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for people who care about the West

Mike Synar loses

  Oklahoma Rep. Mike Synar, D, one of Congress' leading advocates for federal grazing reform, lost a Democratic primary runoff Sept. 20 to a little-known retired school principal. Virgil Cooper defeated the eight-term congressman 52 percent to 48 percent. Ranchers cheered the defeat of the outspoken critic of "welfare cowboys' using public lands in the West, while environmentalists lamented the loss of a strong ally. "We're still stunned," says Sandra Rose, chair of Sierra Club's Oklahoma political committee. Rose says Synar, whose environmental voting record regularly landed him at the top of the League of Conservation Voters' list, may have fallen victim to a term limit initiative on the same ballot. "The people supporting term limits showed up in droves," she says. Grazing reform activists say Synar's loss, while sad, will not slow the drive for change on the range. Says Rose Strickland of the Sierra Club, "The train has already left the station; range reform will happen, with or without Synar."