Here at Western Democrat, we have previously made the case for Bill Richardson for President or Vice President. But consider another prominent Western Democrat for the currently open position of Democratic nominee for the Vice Presidency, namely Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana.
The vice presidential nominee has four roles: to help the ticket win in November, to serve as a loyal part of the new administration, to assume the presidency should disaster strike, and, under happy circumstances, to lead the party eight years hence. Governor Schweitzer is an attractive candidate for all four tasks.
Governor Schweitzer would be a great candidate. He is the popular Democratic governor of a red to purple state who knows how to appeal to Republicans and Independents. He would reinforce the Obama message of turning the page on the red/blue divide of the last decade. He has a natural, folksy charm that would play well on the national stage. He is from way outside Washington in a year when voters are hungry for change in Washington. He does not play into the GOP stereotype of an out of touch Eastern liberal, yet he effectively champions Democratic issues such as education and healthcare. He does not have a trail of potentially controversial votes on wedge issues in the Senate. He is old enough to be successful and experienced both in the private and public sectors, including international experience, while young enough to be a vigorous campaigner. He understands national issues that are particularly important to the West such as energy and water, the West being rich in energy, but chronically short of water. He could help swing crucial states in the West. Montana has only three electoral votes, but he would automatically put his state in play. Neighboring North Dakota is potentially swingable and has three electoral votes. In the rest of the West, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico, with a combined nineteen electoral votes, will be critical battlegrounds, and having a Westerner on the ticket would help. The sum total is the equivalent of swinging one big state, which is about the best that a vice presidential nominee can hope to do. Moreover, Governor Schweitzer would be a reassuring choice for a number of wavering constituencies all across the country that the party needs in November.
Governor Schweitzer could serve in an Obama administration without carrying any baggage from the long contest for the nomination. He would bring executive experience to the new administration. He could represent Western and rural constituencies inside a White House with an urban and Midwestern President. And though his easy and down-to-earth demeanor tends to hide it, his successes in life and politics are the natural product of a first-rate mind. Of course, only Senator Obama can tell us if their two personalities are a good working fit.
Given all these assets, I would feel very comfortable with a President Schweitzer should he ascend to the nation’s highest office, ideally eight and a half years hence, after having served President Obama loyally and well.
Leo Brown | June 5, 2008 | Comment on This Post (5 so far)
Spokompton has been doing some great stuff on the upcoming lands commissioner race in Washington State next year and they point out the main difference between the Democratic challenger Peter Goldmark and the incumbent Doug Sutherland.
Goldmark is a rancher from the eastern, rural side of the state. Sutherland is a career politician and government tactician from the urban Puget Sound.
More from Spokompton on Sutherland:
Sutherland served on the Tacoma city council in 1980-81, before being elected Mayor of Tacoma. He held that post until the end of 1989, when he took the job of City Manager in the newly incorporated SeaTac. He was there until 1992, when he took over as Pierce County Executive. That post he held through the end of 2000, when he began his first term as Commissioner of Public Lands. In his first campaign he defeated Democrat
Jennifer Belcher(actually it was former Gov. Mike Lowry, eoc), after successfully painting her as a stereotypical far-left liberal. I recall that election season in Eastern Washington for the great deal of talk about endangered owls and how little they mattered to Washingtonians. In 2004, Sutherland fended off Democrat Mike Cooper in a much lower-profile race, likely due to the national political conflagration that was President Bush’s Reelection.
So, how does it work out that a government establishment Republican from the urban Puget Sound runs a race against an insurgent Democratic rancher from the rural east? What kind of themes does Sutherland pick up? Stay the course?
Prairie populist Goldmark is giving us a look at what his themes may end up being:
I want to return the office to the people of Washington. I will treat our public lands-and the people who use them-with respect. It is vital that we treat our public lands as a long-term resource, to keep Washington's forests and fields healthy.
Emmett O'Connell | July 19, 2007 | Comment on This Post (1 so far)
The GOP is losing its hold on the rural vote according to a poll reported by NPR.
A new national poll indicates rural Americans are no longer reliably Republican, and the Bush administration's conduct of the war in Iraq seems mainly to blame.
"I think there are two big headlines out of this poll," says Anna Greenberg of the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. "The first is 'Republican Collapse in Rural Areas.' And the second is 'Rural is the Battleground in 2008."
But Iraq is not the GOP’s only problem.
Nick Kristoff of the New York Times zeros in on the Southwest and how the nativist wing of the GOP is alienating both Hispanics and moderates on immigration.
…the closer you get to the border, the more voters back politicians who are looking for middle ground — and punish those who follow the rant-for-ratings route.
He sees Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico and their combined 29 electoral votes (more than Florida’s 27 or Ohio’s 20) as potentially the biggest battleground in next year’s presidential race. And he notes that Hispanics are the fastest growing part of the electorate and make up 28% of the population in Arizona, 24% in Nevada, 20% in Colorado, and 43% in New Mexico.
Kristoff cites Democratic congressional gains in Colorado and Arizona in 2004 and 2006 as evidence that Democrats can assemble a new Western majority and quotes David Waid, Chairman of Arizona’s Democratic Party:
“Arizona is in play like never before…and the Republicans are literally handing it to us.”
Republican strategist Clint Bolick sees the same trends.
Hispanic support for Republican candidates plummeted by 10 points, to 30 percent from 40 percent, between the 2004 presidential election to the 2006 congressional election debacle, costing the GOP as many as four congressional seats. In next year's presidential election, Hispanic votes could make the difference in four Western states, including Arizona. If Republicans continue chasing Hispanic voters away, they can kiss their national electoral prospects goodbye.Here at Western Democrat, we have always believed that the future of the Democratic Party lies in the West. The GOP is doing their part to hasten that future.
Leo Brown | June 22, 2007 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)
This is wonderful:
The New West Project, headquartered in Denver, will conduct research and develop strategies to secure and exploit recent Democratic gains in the Western states, party sources said.
At least four Western governors - Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Bill Ritter, Colorado's governor-elect - are expected to lead the group's advisory council, the sources said. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, Sen. Ken Salazar of Colorado and other members of Congress will provide "strategic guidance."
Reid confirmed the creation of the new organization, which he said would "build upon the leadership of people such as governors Napolitano, Richardson and Schweitzer" and "work to focus attention on the West."
This is a high level group. Consider the Western Strategy in play, my friends. It is wonderful to see this sort of institutional arrangement that will only benefit our local, state and national candidates long term. It looks like part think tank, part strategy firm, part communications development - all aspects that will be welcome by the plethora of candidates that will be running these next few cycles to take advantage of our our new promise out here in the west.
The best part of the article? The quote from an unnamed "Western Democrat":
As an example of what the new organization may do, the Western Democrat said that political professionals would analyze such questions as "the difference between first- and second-generation Hispanic voters, ... what motivates them and how we communicate with them," as well as "why a recent transplant from California, who has voted Republican all her life, is now voting for Democrats."
Good question, "Western Democrat" - it just leaves me amazed to see our namesake invoked so strikingly in an article. Methinks the author of the article, John Aloysius Farrell , might just be an reader of our humble site. If so, thanks for the article John - we'll be watching for you in the future.
It's great to have a new project designed for this express purpose and examining the multitude of new questions that are arising from the new political climate in the West. Now, if any of those people involved in the project are paying attention it would behoove them greatly to include netroots and blog outreach as an element of the project. You see, since major political focus has been absent from the West for awhile the netroots and blogosphere have been proliferating and recruiting top candidates all over the place. It would be an essential element of any plan that you should put together.
Here's the The New West Project!
Landon Mascareñaz | December 6, 2006 | Comment on This Post (0 so far)
A couple of days ago, Tom Vilsack threw his hat into the ring for the 2008 presidential contest:
"Americans sent a clear message on Tuesday. They want leaders who will take this country in a new direction," Vilsack, Iowa's two-term governor, said in a statement. "They want leaders who share their values, understand their needs, and respect their intelligence. That's what I've done as governor of Iowa, and that's what I intend to do as president."
Well Tom, you also clearly intend to invalidate your home state caucuses. Like Tom Harkin ran in 1992, when an Iowan runs for president, your caucuses matter little to everyone else. Iowans aren't going to punish a favorite son and no other big name Democratic candidate is truly going to ask them to.
Which means the next caucus up is Nevada. Tom Vilsack, by running for president has made Nevada the Iowa of 2008 - great news for Western Democrats. Not just because the issues being discussed in a western state matter to us out here, it means our chances of nominating a westerner in 2008 are much improved. Nevada will be a natural spot for someone like Richardson to campaign (given his sky high re-election rate and majority support among all sub-groups - important in a diverse western state like Nevada).
Can you really see Hillary winning Nevada? Or Tom Vilsack for that matter?
Western Democrats have just indirectly made incredible progress because of the aspirtation of one Iowan. Thanks Tom, much appreciated.
Landon Mascareñaz | November 11, 2006 | Comment on This Post (3 so far)
Could the fight against toll roads be a new issue that brings rural voters to the progressive side?
For many years, rural folks believed that it was the Republican Party that was the voice of "leave us alone" politics -- giving people the freedom to ranch and farm. Many rural folks thought Democrats were using environmentalism as a weapon against their culture.
But now, there are Republicans around the country (from Indiana to Texas to Oregon) who are creating toll roads. And not in the classic New Jersey model, but using eminent domain to seize land and turn over existing roads to foreign corporations. Those companies provide a big lump sum payment at the front end (great for a one-time tax cut) and then charge drivers for years.
Here's the thing: Many rural voters see these toll roads - especially the seizure of rural land - as a assault on rural communities. The documentary Truth Be Tolled, about the Texas toll road plan, is the most graphic depiction. From the film's synopsis:
From mayors of small cities, political candidates and grass roots groups to working-class Texans, all unite to state their loud opposition. The strongest voices rise from small rural communities whose farms, homes, schools, businesses and churches face the largest forcible eminent domain acquisition in U.S. history.
The Trans-Texas Corridor, a giant scar through the center of the state, will not only rip the heart out of Texas-- it will kill a way of life that has been in the state forever.
Here's the trailer for the documentary. Pretty gripping stuff. Hit Play:
Tonight, I headed to downtown Gallup to watch a series of presenters discuss the topic of uranium mining on the Navajo Nation.
For those who aren't familar:
Hydro Resources, Inc., has proposed to mine in four areas near the communities of Crownpoint and Churchrock. The uranium would not be removed by the previous traditional open-pit mining or shaft mining. The uranium would be removed by a process called In-situ Leach (ISL) mining. this type of mining includes the process of drilling holes in the ground, to the aquifer and injecting the water with chemicals that would "leach", or strip the uranium from the host rock (sandstone lined aquifer). The ISL mining method deliberately contaminates the ground water in the mining zone. At the present time Crownpoint has a pristine aquifer which provides pristine water to 15,000 people. These people come from all over the Eastern Navajo Agency to get water for everyday uses, such as cooking, drinking, cleaning, bathing and feeding livestock.
The main resistance front (ENDAUM) was organized in
the summer of 2001, when Rep. Heather Wilson proposed a plan that gave $10 million dollars of taxpayer's money to domestic uranium producing companies, to do explorations into safe mining for 3 years. During this time, Rep. Wilson had neglected to research what she was doing and neglected to inform the people outside of her district of what she was about to do against them. She also denied many invitations by people of the Crownpoint and Churchrock communities to visit their communities and voice their concerns.
Both the Church Rock and Crownpoint chapters as well as the Navajo Nation government have all passed resolutions legislation against this horrible (I'll call a spade a spade) environmental classism and racism. Tom Udall, the actual representative for our district (another reason to not like Heather Wilson) is opposed to the project, as well are numerous other individuals.
Here's what happened the last time they did this:
Church Rock, New Mexico, would seem an improbable spot for a nuclear disaster...In the early morning hours of July 16, 1979--fourteen weeks after the accident at Three Mile Island--all of that changed. The dam at Church Rock burst sending eleven hundred tons of radioactive mill wastes and ninety million gallons of contaminated liquid pouring toward Arizona. The wall of water backed up sewers and lifted manhole covers in Gallup, twenty miles downstream, and caught people all along the river unawares. "There were no clouds, but all of a sudden the water came," remembered Herbert Morgan of Manuelito, New Mexico. "I was wondering where it came from. Not for a few days were we told."
No one was killed in the actual flood. But along the way it left residues of radioactive uranium, thorium, radium, and polonium, as well as traces of metals such as cadmium, aluminum, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, sodium, vanadium, zinc, iron, lead and high concentrations of sulfates. The spill degraded the western Rio Puerco as a water source. It carried toxic metals already detectable at least seventy miles downstream. And it raised the specter that uranium mining in the Colorado River Basin may be endangering Arizona's Lake Mead, and with it the drinking water of Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and much of Arizona.
Except for the bomb tests, Church Rock was probably the biggest single release of radioactive poisons on American soil. Ironically it occurred thirty-four years to the day after the first atomic test explosion at Trinity, New Mexico, not far away.
I can't imagine why everyone here is against it happening again.
We need people out West to stand up against this going forward. Not just politicians but regular people and public opinion-setters. The fact that the people who this will effect are in direct opposition but companies and the federal government keep moving forward proves so much of what native peoples say are true about our society. I would like to believe we live in a different time now, where positive and enlightened figures from all sides of the political spectrum could unite in opposition to this terrible effort.
I condemn anyone that supports this and welcome any figure who opposes it.
Landon Mascareñaz | September 25, 2006 | Comment on This Post (2 so far)
The Democratic Party of Oregon has approved a Gun Owners Caucus. Alt-weekly paper Willamette Week has the story:
Oregon Democrats are borrowing a page this election from party colleagues in gun-friendly states like Montana, where Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer—a bolo-tie-wearing former mint farmer—has said his idea of gun control is, "You control your gun, and I'll control mine." At a recent Democratic Party of Oregon meeting, state leaders voted to approve the formation of the party's Gun Owners Caucus , which joins the party's Faith Caucus and Motorcycle Caucus, among others.
Over at BlueOregon, Zak Johnson - one of the Gun Owners Caucus co-founders - explains:
As Democrats, we OWN the civil rights issue. The Bush administration daily violates the 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments (unless you consider confessions under torture not to be self-incrimination). Tom Delay's cronies continue to violate the 13th amendment in the U.S. Mariannas. It has never been clearer that the Democratic Party is the nation's primary defender of the Constitution. This is an unequivocal, easy-to-understand position that resonates with voters. It's a uniting position as well, one that should attract patriots to the Democratic banner.
But to promote that message requires consistency on the whole Constitution. Frankly, the Party's reputation on the 2nd Amendment is, as Montana Democratic Chairman Bob Ream has said, that people think we want to take their guns away. ...
The perception that Democrats are anti-gun also hurts the party badly among our natural constituencies like hunters, most of whom consider themselves environmentalists, and rural residents in general.
Now here's an interesting mix of issues. On one side you have the current gas and oil boom across the west that is pitting not only ranchers and small property owners against big Oil and Gas, their state governments and the BLM, but also (as pointed out here by the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel), hunters and anglers (thanks Coyote Gulch).
On the other side, you have a somewhat under the radar, astro-turf, sagebrush rebellion sweeping the West with five eminent domain initiatives.
One of the key pieces to the entire Western Democrat theme is the connection of the bullets and bait folks to the Democratic Party. Once they feel that we have their interests in heart (like protecting stream access in Montana for Schweitzer), they'll forget about voting for a Republican.
Anyway, here is a good part of the Daily Sentinal piece, leaves you thinking how to bring the bullets and bait crowd into the property rights fight:
Alliances among groups who once considered themselves at odds with popular environmentalism are occurring throughout the West, and they’re being noticed by politicians, chief among whom are Colorado’s gubernatorial candidates.
“It feels like a natural alliance, a coming-together of common interests to fight forces that are threatening our outdoors,” said Evan Dreyer, spokesman for Democrat Bill Ritter’s gubernatorial campaign. “I think that for a very long time, this was something that was fought on the fringes, the environmentalists on the far left and the hunters’ groups on the far right. I think there is an agreement that they can be more effective by coming together and finding that middle ground.”
Emmett O'Connell | August 22, 2006 | Comment on This Post (0 so far)
Norton's tenure was also marked by repeated ethical controversies. Norton cleared her top deputy, former lobbyist J. Steven Griles, after her inspector general said his conduct showed that the department's ethics system was "a train wreck waiting to happen." Griles is now under investigation for allegations that he did the bidding of convicted Indian casino lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Norton is still supporting him.
Abramoff also funneled more than $500,000 to one of Norton's former political aides, Italia Federici, to gain access to her department, which makes key decisions about which tribes can open casinos. Norton said she had no qualms about Federici's activities.
Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, quickly released a statement praising Norton.
“The environmental benefits of her actions on behalf of Cooperative Conservation will be reaped for years to come,” Federici said in the statement.
Norton's BLM director Kathleen Clarke remained after apparently violating her recusals from a Utah land-swap that investigators said would have shortchanged the federal government. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley said the deal involved a "jaw-dropping ... apparent cover-up" within Norton's department.
She also suffered bad publicity when the head of the National Park Service police was fired after talking to a reporter and congressional staff about budget shortfalls.
Norton was also the first Bush cabinet official to be held in contempt, though the ruling regarding Indian trust issues was later overruled by an appeals court.
The Indian trust case metastasized from an obscure bookkeeping mess to a drain on Norton's entire department. She once said the issue occupied her top staff more than any other issue.
In the National Journal Political Insider's Poll last year, she was voted the second-most underrated Bush cabinet secretary by Republican operatives who credited her with pursuing Bush's pro-development agenda with a minimum of bad publicity.
With Gale Norton resigning this morning, there is an opening in the most Western of cabinet positions. Among Democrats, this is the position once held by such Coyote Dems as Bruce Babbitt and Cecil Andrus. The Interior Department is the third most senior domestic cabinet secretary and because of the amount of federal land in the West, the most influential out here.
With plans to sell of more federal land, expand oil and gas and recent aborted congressional plans to make mining easier -- all efforts to inhibit local control and expand corporate control of Western lands -- who do you think Bush will nominate?
Who is your perfect Interior Secretary?
Emmett O'Connell | March 10, 2006 | Comment on This Post (12 so far)