Letter from Washington | Alicia Mundy
Some hope Reichert will reach out and touch a green thumb or two
Seattle Times Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — Flowers and candy. That's what smart Democrats and "green" groups should send to Dave Reichert.
After the Auburn congressman's win over neophyte Darcy Burner, some Democrats have made dismissive remarks about the sheriff who went from freshman star in the House Republican majority to a second-term member of the minority. But savvy pols say this is prime time for "co-opting" Reichert on environmental issues.
Environmentalists intend to take advantage of Reichert's near loss, vows he made to 8th District voters about being their Green Giant and of his newfound second-tier status.
"Dave Reichert is interested in becoming more of an environmental champion," said Seattle environmental lobbyist Heather Weiner, who wants to show him the way. "The leadership changes in his party will make it easier for him to do that."
Several tough, anti-green hardliners, such as Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., lost their races. They won't be around to prod Reichert into voting against "green" issues in the name of Republican party discipline.
A national environmental group, Defenders of Wildlife, deliberately did not target Reichert during his re-election campaign, betting that they could reach out to him afterward.
"Congressman Dave Reichert was one of a handful of moderate Republicans who refused to back down and allow an Arctic drilling provision," said Defenders President Rodger Schlickeisen.
"He was with us for 11 out of 20 votes. We certainly believe he can do better over the next few years, and are eager and willing to work with him," Schlickeisen said.
Washington's dean of the Democratic delegation, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, said he also likes working with Reichert, though he was a little startled by Reichert's recent dismissal of the issue of world climate change.
"I can't wait to have Dave sit down with my good friend Al Gore and have Al talk about global warming," Dicks said.
So, smart politicians from both parties won't ignore Reichert; they will woo him.
He should, in turn, blush, flash his trademark smile and be ready to negotiate — because he's in the minority in Congress and in his own delegation, and quite junior.
He'll need cooperation from Washington state's Democratic delegation to keep from becoming irrelevant in the next two years and to deliver for his constituents.
In these calculations, politics merely reflects one of the great laws of nature: symbiosis — mutually beneficial relationships.
Reichert cannot be bought — but he can be persuaded.
Memo to the Sierra Club: Reichert likes chocolate. The darker the better.
Letter from Washington is an examination of the culture of politics and power in the nation's capital.
Alicia Mundy can be reached at 202-622-7457 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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