By Kent Gray
Triplicate staff writer
Three candidates for the First Congressional District are taking different approaches to reach voters on Nov. 5.
Incumbent Mike Thompson (D-Napa) said he is proud to run on his record.
"I've tried to be very helpful to Del Norte County," Thompson said Friday. "My work on the Welfare-to-Work program, the funding for airport improvements and for the dredge spoils at the harbor I worked well with all the locals and community leaders on all these issues."
Thompson's Republican opponent, Lawrence Wiesner, a certified public accountant from Santa Rosa, claims the incumbent spends more time showboating than addressing the issues, pointing specifically at the congressman's recent trip to Iraq and delivering dead salmon to the steps of the Capitol.
"Is that what you want your congressman to do? To dump dead fish at the Capitol without any idea what caused the fish kill?" Wiesner asked. "An overreaction like this is akin to mob mentality. You shouldn't jump up and down and yell just because it feels good to do so. It's very unnerving. People should be well-reasoned before they talk."
"If he wanted to debate he should have shown up at the forum," Thompson responded, alluding to a public forum hosted by KEET and the League of Women Voters on Oct. 21. Thompson and Libertarian candidate, Kevin Bastian of Eureka, both attended.
"It's hard for folks in Washington to understand what's happening out here with the water and the fish kill," Thompson said regarding an estimated 33,000 salmon that died recently on the Klamath River. "The upper-basin farmers did such a good job politicizing the issue that many people feel it's the farmers versus hippies, or sucker fish. This was a real good visual and a real eye-opener for many of them ... a lot more people are watching it now."
Wiesner said he has gained some support from Democrats after Thompson's recent fact-finding visit to Iraq.
"The reason I am running is because I don't think Mike has done an adequate job," said Wiesner. "He could spend more time in Del Norte County and Humboldt and Washington rather than going to Iraq or Kosovo or whatever. We have plenty to do right here."
Thompson said he has received more positive than negative feedback on his trip to Iraq. Thompson said his reason for the trip was to examine the pitfalls America may inherit if it ended up occupying the nation.
"We would be sending an occupational force to Iraq for many, many years to come. It's important that we know what we would be getting ourselves into," Thompson said. "I've received close to 4,000 letters, 3,700 or so from my district, thanking me for going. This was out of the ordinary because it's usually when you anger people that they write to you."
On the issue of forest management and the recent catastrophic Biscuit Fire, both candidates were on the same page.
"I've introduced a bill on this issue and there's going to be a hearing on it," said Thompson. "I was there during the Biscuit Fire and spoke to the folks on the ground who were in charge ... I spoke to those people about the problem with (aircraft) frequencies and brought that issue back to Washington."
Radio frequencies being used for communication in Oregon were slow to be released in California and many local politicians claim this aided the fire's advance into the state.
"It's ridiculous; we had aircraft in the air near the fire and they could have taken care of it," said Wiesner. "I was up there when the fire was going on and spoke to (Del Norte County Supervisor) Chuck Blackburn about it ... I don't know why the state of California should be liable to put out a fire when officials in Oregon were warned well in advance."
Libertarian Kevin Bastian, an information technology manager from Eureka, claims that the region's environment would be served best by eliminating publicly owned lands, protecting it from fires as well as pollution.
"Any time a central authority attempts to regulate something, you're doomed," said Bastian. "People often think the largest polluter of public lands is the oil industry or the steel industry. No, it's the government usually the military. Asking the government to protect the environment is like asking a convicted sex offender to look after your children."
Bastian added that Del Norte County's redwood forests have survived "several hundreds of forest fires over the centuries and they are still here. Forests have managed themselves long before we arrived."
On the issue of water rights and the plight of farmers versus salmon on the Klamath, Bastian said there are no clear-cut answers.
"I don't pretend to have all the answers. There are no grand solutions on who owns the water and what they can do with it," said Bastian. "I know there are some common sense areas there that have yet to be explored."
Bastian, who said he has no personal gripes with his opponents, said the philosophy of both major parties is the problem with their candidacies.
"Their answer to everything is more laws, and the amount of laws we've inherited over the past 100 years is unbelievable," said Bastian. "I like to use the analogy of peeling an onion you peel away the outer layers first. What we need to do is divide the issues in half and take action on the no-brainers first."