The race for the White House won't be settled for nearly four months, but Western governors already are plotting ways to gain the ear of the next president and Congress.
California Gov. George Deukmejian, the new chairman of the Western Governors Association, announced Tuesday he already has contacted the Republicans' all-but-certain nominee, George Bush, and that Democratic governors will be in touch with fellow Gov. Michael Dukakis, who will become their standard-bearer next week.Both nominees, and the transition team of the winner, will be lobbied on Western issues and will essentially be told "Don't forget us" as decisions are made and key appointments made, the governor said.
"We're covering all the bases so that as a result, regardless of which party wins, Western governors not only will have a significant role in the new administration, but we're involved very early to make sure our voice is heard on issues of importance to us before they get into office and begin to get captured by some of the bureaucracy that's in place."
Deukmejian said he has asked that a Western GOP governor be included on the transition team if the Republicans win the election, to give suggestions for the cabinet and other key appointments and to keep a Western perspective before the decision-makers. Washington Gov. Booth Gardner, a Democrat and the outgoing chairman, said, "Those of us on the Democratic side have access to the candidate to express our views." Both Gardner and Oregon Gov. Neil Goldschmidt said they briefed Dukakis on various Northwest issues when he campaigned in the two states last Saturday.
Deukmejian, a big fan of Bush's, said he's convinced the vice president is sensitive to Western issues.
The Western governors wrapped up a three-day conclave Tuesday by passing a number of resolutions on issues facing the West and directing the association staff to "package and present the Western viewpoint." The resolutions will be sent to both the Bush and Dukakis campaigns.
Issues include international trade, economic development, natural resources, and transportation and storage of radioactive and hazardous wastes.
The governors want more active participation by states in international trade negotiations, determination of Indian water rights, reform of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, national policies on groundwater use, use of the region's water to combat drought, protecting the region's interests in acid rain legislation and development of so-called "exclusive economic zones."
The nuclear waste resolution, sponsored by Goldschmidt and Richard Bryan of Nevada, urges Congress to direct the Department of Energy to take overall responsibility for shipping highly radioactive wastes across Western states to the proposed repository in Nevada.
The group also adopted a resolution by Utah's Norm Bangerter that assessment of the Nevada site be expanded to consider transportation concerns of states along the transportation corridor.