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Election 2006 All Over But the Glow
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by Former Sierra Club President Larry Fahn. | 2006

Former Sierra Club President Larry Fahn celebrates the defeat of some of Congress’s most ardent anti-environmentalists

The following is from an election account by former Sierra Club President Larry Fahn.  For those who are unfamiliar with Richard Pombo, Chair of the House Resources Committee, he is a property rights proponent who believes that no land should be owned by the public.  His list of public lands to sell for development included our own Theodore Roosevelt Island!  Pombo was from a majority Republican district,and no one thought he could be defeated.   This is an inspiring David and Goliath story – enjoy!

Betsy Johnson


Wow! We helped ease some of the biggest knuckle draggers in DC into early retirement. How sweet it is!


To name just a few:

·     Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania.

·     Chainsaw Charley Taylor in North Carolina.

·     Senator Jim Tallent in Missouri.

·     Conrad Burns in Montana.

·     Clay Shaw in Florida.

·     Chris Chocola in Indiana.

·     And George Allen in Virginia


Unfortunately, some of our few moderate Republican friends like Jim Leach and Nancy Johnson and Lincoln Chafee also bit the dust.

The sweetest victory of all was wiping the smirk off the face of soon-to-be Ex- Chair of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo, and retiring him back to his ranch in Tracy, California.  It was a nail-biter as we waited until late in the night for returns from Pombo’s strongholds in San Joaquin, Stockton, and Tracy Counties to come in.  When they did come in, Pombo was toast.  He lost most of the precincts in his home county too, and, to add insult to injury, the Pombo ”victory party” was at a restaurant named The Waterloo.  He reportedly slipped out the back around midnight without conceding or addressing his supporters.

 I was one of the few in Sierra Club leadership who thought we might actually take out Pombo in California’s District 11 (CD11).  When we began discussing possible targets early last spring, I went out on a limb with the wild idea that if we focused on getting the word out how badly out of touch this guy was, we might have a chance at the impossible.  After Pete McClosky softened him up in the primary by taking nearly a third of the Republican vote, it was “full speed ahead” on voter education in CD 11.

I became more cautiously optimistic about the race over the past month, having been walking precincts the last three weekends, and running into  fewer and fewer diehard Pombo supporters.  Even many of the Republicans I talked to were doubtful about him as their representative, especially when told about his records on endangered species and offshore oil drilling, his plan to sell off 15 national parks units, and his promotion of dog fighting, snow-mobiling in pristine parts of Yellowstone, and commercial whaling!  Last Saturday was a great collaboration of staff and volunteers from the Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the US.  We had almost 400 extremely well-coordinated volunteers going out walking,  with up-to-date voter-ID’ed precinct lists, maps, clipboards, tally sheets and door hangers. We even had a few dozen precinct captains with rented vans to get folks out to their assigned “turf”.   Other groups such as Clean Water Action and MoveOn, plus our own Loma Prieta Chapter politicos, had canvassers in other parts of the district, and were making phone calls to voters into the district.

Pombo had George Bush, then Dick Cheney, then Laura Bush, and finally Duncan Hunter (a far right wing Congressman from Southern California, who is thus far the only announced Republican candidate for President for ’08) come through stumping on his behalf.  Our guy, wind energy consultant Jerry McNerny, responded with Bill Clinton, Carl Pope and actress Jennifer Garner, each of whom made appearances at volunteers’ rallies during the last week.  To pull off this huge upset in such a Republican-drawn district was nothing short of miraculous.  Major thanks to everyone who participated.  We had people from all parts of the Bay and even as far away as LA coming to help.

         Now that we’ve started the process of taking our country back, its time for all of us to begin working cooperatively with the environmental friends we’ve helped to elect. We must help them present a progressive agenda to the country which will begin weaning us off our addiction to foreign oil, curbing our greenhouse gas emissions, making strides on reducing toxics emissions, protecting our forests and wetlands, improving fuel efficiency, cleaning up the water and our electoral process and promoting environmental justice.  Onward!      

> 2006 Table of Contents


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