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Know the West

Election Bounce


Most green initiatives and proposals across the West failed at the ballot box Nov. 5. Oregon voters rejected a measure that would have required the labeling of genetically engineered foods; Montanans won't be buying back any private hydroelectric dams (HCN, 10/14/02: Montanans may take back their dams); and in Utah, both the Radioactive Waste Restrictions Act and San Rafael Swell National Monument failed (HCN, 10/14/02: Utahns could kill radioactive dump); (HCN, 2/18/02: Groundswell for a monument?). Finally, despite opposition from conservationists, California's Hetch Hetchy Dam will get a $1.6 billion face-lift.

A few bright spots did shine through the election haze that left environmentalists clutching their chests: Seattle will get a new monorail system and Nevada voters approved $200 million for conservation spending. And New Mexico's Green Party hasn't lost its sex appeal after all: Gubernatorial candidate David Bacon received 5 percent of the statewide vote and restored the Greens to major party status (HCN, 10/14/02: New Mexico Greens lose steam).

The coveted "Indian vote" helped U.S. Senate incumbent Tim Johnson, D-S.D., beat his Republican opponent by about 520 votes. But it didn't pan out for Democrat George Cordova in Arizona's brand-new 7th Congressional District. Despite heavy campaigning on the Navajo reservation, the self-proclaimed "Little Mexican" lost to Republican businessman Rick Renzi.

Environmentalists called it one of the hottest races in the country, but Colorado's Senate seat was easily won by one of the League of Conservation Voter's "dirty dozen." Republican Wayne Allard knocked out Democrat Tom Strickland by more than 5 percentage points.

In Idaho, Republicans swept all but one statewide race, but Democrats managed to double their feeble presence in the state Legislature, gaining 11 seats. "It's still the most Republican legislature in the U.S.," says Darci Yarrington, director of Voters for Outdoor Idaho.

Northwest voters maintained the status quo. Oregon voters re-elected most of their incumbents in Congress, including Republican Sen. Gordon Smith, four Democratic Representatives, and one Republican Rep. In Washington, all incumbents - six Democrats, including Jay Inslee and Rick Larsen, and three Republicans - were also re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.