Callers flood Rep. Salazar’s phone lines

Some Grand Junction residents were upset last week that they couldn’t get through to anyone in U.S. Rep. John Salazar’s offices either in town or Washington, D.C.

The residents complained that they couldn’t speak to one of Salazar’s representatives or at least leave a message for the 3rd Congressional District Democrat because his offices’ voice mailboxes always seemed to be full.

That’s because all of his regional offices and the main office in D.C. have been inundated in the past week with telephone calls from around the nation on the controversial health care measure, said Gail Gnirk, one of his field representatives in the Grand Junction office.

“We have a voice mailbox specifically set up for people who want to leave comments for the congressman, but 95 percent of those have been from out of state,” Gnirk said. “They spill over into everybody else’s voice mail, but I try to go through those every 20 minutes. It’s become impossible to do. I found six conservative Web sites that are telling people to call this office directly.”

There are several groups in support and opposition to health care reform that are rallying their troops in the form of e-mails and phone calls to key lawmakers who are on the fence, such as Salazar and U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey, who represents Colorado’s 4th Congressional District on the Eastern Plains.

Salazar spokesman Eric Wortman and Markey press secretary Ben Marter said both representatives have received thousands of calls in the past week, most of which are from out of state. Salazar and Markey are among several dozen members of Congress who also were getting numerous calls, they said.

“Most of our offices are getting a pretty high volume of calls from all over the country,” Wortman said. “We’re doing the best we can and answering all the calls, but the problem is the congressman’s constituents can’t always get through. We ask that they wait 15 minutes and try again. The congressman wants to hear what they have to say.”

One of those efforts is headed by Michelle Malkin, a nationally known conservative columnist who regularly appears on FOX News talk shows.

Last week, Malkin called on readers of her blog to start making calls.

“This is it, Tea Party people,” Malkin wrote on her blog March 8. “This is the week for your on-the-ground mobilization to help drive a final nail into the Obamacare coffin.”

Earlier this year, Malkin earned some headlines in Front Range newspapers and Web sites when she criticized the Colorado Republican Party for “anointing” the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to Grand Junction native Jane Norton, whom she called “a milquetoast public official.” Malkin said Norton pretends to support the Tea Party movement, but then raised thousands of dollars from D.C. lobbyists at the behest of Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Grand Junction resident David Shepard said he just wanted to let the congressman know his feelings about the health care measure, but couldn’t because of all of the other callers.

Shepard said he wasn’t part of any organized effort to inundate the congressman, and he planned to try calling again.

“I’m an independent and really believe they ought to do something about health care,” Shepard said. “I just wanted to tell the congressman, ‘Can’t we start this thing again and get it right?’ ”


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