The morning after the elections, Carl Pope and Deb Callahan, heads of the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters respectively, held a jubilant conference call with the press:
"The message from
yesterday's election comes down to two words - environment wins.
Voters supported those committed to protecting our environment,"
began Callahan. "The nation's water and air are safer today than
they were yesterday."
Not in the West. The
League's "dirty dozen" campaign fared well nationally - six out of
12 candidates targeted were defeated - but after nearly $10 million
spent by the two national groups, not a single U.S. Senate or House
race targeted by environmentalists in the inland West went the way
they wanted. Take away the coastal states of Washington and Oregon,
and the West is almost solidly Republican.
are now only four Democratic congresspeople in the eight
inland-West states: two in the Denver area and one each in New
Mexico and Arizona. There are 12 Republican senators and four
Democratic senators: Richard Bryan and Harry Reid in Nevada, Jeff
Bingaman in New Mexico, and Max Baucus in Montana. In the
governors' mansions, only Roy Romer in Colorado and Bob Miller in
Nevada are Democrats. The other six are Republicans.
Things are only marginally more Democratic in
the coastal states. While Democrats have managed to get elected
around the coastal cities - there are four Democrats out of five
congresspeople in Oregon and three out of nine in Washington - all
seven are in metropolitan or suburban areas. Rural eastern and
central Oregon and Washington send Republicans to Congress, as does
California east of the Sierras and north of the Bay Area. In the
U.S. Senate, both Oregon and Washington have one Republican and one
Democrat. The states both have Democratic governors: John Kitzhaber
in Oregon and newly elected Gary Locke in
The Republican landscape is not the
result of this year's election or even the 1994 revolution. It is
the result of an evolution - a methodical weeding of Democrats that
has gone on for years. This year, three-term Democratic
Representative Bill Orton of Utah was defeated, possibly in
response to Clinton's designation of the Escalante-Grand Staircase
National Monument in his district. Montana's sole House seat, which
had been in Democrat Pat Williams' hands since 1978, went to
Republican Rick Hill.
The state legislatures in
the 10 Western states have followed the same path. Twenty years
ago, Democrats controlled the state legislatures in six states and
controlled one chamber in two other states. Republicans controlled
two state legislatures. Today, only New Mexico's state Legislature
has a majority of Democrats in both chambers. In Nevada, the
Democrats control the House. In the other eight states, Republicans
control both chambers.
Rick Johnson of the
Idaho Conservation League considers Idaho state Senator Mary Lou
Reed's loss the most telling. "As I've talked to people around the
country, everyone wants to talk about the (Senate candidate Walt)
Minnick race. But to give a sense of how elections went, I tell
them that Mary Lou lost." Reed, an environmentalist from Idaho's
Panhandle who has withstood the Republican tide for 12 years,
succumbed this year. When she was elected in 1984, there were 21
Democrats and 21 Republicans in the Idaho Senate. By 1994, that had
shrunk to eight Democrats; now there are five.
"Everyone said it couldn't
get worse. It did," says Dave Crandall of the Northern Rockies
Campaign in Boise, Idaho. Like many of the region's
environmentalists, Crandall put more energy and resources into this
election than any previously. "Idaho is much more of a conservative
state than many of us wanted to believe. People moving in are
fitting the same profile as the people that are already here."
Do environmentalists need a new election plan
for these states? No, say the national groups. "We are happy with
the six out of 11 (of the dirty dozen - one is undecided) we
defeated," says Burt Glass of the League of Conservation Voters.
"We're not going to rush to conclusions that our pro-environmental
message can't play in Idaho."
The Sierra Club
and the League of Conservation Voters aren't completely off base
when they say that environmental issues played well in the
elections. The "War on the West" rhetoric from earlier years was
put to rest, and candidates targeted by environmental groups
scrambled to put a green spin on their reputations. Idaho Sen.
Larry Craig, known as the mining industry's strongest supporter,
ran ads showing him river rafting and fishing, and Colorado
Senator-elect Wayne Allard, who as a congressman voted to sell off
Forest Service land to ski areas, tried to claim the environmental
high ground by painting his opponent, Democrat Tom Strickland, as a
lawyer for polluters.
So the environment was
definitely an issue, but it didn't elect Democrats. For one thing,
in the public-land states, the Republican Party is generously
supported by the resource-based industries. In the two House races
where Democratic seats went to Republicans, the Democrats were
grossly outspent: In Montana, for example, Republican Rick Hill
spent an estimated twice as much as Democrat Bill Yellowtail.
But more than money, in many Western states,
the Democratic party lacks the infrastructure to compete, says
Johnson. "They don't have a precinct structure. They haven't done
the legwork it takes to build a party."
future, Johnson would like conservationists to field candidates who
have no party affiliation or who are Republicans. He says this
worked on the local level in Boise, Idaho, where conservative
voters elected two progressive environmentalists to the state's
The candidates never
mentioned their party affiliation while campaigning.
Here are some election details:
Arizona could have skipped this election. Every incumbent held his
congressional seat. In the 1st District, Republican Matt Salmon
beat Democrat John Cox. In the 2nd District, Democrat Ed Pastor
beat Republican Jim Buster. In the 3rd, Republican Bob Stump beat
Democrat Alexander Schneider. In the 4th, Republican John Shadegg
beat Democrat Maria Elena Milton. In the 5th, Republican Jim Kolbe
beat Democrat Mort Nelson. In the 6th, Republican freshman J.D.
Hayworth, who was targeted by environmentalists, beat Democrat
Wayne Owens by 2 percentage points.
environmentalists celebrated the defeat of Republican freshman Rep.
Andrea Seastrand by Democrat Walter Holden Capps in the Santa
Barbara district, in the northern, rural district, Republican Rep.
Frank Riggs handily defeated Democratic challenger Michela Alioto.
Colorado broke its habit of having both a Democratic and Republican
senator by electing Republican Wayne Allard over Democrat Tom
Strickland to the Senate. Although there were two open House seats,
neither changed parties. In the 1st District, which is mostly
Denver, Democrat Diana DeGette beat Republican Joe Rogers for
retiring Democrat Pat Schroeder's seat. In the 2nd District, which
centers on liberal Boulder, Democrat David Skaggs beat Republican
Pat Miller. In the 3rd District, Republican Scott McInnis beat
Democrat Al Gurule. In the 4th, Republican Robert Schaffer beat
Democrat Guy Kelley for now-Senator Wayne Allard's seat. In the
5th, Republican Joel Hefley beat Democrat Mike Robinson. In the
6th, Republican Dan Shaefer beat Democrat Joan
In Idaho, all Republicans won re-election.
Sen. Larry Craig beat challenger Democrat Walt Minnick. In the 1st
District, which is centered on Boise, Helen Chenoweth barely
survived a challenge by Democrat Dan Williams. In the 2nd District,
in eastern Idaho, Michael Crapo easily beat Democrat John
When Democratic candidate for Montana
governor Chet Blaylock died a few weeks before elections, popular
Republican incumbent Marc Racicot was virtually assured
re-election. He won, as did Democratic Sen. Max Baucus. In the race
to replace retiring Rep. Pat Williams, Republican Rick Hill beat
Democrat Bill Yellowtail for Montana's sole House seat.
Nevada's two congressional districts held no surprises. Incumbent
Republican John Ensign beat Democrat Bob Coffin in the Las Vegas
district. In the vast 2nd District, Republican Jim Gibbons beat
Democrat Thomas Wilson for retiring Republican Barbara Vucanovich's
Nothing changed in New Mexico as a result
of the elections. Republican Sen. Pete Domenici easily won
re-election, as did all three representatives. In the 1st District,
which contains most of Albuquerque, Republican Steven Schiff beat
Democrat John Wertheim. In the southern 2nd District, Republican
Joe Skeen beat Democrat Shirley Baca. In the northern 3rd District,
Democrat Bill Richardson beat Republican William Redmond.
Environmentalists found a reason to celebrate in Oregon. Forest
supporter Democrat Elizabeth Furse won re-election over challenger
Republican Bill Witt in the 1st Congressional District, which
contains part of Portland, and in the 5th District,
environmentalist Darlene Hooley beat Republican freshman Jim Bunn.
In the rural 2nd District, which contains over half the land in the
state, Republican Bob Smith beat Democrat Mike Dugan for the seat
vacated by disgraced Wes Cooley. In the 3rd District, which
contains the rest of Portland, Democrat Earl Blumenauer beat
Republican Scott Bruun. In the 4th District, which contains liberal
Eugene, Democrat Peter DeFazio beat Republican John Newkirk.
Republican Gordon Smith won his second try in a year for Senate. He
beat software tycoon Democrat Tom Bruggere.
Like neighboring Idaho
and Wyoming, Utah now has an entirely Republican congressional
delegation. In the 1st District, James Hansen easily won
re-election over Democratic contendor Gregory Sanders. In the 2nd
District, Republican Merrill Cook finally won an election, after
six tries at office. The explosives magnate beat liberal Ross
Anderson for Enid Greene's (formerly Enid Waldholtz) Salt Lake City
seat. In the 3rd District, Democrat Bill Orton lost his seat to
Republican challenger Christopher Cannon. Popular Republican
Governor Mike Leavitt easily won re-election.
the brunt of the Republican storm in 1994, Washington democrats
took back one congressional seat: Democrat Adam Smith defeated
Republican freshman Randy Tate in the 9th District, south of
Seattle. Incumbents won the rest of the races. In the 1st District,
which includes part of Seattle, Republican Rick White beat Democrat
Jeff Coopersmith. In the central 4th District, Richard Hastings
beat Democrat Rick Locke. In the eastern 5th District, Republican
George Nethercutt beat Democrat Judy Olson. In the 6th District,
Democrat Norm Dicks beat Republican Bill Tinsley. In the 7th
District, Democrat Jim McDermott beat Republican Frank Kleschen. In
the 8th District, Republican Jennifer Dunn beat Democrat Dave
Little. At the time of this writing, two races are too close to
call: In the 3rd District, Republican Linda Smith has a narrow lead
over Democrat Brian Baird and in the 2nd District, Republican Jack
Metcalf has a narrow lead over Democrat Kevin Quigley. Washington
voters elected Gary Locke as governor; he will become the
continental United States' first Asian governor.
Wyoming stayed as Republican as ever.
Mining booster Mike Enzi beat former Secretary of State and
National Rifle Association supporter Kathy Karpan for retiring Sen.
Alan Simpson's seat. Barbara Cubin held onto the state's sole House
Industry opposition knocked off the
three most far-reaching environmental initiatives. Montana's clean
water initiative, which would have forced new or expanding mines to
treat their wastewater, was outspent by $2.2 million to $350,000.
Oregon's clean streams initiative was soundly defeated by the
ranching and agriculture industries. Idaho's anti-nuclear waste
initiative, Stop the Shipments, was defeated in part because of the
confusion the pro-nuclear groups created by calling their group Get
the Waste Out.
Pro-gambling initiatives lost in
the West, 2-to-1. In Colorado, voters soundly defeated Amendment
18, which would have allowed the historic town of Trinidad to
operate limited stakes casinos if locals voted for it in a special
election. In Washington, Initiative 671 also failed. It would have
allowed 19 tribes to legally operate a total of 495 slots. In
Arizona, voters approved Proposition 201, which demands that
Governor Fife Symington sign gaming compacts with the five tribes
that don't operate gambling.
initiatives fared better. Only in Idaho did voters turn down the
chance to restrict hunting. Voters in Colorado and Washington
approved measures to restrict trapping and hunting and Oregon
voters rejected a measure to overturn the ban on hounding and
baiting. Initiatives preserving open space did very well: Colorado
can now manage its state trust lands for values besides money, such
as open space, agriculture or wildlife.
Heather Abel is a staff reporter and researcher