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Why, oh why, is There No Dam Talk?

by Dave Postman
Seattle Times, May 12, 2000

With Vice President Al Gore headed to Oregon today, Republicans pushed the Democrats' presidential candidate to take a stand on the politically volatile question of Snake River dam removal. And it was The Oregonian newspaper leading the charge.

GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush said he opposes breaching the dams. And he chided Gore, who often touts his environmental credentials, for remaining mum on an issue the Clinton administration has been juggling.

"What the American people want is a leader who doesn't try to take polls and focus groups to decide an issue," Bush told KGW-TV in an interview. ". . . And the fact that he will not may indicate what kind of president he will be."

Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., scheduled time on the Senate floor to press the matter, too.

The Oregonian got the bandwagon rolling earlier this week by publishing an "analysis" piece with the headline, "Ducking on dams could cost Gore." And yesterday, the editorial page said Gore was "conspicuously silent" about the proposed breaching of four dams on the Lower Snake River.

The word from Gore? Zip. His schedule calls for a talk at Portland Community College on workers and Social Security.

David Chai, a Gore spokesman, says the vice president does closely follow the issue of salmon and dam-breaching (good to know), and that scientists need to keep working on a long-term strategy. It's too soon to rule out any option, including the breaching of dams, Chai said.

Expect more dam sniping next week when Bush comes to Seattle. He is scheduled to attend three fund-raising events benefiting state and national Republican candidates, as well as his own campaign.

Gorton: warm and Skeletor

The initial polling for Gorton's re-election campaign posed a daunting challenge: The consultants reported back that voters wanted him to be warm and funny. The Republican's chief of staff, Tony Williams, was flummoxed. "How exactly do you make Skeletor warm and funny?"

Williams' quip came last Friday at The Washington State Society's 40th Annual Potlatch, a gathering of congressional delegation members, staff and business interests in the nation's capital. Boeing and Microsoft were among the evening's sponsors.

Oysters on the half shell and salmon were served with wines from Washington state vineyards at a reception before the dinner at the Capitol Hilton hotel. Later, dozens of prizes - from golf umbrellas to free airplane tickets, to Mariner tickets - were given away. (The name "potlatch" comes from a social event among Northwest Indian tribes that involved the sharing of one's wealth.)

Gorton didn't make it to the dinner, but his wife, Sally, was there to hear Williams, the evening's master of ceremonies. She wasn't smiling at the quip.

But Williams has nothing to fear. Gorton himself has been joking, too, referring to himself as Skeletor, the villain of 1980s cartoon superhero He-Man.

Rudy learned his lesson

Rudy Crew, former chancellor of New York city schools, only recently relocated to the Northwest as director for the UW Institute for K-12 Leadership. But his well-publicized fights with New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and passion for education was well-known among those attending a scholarship fund-raiser for Hispanic students at the Columbia Tower in downtown Seattle.

Gov. Gary Locke, of all people, didn't want to be rude and make his entry to the room just as Crew had begun his speech. With an entourage of aides and TV cameras trailing him, the governor offered to stand to the side, rather than take his seat at the table, until Crew finished his speech.

But New York's ex-schools' chief beckoned Locke into the room: "Please, please," he said, waving him forward with a smile. "I got thrown out of a city for not knowing politics. I know them now."

Democratic musical chairs

Now that state Lands Commissioner Jennifer Belcher has announced she won't seek re-election, one potential Democratic contender has pulled himself out of speculation. And another has jumped into the race.

King County Councilman Larry Phillips said yesterday he has decided against a statewide campaign due to family considerations. In the race is state Sen. Georgia Gardner, D-Blaine. Other Democrats - Olympia Mayor Stan Biles and state Sens. Tracey Eide of Federal Way and Jim Hargrove of Hoquiam - are still weighing their options. Among Republicans, the candidate is Pierce County Executive Doug Sutherland.

Inside Politics is written by Times politics and government reporters and compiled by David Postman
Why, oh why, is There No Dam Talk?
Seattle Times - May 12, 2000

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