Inhofe In The Crosshairs

Senator Makes 2008 “Dirty Dozen” List

The novelties of this presidential race have captured so much media attention that the need to also elect a suite of congressmen and women and governors in 2008 has hardly registered yet. The Oklahoman broke the quiet on Wednesday, however, with a short piece on a threat to its senior senator.

This week, the League of Conservation Voters named James Inhofe, a Republican and the Senate’s leading climate-change skeptic, as the second candidate to make the 2008 “Dirty Dozen”. Launched in 1996, the list targets members of Congress who are up for re-election and have consistently voted against the environment.

In 2006, nine of thirteen (it’s a baker’s dozen, I guess) politicians on this list lost their seats. While the might be more correlation than cause, it’s no surprise that the league decided to include Inhofe this year; among other things, he has called global warming “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.” According to Chris Casteel, writing in The Oklahoman:

Inhofe responded Tuesday by calling the group a liberal special interest group and said it was ignoring his record of balancing environmental protection with economic reality.

‘I believe our incredible environmental progress over the years is not because of Washington’s morass of federal laws…. Instead, I believe our achievements are directly attributable to the ingenuity and strong sense of personal accountability that is characteristic of the American people,’ he said.

The LCV made Representative Joe Knollenberg, a Republican from Michigan, the first name in the 2008 Dirty Dozen - it will announce the remaining members over the coming months. Knollenberg has repeatedly resisted legislation to tighten pollution standards, according to the league. His “record is one of the worst in Congress,” one of its members told the Detroit Free Press, which published a brief on the list.

Unfortunately, both were items were disappointingly short, mentioning nothing more than the congressmen’s ascension to the Dirty Dozen. Perhaps regular readers of the two papers already know this, but I would’ve liked at least some discussion of Inhofe’s and Knollenberg’s relative strengths and vulnerabilities in the coming campaign. Reader comments about the article on The Oklahoman’s Web site are split between support and opposition for Inhofe.

According to Jim Myers, writing for the Tulsa World, the LCV, “is not ready … to say exactly how involved it will be trying to unseat Inhofe.” Its senior vice president, Tony Massaro, points to the group’s help in defeating Representative Richard Pombo, a California Repubican, in 2006. “As long ago as April, Inhofe predicted that he would replace Pombo as the league’s next big target,” Myers writes.

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Curtis Brainard writes on science and environment reporting. Follow him on Twitter @cbrainard.