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Locke Called Eco-Unfriendly

by Ralph Thomas
Seattle Times - May 24, 2000

OLYMPIA - Some of Washington's most influential environmental leaders and organizations say Gov. Gary Locke has been a disappointment, and they are turning tepid on his 2000 re-election campaign.

The governor kicked off his campaign today, with rallies planned in Spokane and Seattle. But environmentalists - who are typically key to the base of a statewide Democratic campaign - are withholding cash, turning down requests to host fund-raisers and, in a few cases, even questioning whether to vote for Locke.

"Sometimes it may be better to have an enemy in that office than someone who feigns to be a friend," said Peter Goldman, founder and director of the Washington Forest Law Center, a Seattle-based firm that specializes in forest-management issues.

"(Locke) cannot take the environmental community for granted. We are sick of being slapped in the face."

Throughout his four-year term, Locke has been criticized for being overly cautious and lacking leadership. Environmental leaders say they are angry at Locke for his timber policies and failing to show the leadership they think is necessary to save Washington's endangered salmon. For example, they want him to endorse the removal of dams in Eastern Washington; he opposes it.

It's unclear how much the grumbling will hurt Locke's campaign. But those most unhappy with the Democratic governor collectively represent tens of thousands of voters and potential campaign volunteers, and they control large sums of campaign money, all of which are key elements in a winning statewide campaign.

Blair Butterworth, Locke's campaign consultant, shrugs off the lack of support from environmentalists as part of the "natural cycles of politics." He said environmental leaders supported Locke's Democratic opponents during the 1996 primary, then backed Locke once they saw the Republican alternative in the general election.

"This is not a referendum on Locke, this is an election, a choice between two people," Butterworth said. "In campaigns, some come early, some come in the middle, some come late. But in the end, they'll all be there."

Locke, nonetheless, has been trying in recent weeks to patch things by meeting with key environmental leaders. "He's like any elected official - he wants everyone to support him," Butterworth said.

Environmentalists are not the only ones trying to get their point across to Locke. Transit workers say Locke has not stood by them in their fight against Initiative 695, which ripped holes in local transit budgets by cutting Washington's car-tab fees. On the day a judge ruled in the workers' favor that I-695 is unconstitutional, Locke backed legislation to keep the popular $30 car tabs in place.

Barry Samet of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 587, which represents more than 3,400 transit workers, is encouraging them to use a little symbolism to show their unhappiness.

He suggests they donate only $30, the price of license tabs, to Locke's campaign. "Give him what he thinks we could survive with," Samet said.

Fewer campaign workers?

Environmental leaders admit it's doubtful many environmentalists would vote for a Republican, such as John Carlson or state Sen. Harold Hochstatter, over Locke.

The bigger problem for Locke, they say, is the potential loss in grass-roots workers. Statewide candidates rely on volunteers to stuff envelopes, make phone calls and put up yard signs.

And this year, environmentalists will be more focused on assisting Democrats in other statewide contests, such as the bid to unseat U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton and to hold on to the powerful state lands-commissioner seat, said Jim Young, the Sierra Club's Northwest representative.

"There are a lot of races that are going to be vying for people's time, attention and money," he said. The Sierra Club has about 20,000 members in Washington.

It's not as though Locke has ever been the environmentalists' dream governor. They view him as pro-growth, friendly to big corporations and generally having no real passion for fish and trees.

Still, Locke calls himself an environmentalist - "I love the woods, I love hiking and camping" - and can rattle off a long list of things he says his administration has done. His campaign Web site, for instance, touts increased fines against polluters, more money for salmon restoration and a new law controlling hazardous metals in fertilizers.

"I'm very proud of my record on the environment," he said in an interview. "Will we always agree 100 percent? I don't agree with labor 100 percent. I don't agree with fellow Democrats 100 percent. But we're making a lot of progress in this state."

Environmentalists themselves point out that when Republicans controlled the Legislature during the first two years of Locke's term, he helped block several attempts to weaken the state's Growth Management Act. But for many, fond memories of Locke's early record have been pushed aside by more recent events.

"Gary Locke has always considered himself a business Democrat, and sometimes that puts him at odds with environmentalists," said Ed Zuckerman, executive director of Washington Conservation Voters, a political-action committee that keeps a mailing list of more than 100,000 "green" voters.

At odds over forests and fish

Some are still seething over the so-called Forest and Fish Agreement, legislation Locke pushed through last year with help from the timber industry and over objections from environmentalists. The 50-year pact between the state and timber owners stiffened logging rules along salmon streams in exchange for tax breaks.

Backers say it will improve protection for aquatic species and allow continued logging despite the listing of fish runs in rivers across the state for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Opponents say it's a risky approach that might not assure protection for salmon.

"This is a better deal for the industry than it is for fish," said Josh Baldi, lobbyist for the Washington Environmental Council.

Some are just as angry about the way the agreement came about. They say environmentalists were excluded from the final negotiations.

Locke has a different recollection: "The environmentalists were part of the process until they left the table," he said. "We were constantly urging them to come back."

Environmentalists also point to the debate over whether to breach four dams on the Lower Snake River to revive devastated salmon runs. Some Democrats, such as Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, favor breaching, and others, like presidential candidate Vice President Al Gore, are calling for further study.

Earlier this year, Locke aligned with Republicans, such as Gorton and presidential candidate Texas Gov. George W. Bush, by announcing that he opposes tearing down the dams.

Goldman, of the Forest Law Center, said the displeasure with Locke is costing him money; he knows people who have declined to host fund-raisers for Locke.

"There are people who grimace at the thought of hosting or attending a Gary Locke fund-raiser," said Goldman, who, along with his wife, Martha Kongsgaard, ranks among the state's top Democratic campaign donors. Together they contributed $2,200 to Locke's 1996 campaign.

"I haven't given him a dime this year," Goldman said.

Likewise, Seattle software-magnate-turned-environmental-activist Paul Brainerd, another big Democratic donor, has not given to Locke's campaign. He gave $1,000 in 1996.

He views Locke's need for campaign cash as an opportunity to "engage the governor" on environmental issues. "Most politicians, come election time, want to be your friend," he said.

Ralph Thomas
Locke Called Eco-Unfriendly
Seattle Times, May 24, 2000

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