When Mike Stark spoke to John Salazaar about health care in July, Salazar didn’t want to identify himself as a Democrat and instead said that he was an “independent.”

Salazaar’s district is CO-03, and it’s pretty Republican, with a PVI score of -5 (meaning Republicans have a 5 point advantage in the district). Mike asked him if he would vote “no” on any bill that didn’t have a public option as an alternative to a mandate to buy private insurance. Salazaar didn’t want to commit to that, either.

SALAZAR: You know, there could be other options. Whatever is doable.

STARK: The other option is a sop to the insurance companies, and everyone knows it.

SALAZAR: Yeah, that’s another option. There are a lot of options.

I wonder if Salazar plans to vote for that “other option” that is such a boon to insurance and pharmaceutical interests. I guess we’ll know soon.

Last week Republican challenger Martin Beeson suspended his campaign and is now supporting Scott Tipton in his effort to unseat Salazar. Retired Army colonel Bob McConnell is a somewhat more libertarian-leaning Republican who opposes the war in Afghanistan, though he supports biometric id’s. He will still challenge Beeson in the GOP primary on August 10.

Salazar voted for the House health care bill the first time around, which Tipton claims pushed him into the race. But there is even stronger opposition to the Senate bill and now it comes from both sides of the district. Jeff Tucker of the Pueblo Chieftan quotes Republican David Dill:

“I consider this one of the most egregious pieces of legislation Congress has ever attempted,” Dill said. “Given the fact of what the costs are going to be, I can’t believe Sens. (Michael) Bennet and (Mark) Udall or Rep. John Salazar can show their face in Colorado.”

Here’s oncologist Lou Balizet:

“It entrenches the for-profit private health care system we have in this country right now that’s been the root of all the problems we have for poor care and enormous costs,” Balizet said. “And as you know, Uncle Sam will find you if you don’t buy this defective product. It further strengthens that very system and makes private insurance companies more powerful.”

Salazar has taken $197,000 in donations from health care interests and $424,576 from lawyers and lobbyists.

Salazar also signed the Debbie Halvorsen letter demanding that Henry Waxman’s proposal to negotiate for Medicare prescription drug prices should be nixed in favor of the PhRMA deal negotiated by the White House, because (wait for it) it’s better at filling the donut hole. Except it now turns out that it makes the donut hole worse for the next two years.

Well, as Tom Carper said on video, PhRMA paid for that sweetheart deal with $150 million in advertising, and Congress is bound to abide by it.

Maybe Salazar is counting on those “independents” to show up for him in 2010.

Salazar office phones: 970-245-710, 719-543-8200, 970-259-1012, 719-587-5105. If you hear anything, let us know in the war room.