With the TV in his office on Capitol Hill showing live shots of his peers on the Senate floor preparing their legislative case against Republicans for November, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) speaks about his role on the Senatorial Campaign Committee and on spending late August in Denver. The junior senator from New Jersey was elected to his first full term in 2006 after spending thirteen years in the House, rising to Chairman of the House Democratic Caucus as the highest-ranking Hispanic in congressional history.
Westword (Joe Horton): What is, in your mind, the significance of having the national convention in Denver this year?
Bob Menendez: Well, I'm proud that my party recognizes that the West is a place of importance and opportunity, as is evidenced by moving Nevada up in its primary process and choosing Denver as the place for the convention. And those aren't just about finding a great site to hold the convention, they are about commitments as a party to the importance of the western states and appealing to the issues that voters in the West are concerned about. And so I think Denver's a great city, traveled there several times when I campaigned for House members when I was in the House, but beyond being a great city for a convention, I think it's commitment to the West. I think that combination of having Nevada earlier in the primary process and making Denver the convention city is a recognition of the importance of the West.
You know, if you look at New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado, they provided nineteen electoral votes -- the amount that George Bush won and John Kerry lost. And if you look at the margins by which he lost in those states, they were very thin. And so the reality is I think that after eight years of Bush and with a candidate who can appeal on many of the important issues as well as the independence that exists out in the West -- there's an independent streak in the West -- I think you can do very well.
WW: Speaking of those issues, with your position on the Senatorial Campaign Committee and looking at the West as unique voters, what kind of issues specifically do you see that are critical for Democrats to control or at least address going forward? You talk about those three states as being very critical states this time around, what are the issues that are important?