Conservation issues playing well in redrawn Wash. district
Written byPHIL TAYLOR, Greenwire
Voters in Republican Rep. Dave Reichert's central Washington district continue to support the conservation of public lands, even after redistricting made the 8th District more rural and Republican, according to a GOP pollster.
The new poll from Public Opinion Strategies bodes well for Reichert, who is known for having one of the strongest environmental records among House Republicans.
The July survey of likely 2012 voters gauged voter attitudes on how public lands affect timber jobs, tax revenue and tourism, and the importance of federal funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which has seen withering support in the Republican-led House.
The results showed 84 percent of likely voters believe public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas "are generally good for the state" and support the economy, provide recreation opportunities and enhance quality of life.
Two-thirds of respondents indicated the state should do more to protect natural resources and public lands. And more than seven out of 10 said that despite the federal budget crunch, funding to protect land, air and water should not be cut.
"Voters throughout this district -- in eastern Washington or west of the Cascades, Republicans or Democrats -- share a strong conservation ethic," said Lori Weigel, a partner with the polling firm. "Residents get out and recreate on the land at rates far higher than the national average, say that natural features of the land and their access to outdoor recreation are one of the things they like best about living in this area and demonstrate a strong desire for public officials to uphold these values in the policies they advocate."
While voters districtwide agreed that protecting the environment was compatible with economic growth, agreement was stronger among Democrats, at 87 percent, than among Republicans, at 61 percent.
The poll also found that voters joining Reichert's district from House Natural Resources Chairman Doc Hastings' (R) 4th District in Chelan County share similar views to 8th District voters on whether protections for public lands benefit tourism and protect clean water and recreation.
The redrawn 8th District is viewed as more Republican after dropping Bellevue, a Seattle suburb, and gaining voters from Chelan and Kittitas counties.
Reichert voted with Democrats for the 2009 bill sponsored by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) to curb global warming gases and has bucked the GOP line by supporting protection of new wilderness and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and, more recently, extension of the production tax credit for wind energy.
But Reichert's score from the League of Conservation Voters dropped significantly in the 112th Congress -- from 67 percent to 43 percent. Anti-environment votes, according to the group, include support for the Keystone XL pipeline, delays on rules to curb mercury pollution from boilers and a bill by Hastings to allow drilling off the West Coast, among other areas.
The four-term Republican will face Democrat Karen Porterfield, an administrator at Seattle University, who currently carries 29 percent of the vote to Reichert's 50 percent, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.