Another California member of Congress may be off to join the Obama Administration – in this case, Mike Thompson of CA-01 (North Coast, Sonoma, Davis, and the Congressional Wine Caucus). Raul Grijalva of AZ-07 has fallen off the shortlist and though Kevin Gover, a member of the Pawnee Tribe and current head of the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian is getting talked about, his spokeswoman told the WaPo “he has not heard anything from the transition, nor does Kevin expect to.”
That leaves Mike Thompson as a frontrunner – which isn’t sitting too well with environmentalists concerned about the Blue Dog’s decidedly mixed environmental record. Gristmill has the lowdown:
In 2004, he voted against an amendment to an Interior appropriations bill intended to protect wildlife and old growth trees in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest by stopping taxpayer-subsidized logging road construction. The measure passed by a vote of 222-205, and he was the only California Democrat to vote against it. He also opposed an amendment to ban the act of bear-baiting in national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands.
He was also one of only 30 Democrats in 2006 to vote against an amendment to the Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act that would maintain areas of the national forests protected under the Roadless Rule. He also voted against another amendment that would have required the Forest Service to comply with environmental protection, endangered species, and historic preservation laws when conducting “salvage logging” operations in national forests. The amendment failed.
North Coast environmentalists are also skeptical of his support for sustainable land use policies:
Mike Thompson has a Democratic Party constituency that is much more liberal than he is. During the years of Republican dominance in Congress he prided himself on being a centrist who voted with the Republicans on issues like tax cuts for the rich. In return the Republicans had no problem with doing some things for Congressman Thompson’s donors in the timber and wine industries….
A real test of Mr. Thompson’s environmental credentials would be: is he willing to close down his vineyard and winery friends in his own district by no longer allowing them to suck water out of the rivers and aquifers? Ask the environmentalists who live on rivers like the Navarro about how much water is left for the Salmon once vineyards finish taking their sips. Ask environmentalists in Napa County about pesticides in ground water and runnoff.
Grist also notes that he has an 88% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, but the above is enough to indicate he wouldn’t exactly be the change we need at the Interior Department.
If Thompson is picked, however, that would open up another California Congressional seat. Who would replace him? The district has a Cook PVI rating of D+10 and Democrats have a 20 point registration advantage (46% to the GOP’s 26%).
Although I’m not as familiar with CA-01 as some of our readers might be, it would seem ripe for a shift toward a more progressive Democrat should Thompson get the nod for Interior. Davis, and Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties can’t be hurting for progressive leadership.
I hope folks familiar with the seat will share their thoughts in the comments. While I’m hoping Obama picks someone more progressive for the Interior post, a Thompson pick could set in motion an interesting set of political dominoes on the North Coast.