The Environment Endorsed No One for Governor

August 21, 1994|By PETER A. JAY

Havre de Grace. -- Tom Horton is not only one of my favorite columnists and book-writers, but a good friend, too.

We have crawled through winter marshes together, been out in each other's boats in all kinds of weathers and waters, shared newspaper gossip, and helped each other off and on in various ways.

He's a good shipmate who knows the Bay and steers a straight course, although he's been known to turn a little green in a heavy sea, and he sometimes snores.

So it's with reluctance that I take issue with some of Cap'n Horton's recently published political views.

In a way, I wish they had appeared under someone else's name. But if they had, they would not have been as well written, and would have been much easier to ignore.

Tom's Saturday "On the Bay" column Aug. 13 was headed, "Glendening: environment's hope." It said, in essence, that among the various candidates for governor of Maryland, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening is the best because he has emphasized his positions on environmental issues.

Tom went on to say, if not explicitly then by the strongest of implications, that while the other Democratic candidates, though not up to the Glendening standard, are still acceptable, all the Republicans running for governor are awful.

The Republican candidates, he said, make him feel sorry for other Republicans "who care deeply about the environment." He mentioned Charles Mathias, Russell Train and Arthur Sherwood.

Well, okay. It's an election year, and political opinions are as common as sea nettles in Tangier Sound during a dry summer.

Probably nobody who knows Tom Horton ever thought there was the slightest chance that he'd vote Republican this November, and few will be surprised to learn that he prefers Mr. Glendening to the other Democrats running for governor. No problem there.

But there was something absolutist in Tom's rhetoric a week ago Saturday that troubled me. It was a tone out of keeping with his own thoughtful and amiable nature, yet all too typical of current ,, politics at both the state and the national level.

It was a little like calling someone racist for opposing affirmative action, or sexist for making fun of Mrs. Clinton's cattle dealings. And I have to say that I found it personally objectionable.

I am not a Republican, but I imagine there's a reasonable chance I'll vote for one for governor when I go to the polls in November. That is especially likely if Mr. Glendening gets the nomination.

He strikes me as a prototypical Clinton Democrat whose philosophy depends on increased taxation, regulation and government spending. I don't think his approach would be in the JTC

best interests of Maryland.

So, by the Horton Rule, I seem to be a citizen who doesn't "care deeply about the environment."

Well, in a pig's eye. I spend my working day looking after several hundred acres of the Maryland environment. I work hard at it, seven days most weeks, and I think I do it damn well.

I do it with an eye to wildlife habitat preservation, water quality and sediment control. I also do it as a business, constantly thinking about ways to increase revenues and reduce costs.

To the extent that I succeed, I demonstrate clearly that farmland in the shadow of the metropolis can be used productively for something besides growing subdivisions.

In addition to working a family farm, I give substantial amounts of time and intellectual energy to conservation projects in my county, the state and the region.

I also give some money -- not a lot, perhaps, but a significant chunk of my income. And over the years I have played a small but satisfying part in the permanent preservation of a lot of land I don't own.

I can't be certain, but I don't think Tom Horton, who knows me pretty well, truly thinks I'm an enemy of the environment -- even though I don't vote as he does, and even though he's actually seen me peeing in the Chesapeake.

I also believe Tom knows plenty of other people who will vote Republican this November, but have done a lot more for conservation in basic, hands-on ways than half the tree-hugging, BMW-driving greenies who think a vote for Parris Glendening is a vote for Mother Earth.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Tom's former employer, knows very well that the cause of the Bay is greater than partisan politics, and broader than ideology. It has gone to great -- though maybe not great enough -- lengths to make common cause with conservation-minded folks who think some green politics is as loony as a soybean hamburger.

These are people who think that a healthy economy is a primary step toward a healthy environment, and who have serious doubts about the ability of government -- especially the kind of government we've been seeing in action lately in Washington and Annapolis -- to do anything effectively besides get in our faces.

Cap'n Horton's been around too long and seen too much of life to believe that any one politician or any one party has a monopoly on virtue.

So I'm willing to write off his odd suggestion that a vote against his preferred candidate is environmentally irresponsible as just one of those mistakes we all make from time to time.

Peter A. Jay is a writer and farmer.

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