- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

DENVER When Dave Chandler decided to run for Congress on the Green Party ticket, he figured that winning the Sierra Club's endorsement would be a no-brainer.
Not only is Mr. Chandler a card-carrying member of the club, he's also the chairman of its Jefferson County, Colo., chapter. So he was flabbergasted when the influential environmental group passed him over in favor of the Democratic candidate in Colorado's newly created 7th District, Mike Feeley.
Mr. Chandler's situation isn't unique. In Colorado and beyond, a deep rift has emerged between the Sierra Club and Green Party, whose candidates complain they're being systematically jilted in favor of Democratic foes even when the Democrats can't match their records on the environment.
"What people are saying is, if you're a Green Party candidate running for office and you don't get the Sierra Club's endorsement, it doesn't mean you're not a good environmentalist," Mr. Chandler said. "It means you're not a good Democrat."
All this has Republicans, who have long accused the Sierra Club of acting as a shill for the Democratic Party, saying "I told you so."
"It's just another clear piece of evidence that the Sierra Club is a partisan arm of the Democratic Party," said Dick Wadhams, campaign manager for Sen. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican. "It's bought and paid for by the Democratic Party."
Sierra Club officials strenuously deny that they automatically support Democrats. Susan LeFever, director of the club's Rocky Mountain chapter, said that local committees, not the national organization, decide which candidates will receive endorsements.
The committees consider a variety of factors, including a candidate's experience and "viability," or likelihood of success.
"We look at a lot of things, not just the candidates' positions on the issues," Miss LeFever said.
That's why, for example, the Colorado club has endorsed Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, over Republican challenger Sandy Hume, an officer in the club's Boulder County chapter.
"When Sandy Hume is running against Mark Udall in an area that votes heavily Democratic, then we have to look at that," Miss LeFever said.
She pointed out that the club has endorsed a Green Party candidate in Fort Collins, Colo., and a Republican state legislator. But Mr. Chandler, who previously sat on the club's political committee, called such endorsements "window dressing."
"I remember when I was on the political committee, scrambling to find a Republican, any Republican, to endorse," Mr. Chandler said. "That's tokenism mostly."
Dean Myerson, the Green Party's national political coordinator, said the party has long chafed over the Sierra Club's Democratic tilt in races throughout the nation.
"It's been a long-term problem in many places," he said. "Clearly, a lot of Greens feel they're excessively tied to Democratic Party candidates."
The Chandler race isn't the only Colorado race where tensions are running high. Last week, the Green Party's attorney general candidate, Alison "Sunny" Maynard, resigned from the club after 15 years when she was snubbed in favor of Democratic incumbent Ken Salazar.
"As to every issue which matters to the Sierra Club, I am on the right side and Salazar is on the wrong side," said Miss Maynard in an Oct. 16 press release.
She added that she has devoted 700 hours of free legal work to the club.
"When the environment has been threatened, I've been the one in the trenches, without compensation from Sierra Club," she said.
In at least one race, the Sierra Club has remained silent rather than back a non-Democrat. Eric Rechel, a Green Party candidate for state legislature from Grand Junction, said the group has ignored his endorsement request, even though he's running against a Republican in a race with no Democrat and is the chairman of the Sierra Club's regional chapter.
"I would think they'd want to promote candidates that support that ideal" of protecting the environment, Mr. Rechel said. "It's like they say one thing and mean another."
Mr. Rechel assumes his lack of candidate "viability" he estimates his chances of winning at less than 5 percent nixed his chances for an endorsement.
But if "winnability" is so important, Mr. Chandler said, the club would not have endorsed the Democrats' gubernatorial candidate Rollie Heath, who is trailing Republican incumbent Gov. Bill Owens in the polls by more than 40 percent.

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