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Bush Plans Visit to Region Friday

by Chris Mulick, Herald Olympia Bureau
Tri-City Herald, August 20, 2003

President Bush will tour Ice Harbor Dam east of Pasco on Friday, making him the first sitting president to visit the Tri-City area in 32 years, the White House announced Tuesday.

Richard Nixon was the last president to visit, arriving Sept. 26, 1971, to dedicate the Battelle-Northwest building in Richland.

Bush is scheduled to fly to the Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco on Friday morning before being whisked out to the Snake River dam to tour the facility and talk about fish recovery.

It will be his first stop in Washington since being elected in 2000. The event will be open only to ticketed individuals and will be Bush's only public appearance in Washington. He also is scheduled to attend a private $2,000-a-ticket fund-raiser for his re-election campaign Friday afternoon in Bellevue.

Though Washington's electoral votes have gone to Democrats in each presidential election since Ronald Reagan last claimed the Evergreen State for the GOP in 1984, Republican operatives believe the state is winnable next year.

It's not an official campaign visit -- Bush's speech at Ice Harbor is expected to "highlight efforts to improve salmon habitat," a White House official said -- but it might as well be.

"I think it will show the importance of our area to the rest of the country," said Brenda Alford, Republican Party chairwoman in Franklin County and vice chairwoman of the state party. She praised Bush for his "common-sense environmentalism."

It'll be the second trip to the Mid-Columbia for Bush. He stopped in Pasco the day before Washington's 2000 presidential primary and won favor for opposing the breaching of the four lower Snake River dams -- including Ice Harbor.

Vice presidential running mate Dick Cheney campaigned in Pasco the night before the fabled general election, the results of which were hung up for five weeks in legal wrestling over disputed votes in Florida.

Bush ultimately lost Washington to Democrat Al Gore but predictably fared well in Eastern Washington, beating Gore by nearly 2-to-1 margins in Benton and Franklin counties.

"We supported him heavily," said Gene Astley, Republican Party chairman in Benton County. "I would hope this was his way of rewarding us."

Bush's election ended serious discussion about breaching the Columbia-Snake river system dams, and his administration has sought other alternatives for salmon recovery, much of which a federal judge has ordered to be rewritten.

Environmental organizations are mobilizing this week, scheduling news conferences to criticize the president's environmental record. Sara Patton, director of the green-leaning Northwest Energy Coalition, said she was surprised Bush would talk about his record in the region, which generally thinks of itself as being environmentally conscious.

"I'm not sure what he expects to achieve on this trip," she said, criticizing Bush for not spending more to implement his own salmon recovery plans.

Local Democrats also figure to make themselves heard, said Jim Price, a party leader in the Tri-Cities who criticized Bush's environmental and fiscal policies.

"You don't think we're going to let something like that go without at least a passing protest?" he asked. "We don't like what he's doing to the country."

Bush will be arriving from Redmond, Ore., where he is scheduled Thursday to tour the Deschutes National Forest to promote his Healthy Forests Initiative. He is expected to attend a campaign fund-raiser in Portland earlier Thursday.

Chris Mulick
Bush Plans Visit to Region Friday
Tri-City Herald, August 20, 2003

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