A Rift?

Former U.S. Rep. Les AuCoin, known during his time in Congress to be a supporter of Oregon's timber industry, withdrew his nomination to a spot on the Oregon Board of Forestry yesterday. A vote on his confirmation was postponed from Thursday because it appeared he did not have enough votes.

Despite his past support, AuCoin was bitterly opposed by the timber industry.

So, what's going on in Salem: a Democratic Governor was unable to get his nominee through the Democratic-held Oregon State Senate. Was this a slap in the face of Ted Kulongoski?

The Oregonian has a good story this morning. Read and Discuss....

  • paul h (unverified)

    Morals of the story:

    If you're appointing someone who needs to be approved by the Senate, check with some key senators first -- especially if you belong to the same party.

    If you've been appointed and need a senator's vote, don't refer to him as a "covert timber toad" in an aggressive email.

  • LT (unverified)

    Good for Paul H!

    Senate is an independent branch of government. If Democrats don't like Frist/ Bush wanting the US Senate to be a rubber stamp. they shouldn't expect it in Salem. If I successfully did this link, then the posting on Counterpunch says more than I could say.

    counterpunch post

    This is a lesson in the evils of political nastiness. From AuCoin to Zupancic, those who run nasty primary campaigns run the risk of people remembering them years later.

  • Aaron (unverified)

    Well it might be a small victory for one side or other for this issue--though the battle is still going on in between the Governor and the Senate(and/or House) this session. Let's count the walking wounded/dead at the middle of July to see what is the real price for victory or defeat for either party or branch of government; or the full state of Oregon.

  • Chris (unverified)

    I'm encouraged to see that not all Democratic politicians in the State are beholden to environmental activist groups. Whether Aucoin is pro-Timber or pro-Enviros', a lack of support illustrates that there are Democratic Senators willing to stand up for the middle majority. Many Democrats and Oregonians believe in environmental protection but see the necessity and benefit of our Forest Products industry and think that the activist groups are extreme and out of touch with the values of the rest of us.

    From a party strength standpoint, the lack of Democratic support for Aucoin is a good sign for the health of the party.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Reading the Oregonian on this, it is just too bad the issue got defined as "timber" vs. "environment" the same as "rural" vs. "urban". It is that sort of polarity that drives rural people into the Republican Party.

    Aucoin's defeat had more to due with politics in Salem, than anything to do with politics in rural Oregon. It was all about perception.

    "Timber" isn't a monolith that thinks one way, namely wanting every opportunity to rape the land.

    "Environment" isn't a monolith that is against every timber harvest.

    "Rural" isn't polarized into pro-timber, anti-environment.

    "Urban" isn't all against timber harvests.

    -- But to read the Oregonian, you got a different spin. Making every issue related to the land a rural/urban split is exactly what the Republicans want.

  • Grump (unverified)

    The Forestry Board, like so many other regulatory or licensing boards, is dominated by an industry clique whose main goal is to promote the status quo. Not surprisingly, the members (and their legislative supporters) are opposed to any appointment that would intrude on their happy consensus. The governor deserves credit for trying to insert some form of public voice into the board's self-interested perpsective. It's too bad AuCoin's political skills seem to have atrophied so badly.

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    Making every issue related to the land a rural/urban split is exactly what the Republicans want.

    Good point, Steve, but how do we stop people from using this spin? It's cited so often that people in Oregon think every urbanite is pro-environment, anti-timber and every rural Oregonian is the opposite.

  • LT (unverified)

    One way to stop the spin is to listen to those who don't live in Portland. Another way would be to make sure everyone understands that there is more to this than 2 teams battling it out while citizens are just spectators. Don't assume you will always agree with your friends and never agree with the other party or those asking questions.

    Kulongoski never made the case "AuCoin is better than Heffernan because..", as if he had adopted Minnis-style "accept my generalities and shut up!". Ted Ferrioli was wise in making this about pro-Heffernan rather than anti-AuCoin. Two points for him. One of the state senators I corresponded with said this of AuCoin: not only did I think Aucoin lacked moral character (which his email certainly confirms), but he was just the wrong choice for that board.

    Shallowness and cynicism are the enemy of serious, issue oriented politics. To the extent that each individual demands intelligent discussion and praises those who engage in it, we will all be better off.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Leslie Carlson wrote -

    Good point, Steve, but how do we stop people from using this spin? It's cited so often that people in Oregon think every urbanite is pro-environment, anti-timber and every rural Oregonian is the opposite.

    I wish there was a quick answer to this. First, we just need to confront it when we see it and hear it. Second, we need to do it again. Third, we need to do it again. Fourth - you know...

    One of the reasons that I am working to bring a Rural Caucus to the Democratic Party is just this stuff. There is a lot of diversity in rural Oregon, maybe more than in urban Oregon. The sterotyping and insulting of rural people that comes from all sources needs to decrease to have civil discourse about issues of substance. We as Democrats have lots of work to do in connecting to rural voters again. We used to be the party of and for farmers. We used to be the party of the working person. We certainly have farmers and working people in rural Oregon. It is time we reconnect to a natural constituency. But we have to get over the perception that Democrats are anti-rural and anti-resource use. Somehow the extreme environmentalists that bring all kinds of lawsuits and interventions get protrayed as the "main stream" with the full support of the Democrats in rural Oregon. It isn't so, but thats the perception. Not everyone is happy with the corporate logging companies that want to increase cutting. But you never see that as a rural perspective.

    As a rural person, I equally hate it when I'm told what I believe, and what told what I have to do by urban people. There is no "me" left in that formula. We have to get past this type of thing being blamed on the Democrats, Liberals, or Environmentalists like what was done in the Oregonian on this Aucoin story.

  • Aubrey Russell (unverified)

    Should the question be whether the Board of Forestry represents a variety of perspectives so that their work can be the result of real deliberation and competition between varied ideas? I am worried by Senator Schrader's comment that:

    "You can't have people living in three-quarters of the state's land mass having concerns."

    Why not? As one living in Portland, I am (with one million other Oregonians) entitled to have my voice (and my concerns) heard in the agencies that formulate state policy. No one can look at the current Board and conclude that there is a meaningful range of views. Which is to say nothing about "balance." The governor was right to look for a member who could present the case for conservation in a serious way. Like it or not, conservation is an appropriate consideration when managing state-owned resources. Period. The governor was also, I suspect, sensing that Senator Schrader's district politics are different from the ones that the gov will have to face in getting re-elected. Kulongoski will have to show well in Multnomah County, where the labels "activist" and "extremist" only go so far in painting conservation-minded people with the broad brush of illegitimacy. Politics as practiced by the likes of Ferrioli can rely on the easy smear, but to run an agency well requires an openness to "minority" considerations like those mostly held by millions of Oregonians with interests in state forests other than maximizing short term yields. Period.

    Let's make the Board accessible to someone like Aucoin, especially if it means giving representation to Oregonians living somewhere other than in the "three quarters of the state's land mass" where there are "concerns." If the views are not accepted by the Board, fine, but lets have the debate in a forum where forest management, not politics, can drive the conversation.

    One final thought for others in the Portland area: Have you considered how Schrader and Feriolli's politics are affecting your interests in Salem? Ask your representative or senator: "Are Portland's views given much weight in Salem?" Try it. I was told that the current fashion is to be so dismissive of the 800 pound gorilla (measly one quarter --not even!-- of the state's land mass, if democracy is to consider such things) that the beast has been effectively quieted. Not satisfied? Look at some other natural resource agency policies. Try Water Resources. Its your water too, just as they are your state forests, and they are being managed by a generation of board members who have been carefully chosen to pass muster in the (formerly) Republican Senate. Couldn't hurt to have a few former Congressmen/ college professor types (not such terrible credentials, really) sitting there adding their (your) opinions to the stale mix.

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    Couldn't hurt to have a few former Congressmen/ college professor types (not such terrible credentials, really) sitting there adding their (your) opinions to the stale mix.

    Unless of course, said Congressmen/college professors were arrogant supercilious punks who's best rhetorical gambits were to smear their opponents with juvenile name calling.

    Persons sitting on any advisory board won't get much accomplished if they contemptuously view people with differing views as "timber toads" and make no secret about their own inflexability.

    If AuCoin is so out of touch with the rules of common decency, his effectiveness going forward is going to be real close to zero. Time for the enviros to do a little navel gazing regarding useful strategies and spokespersons.

  • LT (unverified)

    Pat is right about rules of common decency.

    As someone who happens to be on Ferrioli's email list, may I point out that he didn't scream partisanship but asked what was wrong with Heffernan that he needed to be replaced.

    The email subject line was "Support Chris Heffernan"--not the stereotype of Republicans bashing Democrats, now, is that?

    Aubrey said I am worried by Senator Schrader's comment that:

    "You can't have people living in three-quarters of the state's land mass having concerns."

    This sounds like someone who thinks it is OK to have a House minority as long as Portland Democrats are in leadership. I remember a Democratic Party with healthy county parties in rural counties both south and east of the Willamette valley.

    If Portland Democrats want to be the party of cities, then say so. But Steve is right that a rural caucus is needed.

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    I'm shocked that an essentially pale green neutral person like AuCoin got branded as a whacky urban extreme environmentalist.

    I'm also shocked that timber interests are so protective and possessive of the Board of Forestry that they won't even consider letting anyone with a hint of environmentalism in their record on the Board. They already dominate the Board, so it's not like this one nomination is going to tip the balance of power or anything. By their reaction, you would think this was about control of the US Supreme Court or something.

    I will be very very disappointed if Kulongoski folds and gives in to the timber interests who apparently don't want anyone not completely in their camp on the Board of Forestry.

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    I'm sure there's probably nothing wrong with Chris Heffernan's tenure on the Board of Forestry, just like there wasn't anythig wrong with Madeline Albright as Secretary of State under the Clinton administration. So why did Bush replace Albright with Powell when he took office if there wasn't anything wrong with Albright?

    The new executive should be allowed to make his own political appointments even if the incumbent Board members haven't done anything wrong. Is Ferrioli saying that no one on the Board of Forestry should ever be replaced unless they voluntarily resign?

  • LT (unverified)

    Adam, there is more to this than just the new guy replacing someone. If you believe that it is OK for someone who ran such a nasty primary that he not only lost the general election (to Packwood, lest we forget) but alienated people who had known him for years, who said during that campaign that he wouldn't lobby, then became a timber lobbyist, but because years later he supported an environmental ballot measure all good people are supposed to accept him as an environmentalist because the Gov. should be able to get what he wants, then fine. You are then saying the Gov. has the right to appoint anyone and the Senate should be a rubber stamp. I'm guessing that if you are old enough to remember the ballot measure, you voted against the measure which gave the Senate the power to vote up or down on Gov. nominees.

    But by that logic, Ron Wyden and all the other Dem. Senators should vote for any appointee of Bush without asking questions--new guy deserves to have his appointees confirmed. And if Kevin Mannix had become Gov. he would have deserved to have all his appointees confirmed.

    Is that really what you mean, or is this about turf--while a governor is in office, he gets carte blanche? Who appointed Heffernan? Did you believe that governor deserved carte blanche while in office?

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    One more point to think about - I haven't checked out who is currently on the Forestry Board, but I can tell you they were appointed by a Democrat. It has been a very long time since we had a Republican Governor.

    I wouldn't be so fast to label the existing Board to be in the pocket of "timber".

    I wouldn't be so fast as to call the "status quo" a bad thing at the Forestry Board.

    Lots of hot heads talking lots of points in this thread, but not much data.

  • Aubrey Russell (unverified)

    Pat Ryan wrote:

    "Unless of course, said Congressmen/college professors were arrogant supercilious punks who's best rhetorical gambits were to smear their opponents with juvenile name calling."

    My own posting was not indended as a defense of name-calling or of Aucoin specifically, but as a reminder that after years of Republican control of confirmations in the Senate, someone LIKE Aucoin (I'm referring to his ideas re forest management) would add valuabe perspective to the Board of Forestry. I don't think that this is far fetched, and I don't think that Democrats in Oregon should be surprised when a Democratic governor attempts to restore some of the missing balance. In fact, we should be surprised if he doesn't. Its not about Heffernan's weakness (if any) but about adding strengths of a sort that are currently lacking. Whether the strength is found in Baker City or Eugene is not important, just as long as it is a strength that needs to be represented.

  • Lyndon Ruhnke (unverified)

    The easy answer regarding the problem with the current BOF is that it violates the law. Only three members are allowed to have financial interests in the decisions they make (out of a seven member board). Chair Hobbs, Giustina and Phillippi have stated that they have such conflicts of interest. It is clear that at least 2 others have impermissible conflicts and arguably all seven may have conflicts. Heffernan has harvested over 1 million board feet of high value timber from his "hay farm" in the last decade, but claims not to have a financial interest in the decisions he makes???? Please check out ORS 526.009 (4-5) below.
    Please remember when throwing around party labels and who appointed who that timber has been and still is a very powerful force in Oregon politics whether the politician is a Democrat or Republican

    526.009 State Board of Forestry; chairperson; terms; vacancies; confirmation; qualifications; removal. (1) There is created a State Board of Forestry consisting of seven members appointed by the Governor. The members appointed to the board shall be subject to confirmation by the Senate as provided in ORS 171.562 and 171.565. The Governor shall designate one member of the board as chairperson to hold that position until that member’s term expires or until relieved by the Governor as provided in subsection (6) of this section. The chairperson shall have such powers and duties as are provided by the rules of the board.
    (2) The term of office of a member of the board is four years. A member shall be eligible for reappointment, but no member shall serve more than two consecutive full terms. In case of a vacancy for any cause, the Governor shall make an appointment as provided in subsection (1) of this section.
    (3) Appointments made by the Governor under subsection (1) of this section shall include appointment of at least one member from each of the forest regions established under ORS 527.640 and the rules adopted thereunder by January 1, 1987.
    (4) No more than three members of the board may derive any significant portion of their income directly from persons or organizations that are subject to regulation under ORS 527.610 to 527.770, 527.990 (1) and 527.992.
    (5) Except as provided in subsection (4) of this section, no member of the board shall have any relationship or pecuniary interest that would interfere with the member representing the public interest.
    (6) The Governor may at any time remove any member of the board for inefficiency, incompetence, neglect of duty, malfeasance in office, unfitness to render effective service or failure to continue to meet the criteria of appointment pursuant to this section. [1965 c.253 §4; 1973 c.230 §1; 1979 c.394 §1; 1983 c.759 §5; 1987 c.919 §6]
  • Jason (unverified)

    What worries me about Schrader's comment is that it implies that rural people's voices should count more because they represent more land mass. To make the same argument, he could have said, "you can't have people who live where 20% of the population lives having concerns."

    It's the same point, only, well, less compelling somehow.

    And AuCoin isn't a Portlander. He lives in relatively small-town Southern Oregon. Yes, conservatives argue Ashland doesn't count, but come on. It's not like AuCoin would have had more than one vote or been an earth-firster.

    The real story isn't that AuCoin is abrasive or liberal or anti-timber, it's that timber companies have an implicit threat that says:

    confirm AuCoin, and Schrader has an enemy when he tries to run for statewide office, and Prozanski faces a serious challenge when he comes up for reelection.

    Timber plays in politics. And it played well. And it just kicked Gov. Ted's ass. That the enviro's couldn't get out their message that Les was about "balance" for an illegal timber-interest board is a lesson.

  • (Show?)

    I'm not saying the Senate should be a rubber stamp, and I'm not saying AuCoin is a fantastic choice for the Board. I think generally speaking the executive should be given the benefit of the doubt in terms of confirming his nominations, unless there is a legitimate objection to a particular nomination.

    I was responding to the perception that AuCoin withdrew primarily because of pressure from timber and rural interests who somehow think AuCoin is too green. In my opinion this is way off base.

    I hope the real reason he withdrew was because of other issues or concerns. And I hope this doesn't mean the Governor's next nomination will be less green than AuCoin.

    Yes, it's been a long time since we had a Republican Governor, but it's also been a long time since we had a Democratic Senate, or a Senate that, theoretically at least, one would think would be more receptive to a Democratic governor's nominations to the Board of Forestry.

  • Steve Bucknum (unverified)

    Just for the sake of full disclosure, honesty, good debate, and good policy - I looked up the bio's of all 7 members of the Board of Forestry. It isn't so bad really.

    Stephen Hobbs is a OSU professor, Assoc. Dean of Research. BS and Ph.d in Forestry. Every board should have an expert.

    Barbara Craig is an attorney at Stoel Rives in Portland with extensive background in endangered species work. Every board should have someone with detailed knowledge of the tension points.

    Larry Giustina is a partner/owner of a lumber Company in the Eugene area. Every board should have a "stake holder".

    Diane Snyder is the executive director of Wallowa Resources, which sounded like an conservation group. A different kind of "stake holder".

    Chris Heffernan is a farmer/rancher that appears to have some timber on his property (a common mix in Eastern Oregon). His main claim to fame appears to be membership in a Family Forest Lands organization. "Family Forest" lands have a whole different set of needs/wants than corporate timber. Again, a different kind of "stake holder".

    William Hutchison is another Portland attorney, who has history working with forest management issues. -- If there is a weak link in this board, it is having two attorney's from Portland.

    Jeffifer Phillippi is a partner/owner of Rough and Ready Lumber, Cave Junction.

    Total - Two attorney's, two corporate timber, one small family timber, one conservationist, one expert/researcher. Four from the Willamette Valley (two from Portland), one from Southern Oregon, two from Eastern Oregon. Four men, three women.

    By golly, looks balanced to me! Geography parity, gender parity, and interest parity.

    There is in my mind legitimacy in debating the merits of putting in Aucoin for Heffernan. I think that the members of the Oregon Legislature that asked questions and expressed concerns should be given the benefit of the doubt.

    Again, I wonder at the sterotypes and bias that leads people to view this as an "urban / rural" debate.

  • LT (unverified)

    Steve is right in the need to debate AuCoin vs. Heffernan. I didn't see that, but instead "the Gov. deserves his choice and how dare anyone say otherwise".

    For those of us who have been offended in recent years by Republican nasty commercials (and at other times by Democratic nasty commercials),please notice that Sen. Minority Leader Ferrioli was the positive one in this equation. "Support Chris Heffernan" is the sort of positive political pronouncement some of us have been wanting for years. Tom McCall ran for re-election on "Keep Oregon, Oregon" and to the extent current Republicans remember that part of our history we are all spared the pollution of nasty politics.

    Aubrey said "someone LIKE Aucoin (I'm referring to his ideas re forest management) would add valuabe perspective to the Board of Forestry." Just what ideas re forest management would that be? Support of a recent ballot measure, whatever certain environmental activists propose, or his history in Congress detailed in a book by Kathy Durbin titled TREE HUGGERS? I didn't hear any such ideas discussed in the recent debate, just that one group was good, another was bad, and there's no such thing as the freedom of individual thought.

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    The Counterpunch link is at


  • Tom Civiletti (unverified)

    Well, what is going on with AuCoin is not clear to me. It seems some folks don't like him because he is an environmentalist, some folks don't like him because he's a lackie for the timber industry, and others don't like him because he ran a nasty primary campaign.

    He did support the recent ballot measure protecting half of the Tillamook forest, which would relate most directly to the work of the state board, so I am guessing that is where the opposition arose, but I could be wrong.

    As far as environmentalists who file suits being extremists, Hahahahahahahaha!

  • eric lee (unverified)

    I reside in the city, where I can make a living and pay taxes. We know that the timber interests aren't interested in any of my input, and, as far as they are concerned, I have no stake in state forestry questions. What appalls me is that, at this late date, the state's government apparently agrees with them. And I'm somehow supposed to be tactful or apologetic about asserting an interest in my public lands!

    When the time comes that we vote in proportion to our land holdings, we will be the timberocracy that Senator Schaeder already inhabits. Meanwhile, five foxes in the henhouse are enough already.

    By the way---regarding lawyers on the Forest Board---whose interest do you think they represent? When's the last time you hired one of their law firms to advocate some non-extractive forest policy?

  • (Show?)

    "You want someone who represents not just one constituency, but the state of Oregon," Schrader said. "You can't have people living in three-quarters of the state's land mass having concerns."

    Prozanski, who represents a large district divided between urban and rural interests, called the accusations against him "slanderous, libelous and sensational."

    Above is the quote from SENATOR SCHRADER. If you're going to form your opinion of the Senator's positions based on a partial quote of a partial quote, at least have the moxie to note the correct spelling of the Senator's name. Also note that while Representative Prozanski was justifiably angry, Senator Schrader didn't dignify Au Coin's remarks with a response.

    Everybody's entitled to their own opinions of course, but the cartoonish representations of Schrader as being in the pocket of Big Timber are wildly off the mark. He was my state Rep before redistricting and I ahve had several opportunities to talk with him over the past several years. I find him to be one of the most thoughtful and rational senators in Salem.

  • LT (unverified)

    Thank you Pat! Senator Kurt Schrader is someone I have talked with many times. He and his office are hard working unsung public servants.

    But I think the larger story is as old and as classic as the old story of the tortoise and the hare: Slow and steady wins the race.

    Many who seek Senate confirmation make it a point to visit every senator and ask for their vote. This is a way to discuss possible concerns privately, as well as giving the impression of someone willing to do the work of making all those visits.

    Unfortunately, there are those who seem to have the attitude "Our cause is just, therefore we will win the vote without doing the basic work". These are the folks who attack volunteers who don't agree with someone in power (elected official or party official) who has decreed a position on an issue but is never there to attend the platform hearings, put out the newsletter, or otherwise do the hard work.

    There has been no mention of whether AuCoin expended the time and energy to visit the Senators whose vote he needed. If he couldn't be bothered to call on Senators, then why was it the obligation of senators to give unquestioning support?

    And who did AuCoin claim to represent? It has been a long time since he was a state legislator. During his years in DC, he represented the 1st District--but left that job over a decade ago. Recently he has been in Ashland. But would active Jackson County Democrats report that he came to their meetings? Who exactly was he claiming to support?

    If someone wants to say every Democratic nominee should be supported, fine. But there was a wonderful phrase on ABC News today, about the difference between grass roots and grass tops.

    My guess is that paid lobbyists (unless they report in person on a regular basis to large groups of people)are closer to grass tops. Citizens notifying legislators of their views on a nominee are grass roots.

    Would it have been better for Senators to ask "Exactly who does AuCoin represent?", rather than saying AuCoin seemed urban and out of touch with their rural districts?

    Some of us can separate an issue from the personalities. I think schools are underfunded. That doesn't mean that any OEA or OSBA lobbyist speaks for me because I don't need to know details. In a free country, citizens and elected officials have the right to stand up to powerful groups / individuals and say "This is right and this is wrong because...".

    Although I have never voted for Gordon Smith, he deserves credit for standing up to bullies in his party on ANWR and on Medicaid funding. And any member of a legislative body (incl. Oregon House Republicans and Sen. Democrats) have the right to stand up to leadership and say "This is right and this is wrong".

    Citizens who disagree should make clear the difference between "You're wrong on the issue" and "you worded this poorly". They owe public figures the courtesy of quoting them accurately and in context, and of spelling their names correctly.

  • eric lee (unverified)

    (1) Apologies for the typo on Senator Schrader's name. Never attribute to malice what can be better attributed to hasty proofing; (2) I for one find it appalling that the state government apparently feels that urban Oregonians have no stake in natural resource issues. And I find this particular instance astonishingly brazen and arrogant. Five out of seven members of the State Board working for timber, and no space for such a pale green as Les AuCoin; (3) This is of a piece with the usual state attitude toward those who live where most of the jobs and tax revenues are located: "just send us your disproportionate taxes and butt out of the government"; (4) If the Four Toads want to vote with Ted Ferrioli, that's their decision. All I can do is remember their decision when I see their names on a ballot for statewide office; (5) If their votes represent Democratic Party policy in this state, I'll be saddened and appalled. I suspect if the Democratic Party wants to court big timber, it will find that another party has gotten there first; (6) Will this party prove any more resistant to green-baiting now than it did to red-baiting a generation ago? Early signs are not good.

  • Ralph Fillmore (unverified)

    Schrader's never been a solid enviro. He's a decent guy from a swing district, but he's always more than willing to cross party lines should he believe its right or expedient to do so.

    OLCV scores 1997: 63% 1999: 63% 2001: 73% 2003: 25%

    Prozanski, by the way, used to be a solid enviro, but now his new district makes that a lot harder, as it's a swing district instead of his safe House seat. 2001: 93% 2003: 100%

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