no named sources in its initial reporting.[29] According to later reports, however, Salazar has decided not to run for governor in favor of continuing as Secretary of the Interior. He endorsed Hickenlooper's bid on January 7, 2010.[30]

See also


  1. ^ Brady, Jeff (16 December 2008). "Environmentalists Fuming Over Salazar's New Post". National Public Radio. 
  2. ^ Broder, Jim M. (17 December 2008). "Environmentalists Wary of Obama’s Interior Pick". The New York Times. 
  3. ^
  4. ^,8599,1867218,00.html
  5. ^ a b "Biography of Senator Ken Salazar". U.S. Senator Ken Salazar. United States Senate. 
  6. ^ "2005 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters. 
  7. ^ "2006 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters. 
  8. ^ "2007 National Environmental Scorecard" (PDF). League of Conservation Voters. 
  9. ^ "The Humane Society of the United States". Project Vote Smart. 2007. 
  10. ^ "Fund for Animals". Project Vote Smart. 
  11. ^ "Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund". Project Vote Smart. 2007. 
  12. ^ "Compassion Index". Animal Welfare Institute. 
  13. ^ U.S. Senator Ken Salazar (2008-08-07). "Sen. Salazar Lauds USDA's Decision to Allow CRP Haying in Yuma, Phillips Counties". Press release. 
  14. ^ "Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO)". League of Conservation Voters. 
  15. ^ "Ken Salazar Resigns From Senate". Associated Press. 200-01-19. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  16. ^ Lowery, Courtney (2008-12-17). "Salazar, Vilsack: The West’s New Land Lords". NewWest. 
  17. ^ "Congress to cut Cabinet salaries -- again". Yahoo! News. Yahoo! Inc.. 2008-12-19. Retrieved 2008-12-20. 
  18. ^ Abrams, Jim (209-01-20). "Senate confirms 6 cabinet secretaries, puts off vote on Clinton". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-01-20. 
  19. ^ Broder, Jim M. (17 December 2008). "Environmentalists Wary of Obama’s Interior Pick". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ League of Conservation Voters (2008-12-07). "New Cabinet Choices Reaffirm Obama's New Direction on Energy and the Environment". Press release. 
  21. ^ Sprengelmeyer, M.E. (17 December 2008). "Interior Secretary Salazar: Confirmation outlook smooth". Yahoo! News (Yahoo! Inc.). 
  22. ^ "Dirk Kempthorne says Sen. Ken Salazar will make a fine Interior secretary". Idaho Statesman. 17 December 2008. 
  23. ^ "Salazar Visits Statue of Liberty, May Reopen Crown". 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-01-23. 
  24. ^ "Secretary Salazar Affirms Decision to Delist Gray Wolves in Western Great Lakes, Portion of Northern Rockies". 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  25. ^ "No global warming crackdown for polar bears". Los Angeles Times. 2009-05-09.,0,4415244.story. Retrieved 2009-05-08. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ "Colorado Governor Bill Ritter not running for re-election". 9 News. 2010-01-06. 
  28. ^ Roper, Peter (2010-01-06). "John Salazar suggests brother Ken Salazar as governor". The Pueblo Chieftain. 
  29. ^ Riley, Michael (2010-01-06). "Salazar gets White House OK for run". The Denver Post. 
  30. ^ Kraushaar, Josh (2010-01-07). The Politico. 

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Dirk Kempthorne
United States Secretary of the Interior
Served under: Barack Obama

2009 – present
United States Senate
Preceded by
Ben Nighthorse Campbell
United States Senator (Class 3) from Colorado
2005 – 2009
Served alongside: Wayne Allard, Mark Udall
Succeeded by
Michael Bennet
Legal offices
Preceded by
Gale Norton
Attorney General of Colorado
1999 – 2005
Succeeded by
John Suthers
United States order of precedence
Preceded by
Eric Holder
Attorney General
United States order of precedence
Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Eric Holder
Attorney General
8th in line
Secretary of the Interior
Succeeded by
Tom Vilsack
Secretary of Agriculture


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