It seems that Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) had a bad case of sour grapes – sour green grapes.

The nine-term Congressman has yet to make the customary concession call to Andy Harris, who defeated him in the February 12 GOP primary balloting.

It seems that Congressman Gilchrest is irked about a post-primary election statement by an aide to Harris, who acknowledged the Congressman’s courageous service during the Vietnam war, but noted that the voters of Maryland’s traditionally conservative First District booted Gilchrest because they wanted a true conservative to represent them.

The aide is right – that’s exactly what they did want. What they didn’t want was an environmental radical representing them.

Politicians who have been cowering ever since California Rep. Richard Pombo’s narrow loss at the polls two years ago at the hands of environmental activists now have a new reason to cower…

…Gilchrest’s landslide loss at the hands of conservatives.

In 2006, a half dozen self-described “environmentalist” organizations poured more than $3 million into a general election campaign to defeat Pombo, then chairman of the House Resources Committee, in his re-election bid. They succeeded in ousting him, but largely through advertisements focusing on government ethics.

Ever since, greens have been using the successful effort against Pombo to intimidate some of the more freedom-oriented members of Congress, warning them that the could be Pombo-ed if they are too aggressive in defending property rights and individual liberty.

As a Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen noted in a press statement, "Pombo's defeat... serves as notice that extreme anti-environmental positions can be an extreme liability on the campaign trail."

Lawmakers need no longer be worried about being Pombo-ed. They need to worry about being Gilchrest-ed.

Yesterday, Wayne Gilchrest was denied the opportunity to seek his tenth term after receiving less than one-third of the primary vote. His endorsements from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the Sierra Club, the Council for a Livable World and Newt Gingrich, who touted Gilchrest’s environmental credentials, didn’t help him.

They hurt him.

Wayne Gilchrest was among the most rabid environmentalists in Congress, with a life-time LCV score of 63 - higher than such Democrats as John Murtha (57), William Jefferson (50) and Alan Mollohan (57).

But these numbers don’t begin to tell how significant of an ally he was to the environmental movement because they only measure the votes LCV chose to score. Here’s what they don’t tell you…

• Gilchrest introduced the “Climate Stewardship Act,” a bill that would give Washington the power to regulate 85% of the nation’s energy (one of the means of production), harming the economy and especially the disadvantaged and restricting American freedom.

• Gilchrest repeatedly voted against providing the U.S. with greater energy independence, voting against environmentally-responsible energy production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the Outer Continental Shelf.

• Gilchrest voted to create the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, a designation that would create de facto federal zoning along a 175-mile corridor running from Gettysburg to Charlottesville, violating ownership rights in the process.

• Gilchrest voted against the Private Property Rights Implementation Act of 2006, which would have merely given property owners their day in court when the federal government takes their property for public use.

• Gilchrest voted against the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act in 2005, a bill that would have, among other things, provided compensation to property owners for losses under the Endangered Species Act.

To borrow from Defenders of Wildlife’s Rodger Schlickeisen, Gilchrest’s defeat serves as notice that extreme environmentalist positions can be an extreme liability on the campaign trail.

Of course, environmental policy isn’t the only area where Gilchrest was out of sync with his party’s voters.

He seems to have reveled in poking his own party and conservatives in particular in the eye: He was one of only two Republicans to vote in favor of a strict timetable for withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq; he voted to curtail political free speech by supporting campaign finance reform, and he voted to override President Bush’s veto of a pork-laden Labor-HHS bill last year. On February 14, Gilchrest was one of only three Republicans to vote in favor of the Democrat-sponsored contempt resolution against White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. In so doing, he showed all the gratitude to President Bush and his GOP allies for his primary endorsement that Senator Lincoln Chafee did when he left the Republican party shortly after his electoral defeat.

Gilchrest was a maverick in a nation looking for thoroughbreds. His loss shows that being a maverick can be a disadvantage.


David A. Ridenour

David A. Ridenour is vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a position he has held since 1986.

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