Green Group Marks Candidates for Defeat in Tight Election Races
LEGI-SLATE News Service
Tuesday, June 23, 1998
WASHINGTON One of the nation's top environmental groups on Tuesday targeted five Republicans and one Democrat for defeat in the November elections.
The League of Conservation Voters, a bipartisan group that annually rates lawmakers on their environmental voting record, plans to spend up to $2 million on ads, polling and grassroots campaigns to oust what it sees as vulnerable, anti-green candidates in tight races this fall.
"These are not cookie-cutter campaigns," said LCV President Deb Callahan, a former campaign advisor for Al Gore. "We've picked races where we can provide the margin of difference to retire an anti- environment candidate."
The six lawmakers include incumbent Reps. Helen Chenoweth, R-Idaho, John Hostettler, R-Ind., Bill Redmond, R-N.M., and Charlie Stenholm, D-Texas. The group also targeted Rep. Mark Neumann, R-Wis., who is running for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold, and former Republican congressman Robert Dornan, who wants to unseat Rep. Loretta Sanchez, D-Calif., who beat him in a 1996 race that he contested for more than a year later.
These six candidates will face a barrage of campaign criticism from LCV, promises Callahan, who noted that her group is spending 25 percent more this election cycle than it did in 1996. That was the first year LCV used its formidable influence and 9 million member-strong membership to go after 12 congressional candidates known unaffectionately as the "Dirty Dozen" for their lackluster environmental voting records.
Seven of those 12 lost their elections. While certainly other issues came into play besides the environment, Callahan said that in eight of the nine races LCV polled, green issues were the No. 1 or No. 2 reason people voted against the Dirty Dozen candidates.
In the coming weeks, LCV plans to add six more candidates to complete this year's dozen. Callahan said the group wanted to wait to see what happens in future primaries and how certain campaigns shape up before completing the list.
"We have an embarrassment of riches" when it comes to people who qualify for the dozen, Callahan said. "We want to play this political game as smartly as we can."
The group offered several reasons why the six named Tuesday made this year's list.
Chenoweth. Labeled the "Cream of the Extreme" by LCV, Chenoweth, who heads a House subcommittee with jurisdiction over forests issues, has voted against pro-environment initiatives, as scored by LCV, 98 percent of the time. Chenoweth, who is running against 1996 opponent Dan Williams, is the only second-term Dirty Dozen candidate on today's list.
Stenholm. An outspoken opponent of stricter clean air regulations, Stenholm, the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, has the worst lifetime environmental voting record of any non-freshman Democrat in Congress, the group said. Stenholm is also running against his 1996 challenger, Republican Rudy Izzard.
Hostettler. A fiscal conservative, Hostettler has voted in the past for deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency's budget and against pro-environment forces 86 percent of the time, according to LCV. Hostettler is running against moderate Democrat Gail Reicken.
Neumann. A notorious budget hawk, Neumann was criticized by LCV for saying he would "wage war" against the EPA and for supporting a Clean Water Act rewrite in 1995 that environmentalists and most Democrats labeled the "Dirty Water Act."
Redmond. Having only recently taken over the seat vacated by U.N. Ambassador and Energy Secretary-designee Bill Richardson, the first-term Redmond has come under fire for supporting a bill to delay new clean air regulations. Redmond is facing New Mexico Attorney General Tom Udall.
Dornan. LCV said Dornan, a combative social conservative, also has poor environmental credentials, notably his support of oil exploration and drilling off the Orange County, Calif., coast.
Representatives for several of these candidates defended their bosses' environmental records and dismissed Tuesday's announcement as more of the "same old, same old" an environmental group playing partisan politics.
So did Neumann, who said in an interview that LCV was "acting as a surrogate on behalf" of Feingold to make him look bad in a tight senatorial race.
"It's a clear partisan attack," Neumann said. "How come I wasn't in the Dirty Dozen last time?"
He also defended his voting record and his declaration of "war" on the EPA, which he said was a remark made in connection with reforming the Superfund hazardous waste law.
"Any agency allowing 50 percent of its money to go to legal fees should have war waged on it," said Neumann, referring to the legal battles that often accompany cleaning up waste sites.
But Michael Hayden, a former Republican governor of Kansas who also sits on the LCV Board, defended LCV's choices as legitimate and criticized congressional Republicans for not being more enviro-friendly.
"The candidates we've targeted for the Dirty Dozen aren't responsive to conservation concerns, and as a result, may find themselves in November with a one-way ticket home," Hayden said.
Hayden, who describes himself a Teddy Roosevelt-style conservationist, also said the Republican Party should not surrender environmental politics to Democrats, who have seemingly monopolized pro-environment forces and their political rhetoric since the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994.
"We need to move more to the center [because] politically it's the right thing to do," Hayden said. "Republicans could make significant gains if they did this."
Stenholm also responded to LCV's listing, saying he was "proud" of his voting record.
"I cast my votes in Congress according to the best interests of my constituents, not on the hope of getting a pat on the head from a Washington special interest group," Stenholm said in a statement issued by his office.
© Copyright 1998 LEGI-SLATE News Service