Wyoming geared up for war
In Wyoming, "It wasn't the
year to be seen as a thoughtful problem-solver," says Sierra Club
Northern Plains representative Larry Mehlhaff. "It was the year to
have a bumper-sticker campaign."
senator, Republican Craig Thomas, lambasted Democratic Gov. Mike
Sullivan during the campaign by associating him with President
Clinton and range reform. His message was simple: the Democrats
were waging a war on the West's traditional economies of ranching
and mining. The result: Thomas won by a 19 percent margin.
Sullivan's secretary of state, Kathy Karpan,
running for governor, also lost, falling to Republican Jim
Geringer. Geringer's victory ends a 20-year Republican drought in
In an even stronger show of
Republican strength, state Representative Barbara Cubin beat
Democrat Bob Shuster in a contest for the state's lone House seat,
vacated by Thomas. Cubin prevailed despite waging a negative
campaign where she made apparently unsupported charges against
Shuster and admitted to sending cookies shaped like male genitals
and other unsavory pranks during her stint in state
"Cubin constantly put her foot in her
mouth, but this year it just didn't matter," says Mehlhaff.
Environmentalists say Cubin can be expected to vote in Washington
for measures that help extractive industries in the
Overall, the Wyoming congressional
delegation looks much as it did before the election, with two
conservative senators and a conservative representative. The same
can be said about the Republican-dominated state legislature,
though the GOP made significant gains in the House of
Representatives, winning in traditional Democratic strongholds such
as Sweetwater County in the state's southwestern corner.
Environmentalists say they are long accustomed
to working with Republicans to defeat anti-environmental
legislation in the state legislature. Four times they have
convinced state lawmakers to reject regulatory "takings'
initiatives, including a measure sponsored last year by
"We've worked with both
sides of the aisles for years," says Stephanie Kessler, a staffer
with the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "But we've also had a fairly
accessible governor's office. I think Geringer will give us a fair
Voting on ballot issues, Wyoming
voters rejected an anti-abortion initiative and an initiative that
would have legalized slot-machine gambling in the state.
The biggest blow to
Utah's environmental community was the loss of first-term Rep.
Karen Shepherd in the state's 2nd Congressional District. Shepherd
lost by 10 percent to Enid Green Waldholtz, a conservative who
received significant financial backing from her party. Polls show
Shepherd held a moderate lead just three weeks before election day,
but saw it quickly evaporate.
definitely hurt by Clinton's negative coattails," says Lawson
Legate, Sierra Club's Utah representative based in Salt Lake City.
The Republican fever sweeping the electorate overcame Shepherd's
"strong reputation as a person who followed through on her promises
and got things done," Legate says.
showing of third-party candidate Merrill Cook also hurt Shepherd.
Voters expected to support Cook went instead with Waldholtz,
political analysts say.
Utah's two most prominent
Republicans, Sen. Orrin Hatch and 1st District Congressman Jim
Hansen, easily won re-election. Hansen, in line to chair the House
Natural Resources subcommittee on national parks and public lands,
could use his position to push for a tiny state wilderness
protection bill that would release most of Utah's remaining
roadless areas to mineral development and other uses.
Republicans also prevailed at the state level.
The party now has a veto-proof two-thirds majority in both the
senate and house.
"Our people weren't
motivated," says Legate. "The gun nuts who hated the Brady bill and
the assault weapons ban were. Maybe this election will get us
Yes and no on
Democrats had a bit
of good news in Colorado. Gov. Roy Romer rebuffed a challenge by
Republican oil man Bruce Benson to win a fourth term. Romer
campaigned on crime and the need for "smart growth."
Although voters approved an initiative setting
term limits for members of Congress and most state and local
officials, all incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives,
including Democrats Pat Schroeder and David Skaggs, kept their
In western Colorado's rapidly growing but
still largely rural 3rd Congressional District, Republican Scott
McInnis soundly defeated Democratic newcomer Linda Powers. Powers
pounded away on what should have been a popular theme: protecting
agricultural lands from uncontrolled development. Her message was
apparently lost on a mainly conservative electorate that still
believes the rugged individualism conveyed in: "Don't tell a man
what to do with his land."
At the state level
the GOP made sweeping gains, winning elections in former Democratic
strongholds. In the heavily Democratic 45th District, which
includes portions of the city of Pueblo, city council president
Joyce Lawrence upset incumbent Rep. Mildred
"We were steamrollered, pure and
simple," Mattingly told the Denver Post. "The Democrats took
control of this town in 1932 with FDR. Sixty-two years is a long
time for a party to control a town. Maybe it's time for a scare."
Republicans picked up seven seats in the house
to extend their majority to 41-24; and they retained a 19-16
advantage in the
Arizona and New
Mexico elections were a washout for environmentalism. Conservative
Republicans with ties to the wise-use movement captured both
governorships, and Arizona Republicans took over the state's
in both states still had something to
In Arizona, a "takings' ballot
proposal requiring state agencies to study the effects of new
regulations on private property crashed 60-40. The vote was a
setback for the growing national property rights movement, which
opposes federal laws such as the Endangered Species Act. The
movement had seen the Arizona measure as a possible national
Although rural Arizona has become an
anti-environmentalist stronghold, the measure flopped even there.
Not one of the state's 14 counties approved it. The defeat also
came even though supporters outspent opponents about $700,000 to
about $340,000. Animal-rights activists also secured a ban on
steel-jaw leghold trapping by a 58-42
Arizonans for Private Property Rights,
which vowed to push the Legislature to pass the property-rights
bill again next year, blamed the defeat on "confusing" ballot
language. Backers had wanted the measure to be called "Legislation
Protecting Private Property Rights;" but the secretary of state's
office changed it, referring to it as "Regulatory takings."
"A lot of people went into the polling booth
saying, "What in the hell is a taking?" " says Linda McClure, the
But opponents seized on a
conservative argument: that the measure would be too costly and
bureaucratic and require too many regulations and lawyers.
"The voters understood it was a scam," says Joni
Bosh, campaign committee chairman for the opposition. "The
supporters had two years to sell it and they couldn't."
In New Mexico, Green Party workers celebrated a
strong showing, winning 10 percent in the governor's race, the
biggest percentage a third party has won since statehood in 1912.
The party platform emphasized community values and respect for the
Their strong finish culminated a campaign
in which the Democrats sued unsuccessfully to keep the Greens off
the ballot. The party campaigned on a $50,000 budget and with no
help from the Sierra Club.
The Green Party's
candidate for governor, Roberto Mondragon, a former two-time
lieutenant governor, almost abandoned the race near the close for
fear he would hurt Democrats. Mondragon decided to stay in; he and
incumbent Gov. Bruce King, D, won more votes combined than the
victor, Republican Gary Johnson.
also won 30 percent in the state treasurer's race against a
Democratic incumbent with no Republican opponent, and 12 percent in
the land commissioner's race.
apparently tapped into the same kind of anxiety and anti-government
sentiment that fueled the national Republican sweep. The Green
Party platform - the only detailed platform of any New Mexico party
- calls for decentralized economic power, help for small business,
property-tax relief and a single-payer health plan.
"The vote was frustration at things seeming to
be out of control: crime, deterioration of the cities, family
problems, random violence and the educational system," says
University of New Mexico political science professor Chris
New Mexico voters easily re-elected
Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman, two incumbent Republican congressmen
and an incumbent Democratic congressman. Environmentalists worked
hard to re-elect Bingaman, who is a rare Senate ally in the West.
Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, R, won re-election
despite an almost endless series of scandals. Republican Jon Kyl
won the Senate seat held by scandal-plagued Democrat Dennis
DeConcini, who didn't seek re-election. Republicans won back the
two congressional seats they lost to the Democrats in 1992, and now
control all but one of seven
Fear and loathing crept into
the Silver State in this fall's election, but the fringe candidates
who pushed fear of big-brother government, gun control,
homosexuals, and immigrants failed to gain office.
In statewide races, the radical right-wing
candidates of the Independent American Party - an amalgam of
Christian fundamentalists, the wise-use movement, and gun fanatics
that fielded candidates for most offices - proved unable to garner
more than 6 percent. The party did better on a local level, topping
out at 16 percent in one state legislative race in Las
Nevada voters, who narrowly elected Bill
Clinton in 1992, decided to stick with the state's top "friend of
Bill." By a 53-41 margin, Democratic Gov. Bob Miller survived a
challenge from Republican state assemblyman Jim Gibbons, whose
campaign combined an anti-tax initiative with states' rights
rhetoric. Miller survived because of Gibbons' lackluster campaign
and the electorate's perception of the governor as a competent
leader. Now in his second term, Miller finds himself in a similar
predicament to President Clinton: His opponents control the
Republicans widened their previous
one-vote majority in the state Senate, taking two seats to gain a
13-8 advantage. And Democrats lost their more than two-to-one edge
in the State Assembly, which is now deadlocked in an unprecedented
21-21 tie. The legislators' first battle will be over rules to
determine leadership positions and committee assignments in the
Assembly when the legislature convenes in January. The environment
played a secondary role in most races, but the new state
legislature will likely be more sympathetic to anti-environmental
measures, including regulatory takings bills to protect private
Republican gains in the state
legislature forestalled the inexorable southerly tilt of power in
Nevada toward Las Vegas. Incumbent Republicans representing Reno
and rural counties were re-elected, maintaining their seniority and
control over key budget and finance committees.
While Gov. Miller and Sen. Richard Bryan, the
two Democrats at the top of the ballot, escaped being swept out of
office, Rep. Jim Bilbray, a Democrat who represented Nevada's 1st
Congressional District in Las Vegas for four terms, lost to
Republican newcomer John Ensign by 1,436 votes. Late returns from
precincts in Las Vegas suburbs populated by southern California
transplants edged out the incumbent. Though he didn't serve on any
committees dealing with natural resource issues, Bilbray has been
an ally of environmentalists in their efforts to reform public-land
management. Ensign is not expected to be as
Rep. Barbara Vucanovich, Nevada's
other Republican congressman (not "congresswoman," she insists),
won a seventh term representing the 2nd Congressional District,
which covers all of the state outside of Las Vegas. Vucanovich's
seniority places her high among ranking Republicans vying for key
leadership positions. Vucanovich, an advocate of resource
extraction on public lands, is angling to take over as chairman of
the House Natural Resources Committee.
the most important votes Nevada faced were outside the state. The
passage of proposition 187, an anti-illegal-immigration initiative
in California, fueled speculation that more illegal immigrants will
be attracted to Nevada's low-wage service jobs in the tourism
The fact that almost all gambling
initiatives failed in 14 states was good news in Nevada; it means
less competition for the economic engine that provides most of the
state's tax revenue. On the other hand, the votes were mixed news
for many Nevada-based gaming corporations whose corporate chiefs
say their economic future depends on expanding beyond the one state
they already dominate.
On the Navajo
Reservation, Tribal President Peterson Zah, a national leader on
Native American issues, lost 52 percent to 44 percent to Albert
Hale, a lawyer and new political face on the reservation. Zah
served two terms as president of the nation's largest
Hale immediately said he'd seek a federal
pardon for former Navajo chief executive Peter McDonald. McDonald
is serving a l4-year sentence on federal and tribal convictions
stemming from corruption cases and from a 1989 riot by his
supporters at tribal headquarters that left two
McDonald wrote his supporters from prison
to ask them to vote for Hale, and his wife, Wanda, spoke at Hale
Zah put a referendum on the ballot to
see if Navajos wanted legalized gambling on the reservation; 55
percent of the voters said no. A tribal study predicted that
casinos could bring $66 million a year in revenues and put 2,700
Navajos to work, but opponents feared gambling would create social
problems and line the pockets of tribal council members. Prior to
the election, Hale said he would not push for gambling if the
people voted against the ballot
Except for Pat
Williams, Republicans stampede in
stampede also hit Montana, with both houses of the state
legislature falling firmly under control of GOP lawmakers. Conrad
Burns became the first Republican senator ever re-elected in
Within the limits of Montana's largest
city, Billings, Republicans claimed 17 seats in the state House and
Senate compared to one notched by Democrats. Some called it the
"Tuesday night slaughter." The 50-member Senate now has 31
Republicans to 19 Democrats, while the House has 67 Republicans and
Environmentalists predicted that
the wise-use movement, flush with friends in high places, would try
to roll back laws that protect Montana's air, water, forests and
minerals. Their major Washington ally will be Conrad Burns, who saw
the election transform him from a freshman senator wielding little
clout to a veteran with leverage.
Burns, a former
radio broadcaster specializing in agricultural issues, claimed 62
percent of the vote compared to 38 percent for Democratic
challenger Jack Mudd, a former law school dean. Burns outspent the
Mudd camp 3-1 with an influx of PAC money from outside the state.
For Democrats there was a consolation prize:
the re-election of U.S. Rep. Pat Williams to his ninth term in
Congress. Williams won a three-way race, defeating Republican
challenger Cy Jamison, the former head of the Bureau of Land
Management under George Bush, and independent Steve Kelly, an
Williams claimed 49
percent of the vote to Jamison's 42 percent and Kelly's 9 percent.
Williams managed to distance himself from the President by pointing
out his differences, namely his opposition to the crime bill and
gun control. Ultimately, it probably spared him the wrath of the
National Rifle Association.
"Pat Williams is the
only member of Congress throughout the intermountain West and north
of Colorado who survived in spite of his conservation ethics," says
Michael Scott, Northern Rockies director for The Wilderness
Scott predicts that during the next two
years conservative Republicans will push hard to log, mine and
drill for oil and gas in the state's six million acres of roadless
lands. Their fate has been in limbo for nearly two decades because
Congress has not acted to pass wilderness
Beginning in the early 1990s,
separate wilderness strategies have been pushed along partisan
lines, with Burns favoring a bill that would set aside roughly
800,000 acres, and Williams and Montana's other senator, Max
Baucus, D, favoring bills in the 1.5 to 1.8 million acre range.
With Congress now in the hands of Republicans,
Burns has the upper hand. Should his industry-backed bill get
through, it would still need to gain Clinton's signature. In 1988,
a wilderness bill crafted by former Sen. John Melcher, a Democrat,
was vetoed by President Reagan at the request of Western
Even more problematic to
environmentalists is the Republican steamroller at the state level.
Along with defeats of conservation-minded lawmakers, some GOP wins
came by default when Democrats chose not to run for office.
A major loss to the cause of conservation was
the defeat of Democratic State Senator Don Bianchi of Belgrade, a
former manager with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Department. Bianchi had championed land-use planning, clean water
and in-stream flows to benefit fish. Republicans launched a fierce
campaign against Bianchi by soliciting contributions for opponent
Casey Emerson from ranchers around the state.
Dan DuBray, a former aide to Republican Rep. Ron
Marlenee, says the results in Montana put pressure on Republican
Gov. Marc Racicot, who was not up for re-election. He will now work
with a Legislature controlled by his party for the first time in 42
"It gives them the burden of putting up or
shutting up," DuBray says.
Montana voters also
rejected a flat-rate income tax that was opposed by industry, and
bills aimed at limiting the power of the Legislature to impose
taxes. They passed an amendment that lowers the cap on campaign
contributions made by special interest groups.
Mixed signals in the
anti-incumbent mood was most reflected in the West by the defeat of
Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington, a 30-year
congressional veteran. He lost a squeaker to Republican political
neophyte George Nethercutt.
Nethercutt by an overwhelming three to one. Despite that, and
despite the enormous clout Foley had as speaker, eastern Washington
voters ousted him. In addition to being symbolic of the Congress,
Foley's opposition to term limits cost him
Environmentalists wondering how the
midterm shakeup will affect federal forest policy and other
critical issues in the Northwest received some indication when Sen.
Slade Gorton, a Washington Republican who easily won re-election,
announced soon after the election that he will push for hearings on
amending the Endangered Species Act. His goal: to give greater
weight to the economic costs exacted by the nation's strongest
Another Republican newcomer,
Linda Smith, defeated Democratic Rep. Jolene Unsoeld, who had been
a strong supporter of ecosystem management and watershed
restoration. Smith, a write-in candidate who won the Republican
primary, was supported by the conservative Christian Coalition.
Foley's downfall was mirrored in the change in
the state's House delegation. Once a Democratic stronghold at 8-1,
the delegation is now 7-2, Republican.
voters bucked the GOP sweep in the governor's race, choosing
moderate Democrat John Kitzhaber over Republican Denny Smith to
succeed one-term Gov. Barbara Roberts. Kitzhaber, a former
emergency room physician and the architect of Oregon's widely
touted health care plan, is an avid fly fisherman and outdoorsman,
more comfortable in blue jeans than a business suit.
Though he once served on the board of the
Pacific Rivers Council, a key organization in efforts to protect
Oregon rivers, he struck a middle-of-the-road posture on timber
issues, saying he hopes to convene all sides and try to come up
with a federal forest plan for Oregon that can win over federal
Oregon voters apparently wanted
someone who could bring people together more than they wanted
Smith, who has always been firmly entrenched in the Republican
Party's right wing. His blunt, negative, get-tough-on crime
campaign against Kitzhaber promised no new taxes but was short on
spelling out how the state will meet its obligations with shrinking
Oregon environmentalists could not
muster the clout to pass an initiative that would have required
companies using the cyanide heap-leach process to refill the huge
pits, restore land and water to their original condition, and post
bonds guaranteeing perpetual monitoring of closed mines. The
citizen measure failed by a 3-to-2
Newmont Mining Co. of Denver, which hopes
to develop a gold mine near the eastern Oregon town of Vale, spent
at least $4 million to defeat the measure, making this by far the
most expensive of the state's 18 initiative campaigns.
Conservationists, who called their campaign Stop Toxic Open Pit
Mines (STOP'M), reported spending $120,000 in cash and in-kind
Newmont hired lawyers and a public
relations firm to argue that the measure was unnecessary because
Oregon already has the nation's most stringent environmental law.
Chief petitioner Larry Tuttle says he'll be back with a streamlined
initiative in 1996. He counted the campaign a success, saying it
helped educate the public about an issue that "wasn't even a blip
on most people's screens' six months ago.
voters narrowly passed a law banning the hunting of bears with
poison bait and the hunting of both bears and cougars with dogs.
Proponents used television ads to drive home their message that
those methods were cruel and unsporting. To the dismay of bill
backers, the ban won't be in effect until next year's hunting
season. The measure was opposed by the Oregon Department of Fish
Oregon's two Republican U.S.
senators were among the election's biggest winners, though neither
was up for re-election this year. Sen. Mark Hatfield will chair the
powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, while Sen. Bob Packwood,
still facing a Senate Ethics Committee investigation for alleged
sexual improprieties, will regain chairmanship of the Senate
Finance Committee. The Finance Committee will play a decisive role
in Clinton's attempts to achieve health care and welfare
On two hot-button morality issues, Oregon
voters narrowly rejected an anti-gay-rights initiative but approved
Republicans scored a clean sweep in Idaho, securing complete
control of state government with the surprise election of Wilder
onion farmer Phil Batt to the governor's office. Batt, who is the
first Republican governor in 24 years, beat Democrat Larry EchoHawk
by 30,000 votes. EchoHawk was considered the front-runner until the
final three weeks of the campaign. He had resigned as Idaho's
attorney general to attempt to succeed retiring Gov. Cecil
By a substantial margin of 56-44,
two-term 1st District Congressman Larry LaRocco also lost, defeated
by Helen Chenoweth. A former aide to former Sen. Steve Symms, she
became known during the campaign for saying Snake River sockeye and
chinook salmon were not endangered "because you can buy salmon in a
can at Albertson's."
LaRocco tried to depict
Chenoweth as a radical who wanted to mine the Sawtooth Wilderness,
but it didn't work. A late-breaking story about an affair that
LaRocco had six years ago with a woman who worked at his brokerage
firm apparently had a major impact on the outcome. He achieved a 46
percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters in
With LaRocco's defeat, environmentalists
lost their only friend among the state's congressional delegation.
Republican Sens. Larry Craig and Dirk Kempthorne, and Rep. Mike
Crapo, R-Idaho, all earned a "zero" rating from the
Overall, Idaho seemed to join the general
anti-Washington D.C., anti-Clinton, anti-Democratic feeling among
voters that swept the nation.
"It may have been
more of a feeling of "throw out the bastards' more than anything
else," says John Freemuth, a Boise State University political
science professor. Freemuth notes that EchoHawk lost by a larger
margin than LaRocco, "and there weren't any concerns about his
Under a new law, Idaho allowed
voters to register on the day of the election, boosting turnout to
70 percent, up 10 percent from the last off-year election in
"I don't know if this election is an
indication of an anti-conservation feeling among the voters or the
side-effect of something else," says Idaho environmentalist Pat
Ford. "But we got absolutely bombed."
retiring Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus out of the way, Republicans
may try to push issues blocked by vetoes in the past. They include
regulatory takings legislation, a bill blocking environmentalists
from bidding on state leases for purposes other than livestock
grazing, and legislation weakening the state's water quality
At the federal level,
environmentalists expect Idaho's delegation to craft a small
wilderness bill that releases most of Idaho's 9 million acres of
pristine national forest land for logging and development. All of
the statewide Republican candidates in Idaho talked up a
neo-Sagebrush Rebellion, calling for the release of federal lands
to the state and private interests.
he expected to see that issue gain more attention in the West, but
"just like the Sagebrush Rebellion in the "70s, that issue is more
about re-centering the federal land-management agencies than
selling off the federal lands."
As tempting as
it may be for Republicans to roll environmentalists on a host of
issues, "they ought to be careful," Freemuth says. "For every
action, there's a reaction."
These stories were written
by Paul Larmer, Paonia, Colorado; Kathie Durbin, Portland, Oregon;
Todd Wilkinson, Bozeman, Montana; Tony Davis, Albuquerque, New
Mexico; Steve Stuebner, Boise, Idaho; and Jon Christensen, Carson