Two weeks in the West

 

November is the most political month, for better or worse, even in odd-numbered years. 

Thus we've just learned that two more of the West's top Republicans are quitting: Wyoming Rep. Barbara Cubin and Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo both announced that they won't run for re-election when their terms expire next year. They're joining a crowd on the sidelines, as four other party leaders - Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, Colorado Sen. Wayne Allard, New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici and Arizona Rep. Rick Renzi - have already announced they're quitting. 

Cubin says she needs to spend time with her husband, who is ill. Tancredo says he's done all he can in the House (mostly trying to choke Latino immigration, unsuccessfully) and now he'll focus on running for president (a race he'll almost certainly lose). Some of the other quitters are mired in scandal. General message: It's a bad time to be a Republican candidate, with President George W. Bush's ratings as low as a sunset. 

They announced their decision to be toast - far in advance of next November's big election - in order to give their party a chance to settle on good replacement candidates. Still, those six Western seats in Congress will suddenly have no incumbents. It raises Democrats' hopes of taking one or more in the swirl of the region's political swing dance. 

Meanwhile, in actual elections, there were two intriguing themes: Voters in fast-growing Western communities - rural as well as urban - showed support for land-use planning and candidates who would manage development. The other theme could be called convergence politics. 

Foremost, Oregon voters passed Measure 49, restoring many land-use regulations that had been blown apart in 2004 by the West's most famous ballot initiative ever, Measure 37. Now the regs are like the porridge Goldilocks settled on - not too hot and not too cold - and Oregon landowners can build modest developments that suit the character of neighborhoods. 

Then there's the convergent part: Measure 49 was endorsed by the Oregon Farm Bureau, which often spurns regulations but now wants to protect farmland. It won a majority of votes in several conservative rural counties. Statewide, it won an impressive 61 percent, largely thanks to the usual green suspects in Portland and Eugene. 

Elsewhere, voters in Helena, Mont., and Boulder County and Longmont, Colo., decided to tax themselves to buy more open-space lands or improve parks. Candidates who took pro-planning positions won local races in Idaho's Teton County (recently discovered by developers) and in metro Boise. Three such candidates won city council seats in Las Cruces, N.M., including Nathan Small, who's a "wilderness protection organizer" for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance. 

Seattle had a different kind of convergence. Two ballot measures there would've addressed transportation gridlock with new mass transit and roads, funded by new taxes. The Sierra Club joined conservative anti-tax folks in opposing the package, and voters rejected it. The Sierra Club, concerned about emissions that cause global warming, wants new mass transit without new roads. The group's exit polls showed that most voters feel the same way. Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and the enviros vow to present voters with a light-rail proposal next year, hoping it'll pass on its own. 

Nearly every Westerner in Congress voted for the oasis-like Water Resources Development Act, which would spend $23 billion on water projects scattered from Florida's Everglades to the Yakima River port in Washington. They piled on as Congress overrode Bush's veto of the bill. This is the same Congress that can't override Bush on Iraq policy. Water-project convergence is truly unstoppable. 

In Montana, moderate Republican legislator Bill Jones of Bigfork announced he won't run for re-election next year, because he thinks the Republican Party has gone too hard-line right. "My party has pushed a lot of people like me out," Jones told the Billings Gazette. The 68-year-old dentist opposes abortion, but converges with independents and Democrats on education and health-care issues. 

In Arizona, first-time congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a Democrat, married a NASA astronaut, in a ceremony at an organic farm south of Tucson - a personal convergence. And in Nevada, Las Vegas magicians Siegfried & Roy announced their endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Seeking passionate full-time Executive to lead the oldest non-profit organization in Idaho. Must have knowledge of environmental issues, excellent organizational, verbal presentation and written skills,...
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR WATER PLANNING WITH WRA'S HEALTHY RIVERS PROGRAM
    Founded in 1989, Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is dedicated to protecting the Wests land, air, and water to ensure that vibrant communities exist in balance...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • NON-PROFIT OPERATIONS MANAGER
    One of the most renowned community-based collaboratives in the country seeks full-time Operations Manager to oversee administrative, financial, fund development, and board development duties. BS/BA...
  • RUSTIC HORSE PROPERTY
    in NM. 23 acres, off the grid, rustic cabin, organic gardens, fruit trees, fenced, call 505-204-8432 evenings.
  • DIRECTOR OF VISITOR SERVICES & BOOKSTORE OPERATIONS
    The San Juan Mountains Association in Durango, CO is seeking a Director of Visitor Services & Bookstore Operations to lead our visitor information program &...
  • SOLAR POWERED HOME NEAR CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK
    1800 sf home on 4.12 acres surrounded by Natl Forest and recreational opportunities in a beautiful area (Happy Valley) between Torrey and Boulder. [email protected], www.bouldermoutainreality/properties/grover/off-the-grid-in-happy-valley,...
  • 40 ACRE ORGANIC FARM
    potential fruit/hay with house, Hotchkiss, CO, Scott Ellis, 970-420-0472, [email protected]
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a 25-year legacy of success...
  • LAND CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Manage, develop and implement all stewardship and land management plans and activities on both private and public lands. Guide and direct comprehensive planning efforts, provide...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    If you are deeply committed to public service and would like to become part of our high performing, passionate and diverse team, NCAT is looking...
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • FORGE & FAB SHOP
    with home on one beautiful acre in Pocatello, ID. Blackrock Forge - retiring after 43 years! Fully equipped 5,500 sf shop including office, gallery and...
  • SMALL FARM AT THE BASE OF MOUNT SHASTA
    Certified organic fruit/berry/veggie/flower farm. Home, barns, garage, separate apt, more. Just under 2 ac, edge of town. Famously pure air and water. Skiing, mountaineering, bike,...
  • FOREST STEWARDSHIP PROJECT DIRECTOR
    Become a force for nature and a healthy planet by joining the Arizona Chapter as Forest Stewardship Project Director. You will play a key role...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.