Thousands to Back Dams, Water Rights
by Chris Mulick, Herald staff writer
Several thousand dam backers and opponents of federal attempts to limit water rights are expected to attend a rally Friday in Pasco that is expected to draw a bevy of Republican candidates.
Among them is to be a "high-level national figure" to stump for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush. That figure still could be Bush himself, though rumors about a host of other national figures have been flying as thick as fruit flies on a cluster of wine grapes.
Bush running mate Dick Cheney, retired Gen. Colin Powell and former President George Bush all have been rumored to be the mystery figure, though the local Bush campaign said Tuesday that it didn't know who it would be.
Sen. Slade Gorton, Reps. George Nethercutt and Doc Hastings and Republican gubernatorial candidate John Carlson are expected to show, as are politicians from Oregon and Idaho.
The event is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Trade, Recreation and Agricultural Center and is expected to run until 8 p.m.
Mike Hewitt, a Walla Walla Republican who is challenging State Sen. Valoria Loveland, D-Pasco, began putting the program together two weeks ago in an effort to increase his visibility in the Tri-Cities. But big-name Republican lawmakers and other trade organizations began offering their support.
Now, Hewitt said, the event will be the "largest political rally the east side has ever seen."
Though Hewitt says it didn't start out as a partisan event, no Democratic lawmaker has been invited.
"It's our rally. Why would we invite a Democrat?" Hewitt asked.
Loveland, the Senate's top budget writer facing a tough challenge from Hewitt, brushed it off, saying there's been plenty of support from Democrats in Washington for saving the four lower Snake River dams.
"It's just a political thing," Loveland said.
Bob Anderson, chairman of the Benton County Democratic Central Committee, said prospects for saving the dams have only worsened under the Republican-led Congress.
"This issue has just gotten worse and worse and worse," he said.
Though no one will be surprised by the content of the rally speeches, the event should help mobilize Mid-Columbia voters just days before an election, said Dean Boyer, a spokesman for the Washington Farm Bureau.
"This is, without a doubt, a get-out-the-vote rally," he said. "This is to get people enthused. We feel this is an extremely critical election for farmers and rural Washington."
Further, with tight races for president, U.S. Senate and Loveland's post, voters are being courted more aggressively than usual.
"We realize this is a very close election," Boyer said. "We can't afford to have anybody not vote because they don't think it matters."
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