Establishment Candidates Defeat Challengers in Sierra Club Voting
The New York Times
April 22, 2004
By FELICITY BARRINGER
WASHINGTON, April 21 - After weeks of highly publicized warnings that
anti-immigration outsiders were trying to take over the venerable Sierra
Club, the club's members on Wednesday overwhelmingly supported all five
candidates put forward by the group's formal nominating committee.
The three candidates whose participation became the focal point of the
controversy were former Gov. Richard Lamm of Colorado, a prominent critic of
immigration policies; David Pimentel, a noted Cornell University
entomologist; and Frank Morris, the former executive director of the
Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. But the three finished at least
95,000 votes behind the winners, placing 11th, 12th and 15th in the race
that had a total of 17 candidates for the five three-year terms.
The election attracted the votes of 22 percent of the group's 757,000
members, the highest percentage to vote in three decades. The campaign
itself had been marked by widespread accusations that outsiders were trying
to hijack the 15-member board. Once in control, current club leaders
asserted, these candidates intended to use the environmental organization to
promote anti-immigration views.
In interviews last month, Mr. Pimentel and Mr. Morris strongly disputed that
characterization, though Mr. Lamm agreed in an interview that curbs on
immigration were his top priority.
Whatever the reality of the accusations, the hot-button issue of immigration
and accusations that some of the dissidents' supporters had links to racist
groups gave the election a high national profile. That prompted the
intervention of the actor Robert Redford and the liberal advocacy group
moveon.org on behalf of those candidates who were overwhelmingly elected in
the race that ended at midday Wednesday.
"This is a strong mandate for the board to stick to its core agenda and
mission protecting our planet," said Larry Fahn, the president of the Sierra
Club board. "It was a clear repudiation of those wanting the club to get
involved in the immigration debate." And, in a comment directly echoed by
two winning candidates, he said he hoped the energy devoted to the club's
election would carry over into a national effort to defeat President Bush.
Lisa Renstromwho led the field with 141,407 votes, said in an interview late
Wednesday, "I want to make the analogy that we got the vote out in this
election and we're going to get the vote out in November."
Mr. Morris said, "The Sierra Club has voted and I respect that and I
congratulate the winners." Asked if he would run again, he said, "I'm pretty
sure probably not. If you've gone through the experience that some of us
have gone through with this, it's not something you would want to repeat."
Mr. Pimentel said, "They, the old guard I should say, organized well and
they did a great job." He paused, then added, "Of winning."
Mr. Lamm did not respond to voice mail messages left at his home and office.
Paul Watson, a dissident board member who had favored some of the losing
candidates, asserted Wednesday that the campaign committee of the winners
had "bought the election," spending more than $200,000 on a glossy postcard
mailing to 550,000 members.
"This has put an end to democracy in the club," Mr. Watson said.
Clayton Daughenbaugh, the winning slate's campaign manager, said he believed
the amount was closer to $150,000 and that the dissident slate had also sent
mailings to the membership.
"Postcards, that's a reinforcer," Mr. Daughenbaugh said. "But that's not
what wins elections. What wins elections is people working and personal