A Major Milestone in REP’s History: January 2000
REP endorsed Senator John McCain for President of the United States
Even though REP’s board and members were well aware of the strong anti-environmental headwinds and potential political pitfalls lurking witin the Republican Party, they began the new decade (and century, and millennium) cautiously optimistic about the future. And so, in that spirit, the board announced its first-ever endorsement of a candidate for president: Senator John McCain.
Martha’s carefully worded statement below was the lead article in the Winter 2000 issue of The Green Elephant newsletter. A few months later, her official endorsement speech came at a press conference with the McCain family and staff. It was just one part of a busy campaign-rally day in New York City.
This endorsement provoked a surge of genuine enthusiasm within the REP membership and, as shown in the photo here from San Diego, an outpouring of grassroots support for Senator McCain.
A New Era of GOP Environmentalism?
By Martha Marks, President of Republicans for Environmental Protection
AN HISTORICAL DOCUMENT: This was the lead article in the winter 2000 issue of REP’s The Green Elephant newsletter.
I am writing this on January 1, 2000, a day ripe with hope for the future.
This is the first by-line article I’ve ever done for The Green Elephant, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to add my thoughts to the plethora of new-century/new-millennium discussions taking place around the world.
From REP’s perspective, these are exciting times. One senses in our party, at long last, a new interest in creative environmental-protection initiatives.
Last April, to cite one example, a group of Republicans—led by Representative Sherwood Boehlert and the late Senator John Chafee—unveiled a set of bills they called the T. R. Ten: a pro-active package designed to better protect our nation’s estuaries, beaches, wetlands and other at-risk natural areas.
Even Don Young, the man environmentalists most like to dislike, got into the act in 1999, using his position as Chair of the House Resources Committee to lead a renewed push for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Not that all is perfect in GOP-land, of course. We REP members are still unhappy with our party. The environmental and conservation voting records of too many Republican elected officials still reek. Too many in Congress still show a penchant for “riders” aimed at gutting essential laws. But the fact that so few of those misbegotten attempts succeeded last year is yet another cause for hope.
Whatever the reason for this new-found zeal for conservation (and cynics may be forgiven if they detect a desire for congressional-majority survival underlying it), the fact that it is happening at all is cause for celebration.
Back in 1995, when REP first hung out its shingle, the notion of a Republican environmental group seemed so nutty—albeit so necessary—that we three women who concocted the idea weren’t sure we would actually find anybody else in the country to join us.
How little we knew! Our growing organization has outlasted both the 104th and 105th Congresses and is now half-way through the 106th. We’ve held four annual meetings and a democratic election of directors (to be repeated later this year), built functioning state chapters, held the first of our series of regional Republican Environmental Summits, taken out ads to thank courageous legislators, given awards to “Heroes” and “Zeroes” in our party, and never been afraid to raise a little hell when we felt it would benefit our cause.
And brother, do we feel vindicated. Polls repeatedly show the American people agree with the premise that REP started with: that conservation of our natural resources and protection of our environment are fundamental American values… totally unrelated to partisan politics or “wacko” liberal ideas (contrary to the rantings of some radio talk-show entertainers). And all across the country, people are backing up the polls with votes… often raising their own taxes to buy open space. Our party ignores these voters at its peril.
This year, for the first time, Republicans for Environmental Protection is making an endorsement in the GOP presidential primaries.
A year ago, REP’s board set out to evaluate GOP candidates so that GOP voters who would like to vote for the environment could know which GOP candidate was the best on our issues.
That process shouldn’t have been as hard as it was. Readers of last fall’s Green Elephant and this one will sense the frustration as we tried to get answers from the front-runner, Governor George W. Bush, who never responded. We filled that gap by doing our own research, in large part with help from REP members in Texas, and publishing a report entitled “Words and Deeds: The Environmental Record of Governor George W. Bush.”
Senator John McCain deserves praise for providing answers to our questions and reaching out to people he trusted, like us, for advice on things he didn’t know as much about, such as climate change. It’s worth noting that, at our first meeting with Senator McCain, when he asked us directly for guidance on climate change, REP Director Jim DiPeso promptly wrote and provided to his campaign this outstanding position paper on climate change. (PDF download)
While the endorsement decision gave the Republicans for Environmental Protection researchers a few sleepless nights, in the end McCain seemed the best of—and by far the most responsive—on environmental issues.
So yes, I’m optimistic today. And I resolve that in 2000 and beyond, REP will keep on telling the truth, raising hell and growing stronger–as we fulfill our role as the environmental conscience of the GOP.
Related documents available here: