Deb Callahan is president of the League of Conservation Voters, based in Washington, D.C.

Monday, 23 Oct 2000


So, here I am writing a week of diaries for Grist Magazine to publish online. On the one hand, I’ll enjoy sharing my crazy week with Grist’s readers (I’m an avid Grist fan myself.) On the other hand, how can I possibly convey the election electricity, intensity, and unpredictability that pervades each day? Oh well, here goes nothing.

Today I traveled to Los Angeles so I can conduct the West Coast press conference to release the League of Conservation Voters’ 2000 National Environmental Scorecard. It’s amazing to think that this is the 30th year that LCV is releasing the Scorecard, which has become the standard for rating members of Congress on their performance on environmental issues.

Scorecard releases are a big deal at LCV. The national release press conference will be held in Washington, D.C., and C-SPAN will cover it live. This year, we also sent out approximately 150 local press releases throughout the country, and grassroots organizations are distributing about 40 state-specific releases nationwide. The old adage that “all politics are local” holds true for environmental politics, and the more we can get our information out to local news outlets, the more we influence politics. Check out the Scorecard to see how your representative did in Congress this year on key environmental votes.

This week will be full of a variety of events, each of which demands substantial preparation. For the Scorecard release on Tuesday, I’ll have to study the California scores, learn the details of the 21 votes we are grading the members on, review and edit my press statement and the press release, and think about potential answers to questions I may face.

Steve Kuykendall.

On Wednesday, I will be doing press events in Los Angeles to expose the anti-environmental voting records of two of our Dirty Dozen targets: Reps. Steve Kuykendall and Jim Rogan. I have separate briefing books for each of those campaigns, and each briefing book contains relevant opposition research, environmental voting history and positions, internal LCV polls and other public polling information, candidate profiles, press information, scripts for ads we’re running, background sheets on state and local environmental issues, and a host of other information. It’s a lot of data to digest and retain, and I make sure to review my briefing books before every Dirty Dozen or Environmental Champions event that I do, especially those that involve press. Sometimes I think we might as well be running a presidential campaign, because our campaigns involve that level of breadth and complexity.

Jim Rogan.

I think it’s important for these events to be successful, because both the Kuykendall and the Rogan races are too close to call right now. Our polls show that environmental issues could make a big difference in these two races. We’ll be doing lots more press, direct mail, and other activities to make sure our message gets across to the voters we’re targeting. Hopefully representatives who would be much better environmental voters in the Congress can replace these two members of our Dirty Dozen. Virtually every campaign we’re involved in this year is a tossup race, or in the famous words of Betsy Loyless, our political director, they’re “tighter than a tube sock.” I’ve tried to steal that line, but I have to say the delivery works better in her Southern accent than my Southern California one.

I don’t know what the outcome will be two weeks from tomorrow. I can honestly say that this is the most important election that I’ve worked on in 20 years. I hope the voters come to understand that the choices before us will change the future in a very serious way. The polls are making me crazy, so I’m focusing on my work and our plan. It’s like flying a plane through a storm. Watch the controls and fly the flight plan. Don’t look out the window at the stormy weather — concentrate on where you want to go but avoid the pockets of turbulence as best you can. And eventually, hopefully, you’ll have a soft landing.

I hope this election does provide a soft landing. Because the alternative is a crash. I’ll do my part. But soon it will be out of my hands, or any candidate’s, and into the voters’. Democracy. What a way to run a society. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ll talk with you tomorrow.