I am a conservationist, says McKenna
Rob McKenna has taken hits from green groups with Democratic ties, but the Republican gubernatorial candidate calls himself a conservationist and says it is time to “recapture the bipartisan spirit” that has protected Washington’s best places.
In an interview after the Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy) breakfast Thursday, McKenna said he supports the state’s Growth Management Act (GMA) and pledged to “strengthen” the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition.
Of the Growth Management Act, its repeal demanded by Republican platform writers, McKenna said: “I think it works. It certainly has been beneficial to central Puget Sound.”
Washington Conservation Voters (WCV) endorsed Democratic rival Jay Inslee last fall, after remaining neutral in the 2008 race between Attorney General McKenna and his Democratic challenger, Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg.
Its national parent, the League of Conservation Voters, is putting resources behind Inslee, described by LCV head Gene Karpinski as “absolutely great on our issues”, particularly the growth of a “green” economy. The Sierra Club in Washington State is also lined up behind the Democrat.
The WCV launched a partisan attack on McKenna in a winter e-mail appeal. “McKenna is running a campaign tied to some of the worst polluters and corporate offenders out there: He kicked off his campaign with Karl Rove, the ‘architect’ behind George Bush’s reelection, and he hasn’t looked back,” wrote Edie Giles, WCV’s political director.
Actually, Karl Rove was nowhere to be seen when McKenna kicked off his campaign in Bellevue last November.
McKenna said Thursday he is keeping very different company. The GOP candidate said he has an advisory group that includes ex-Gov. Dan Evans, former Environmental Protection Agency boss Bill Ruckelshaus, former prosecutor Chris Bayley and ex-U.S. Senate aide Joe Mentor. It includes attorney Mike Vaska, a WCV board member.
“There is an analogy between conservation and education reform,” McKenna said. “The coalition around education reform is the biggest bipartisan thing going in this state right now. We need to recapture the big bipartisan spirit for conservation.”
Despite anti-environmental extremism displayed in the current GOP-run U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans have played key roles in major preservation decisions in Washington state.
As governor, Evans pressed Congress to create the North Cascades National Park. Evans and Rep. Joel Pritchard helped rescue the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Bill from a presidential veto. Congress passed Washington and Oregon wilderness bills, and legislation creating the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, when Republican senators represented both states.
Evans and former Democratic Gov. Mike Lowry have been the inspiration behind the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition, which has secured both state and private money to preserve habitat and recreation properties around the state.
“We have, unfortunately, been focusing on differences in a partisan atmosphere,” said McKenna, “while there is actually a lot of common ground.”
McKenna was elected Attorney General in 2004 with support from the anti-environmental Building Industry Association of Washington. He is going into the governor’s race with backing from the Washington Assn. of Realtors.
But McKenna said his first political activity was working for the 1989 Open Space bond issue, and that he was present at the creation of the Seattle-King County Land Conservancy — predecessor to the present-day Forterra. He has also been active in the Evergreen Forest Trust.
“I’m in the tradition of Dan Evans, Joel Pritchard and others,” he said.
The Democrats and their green friends are trying to stop what they see as a “greenwash” by McKenna. In the boilerplate language of political fundraisers, Giles wrote:
“In 2012, Washington Conservation Voters will be focused on making sure Washington voters know that Rob McKenna is tied to anti-environmental extremists . . . We will not let Rob McKenna hide from his friends or the truth.
Why didn’t McKenna fill out the WCV’s candidate questionnaire last fall?
“It was clear they were not going to endorse us, and we do not fill out questionnaires from groups that are supporting our opponents,” McKenna said on Thursday.
He did meet with the group’s board, and added: “I intend to work with them and other conservation groups in the future.”
e.g. after November.