What does it mean to be green? I t's a tough question, if you compare last week's endorsements from the Ohio League of Conservation Voters with an environmental scorecard released Sept. 1 by the Sierra Club.

Randy Gardner, the veteran state representative from Wood County who is running for the state Senate in the Nov. 7 election, is among the Republican candidates that the League of Conservation Voters is backing.

Last week, the new group endorsed 51 candidates in state legislative races and did a decent job of sticking to its goal of bipartisanship - 31 Democrats and 20 Republicans.

"The Ohio League of Conservation Voters has begun a new era in bipartisan efforts toward a cleaner environment and protection of our natural resources," said Mr. Gardner at a Statehouse press conference.

In northwest Ohio, the League of Conservation Voters also has endorsed Republican state Sen. Bob Latta, who is running for Mr. Gardner's House seat; state Reps. Jack Ford (D., Toledo), Lynn Olman (R., Maumee), and Chris Redfern (D., Port Clinton).

Both major-party candidates were endorsed in House District 52 in Lucas County - state Rep. Jim Mettler (R., Holland) and his Democratic opponent, Teresa Fedor.

"Those are two good friends for the environment," said Cathy Allen, executive director of the League of Conservation Voters. "That is a situation we like a lot, although we realize it is not optimum for the candidates."

The group also tapped Natalie Mosher, the Democratic candidate for House District 63 that covers Huron County, eastern Erie County, and western Lorain County; and Tim Holtsberry, the Democratic candidate who seeks to represent House District 82 in Williams, Fulton, and Defiance counties.

"Ohio voters can have confidence that these candidates will protect Ohio's air, land, water, flora, and fauna," Ms. Allen said.

In 1999 Mr. Gardner and then-state Rep. Darrell Opfer (D., Oak Harbor) succeeded in getting $4 million in the two-year state operating budget for a land conservation and water quality program along the western Lake Erie watershed.

Combined with other federal and state funds, the program could have about $201 million available over 15 years to help farmers conserve small portions of their land.

The goal is to protect Lake Erie and 5,000 miles of Ohio streams by reducing runoff of soil and pesticides into area waterways and to provide more wildlife habitat.

Mr. Gardner, who is the number two ranking Republican in the House, also was key in securing state funds in this year's capital budget to convert the former Lonz Winery property into a state park.

But Mr. Gardner received a 50 per cent score from the Sierra Club. The highest score possible was 100 per cent - based on eight votes in the House since January, 1999.

Mr. Gardner received "anti-environment" demerits for: * supporting a resolution urging Congress not to ratify the Kyoto treaty limiting greenhouse gas emissions. * opposing an amendment to the electric deregulation bill that would have required utilities competing in Ohio to have a certain percentage of their power come from renewable sources, such as wind or solar. * voting for a bill to create a new classification of waterways and exempt them from water quality review. * opposing an amendment to require public notice and involvement for any cleanup of polluted urban land under Governor Taft's $400 million bond issue on the Nov. 7 ballot.

But other candidates endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters received even lower scores than Mr. Gardner on the Sierra Club's environmental scorecard.

Mr. Olman received a 38 per cent score. However, he didn't get any credit from the Sierra Club for sponsoring pro-consumer amendments to the electric deregulation bill, including a state study on proposed tax credits for developing more efficient power sources.

Mr. Mettler received a 0 per cent score, but he was rated on only two bills since he was appointed to the legislature in October, 1999, to replace Sally Perz, who resigned to lobby for the University of Toledo. The same goes for Mr. Redfern, who received a 100 per cent rating based on two House votes.

Marc Conte, state program coordinator for the Ohio chapter of the Sierra Club, also was on the five-member committee that made the decisions on the League of Conservation Voters' endorsements.

The discrepancy between the scorecard and the endorsements is a reflection of the challenges of assessing candidates based on a handful of votes, Ms. Allen said.

"We talked to these candidates. It was an exhaustive process of research and looking at the records," she said.

For example, Mr. Latta received a 22 per cent score from the Sierra Club. But to the League of Conservation Voters, he's practically the resurrection of Teddy Roosevelt. "He sponsored the Bald Eagle license plate. He's an avid hunter and fisherman and outdoorsman, and he has a deep spiritual connection to the Earth that he so eloquently expressed to us," Ms. Allen said.

Jim Drew is chief of The Blade's Columbus bureau.

All content © 2000 THE BLADE, TOLEDO, OHIO and may not be republished without permission.

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