History suggests that Dale Foreman, a legislative leader from east of the Cascades, can’t become governor. Foreman says his campaign isn’t about history - it’s about the future.
No politician from outside the Puget Sound region has been elected governor in more than 50 years. None has moved directly from the Legislature to the governor’s mansion in 32 years.
But Foreman - a 48-year-old Harvard lawyer turned Wenatchee orchardist turned state House majority leader - leans heavily on his Eastern Washington connections and his two years as majority leader in the wild chase for the Republican nomination for governor.
“People would rather have a conservative Republican from Eastern Washington than a liberal Democrat from downtown Seattle,” he recently told a friendly crowd of some 250 gathered under the flickering floodlights outside Hogue Cellars Winery in Prosser.
The group of farmers, orchardists and small-business owners traveled by private train from Yakima to Prosser and back to help Foreman raise money.
The trip also allowed the embattled candidate to convey the message that his campaign is on track despite an investigation by the state Public Disclosure Commission and suggestions he had ignored state rules on the use of irrigation water for his orchards.
“We’ve drawn some slings and arrows of people who don’t want change, people with a vested interest in keeping things the way they are,” he told the crowd as a full moon rose over a hillside on the summer night.
Supporter Nick Temple introduced Foreman as a man who stood up to government bureaucrats and big business.
Temple runs the Central Washington Railroad, which will soon be bought out by Burlington Northern.
At the beginning of negotiations, the giant railroad said it planned to bypass much of the Yakima Valley, Temple said. With negotiations backed up by a new law, Foreman and other legislators convinced Burlington Northern instead to upgrade the line through the valley.
“Dale stood tall when it got down to nut-cutting time,” Temple told the crowd. “I’m sorry. I meant to say apple-cutting time.” A smiling Foreman took the microphone with a nod to Temple’s compliment, a coveted accolade for a politician in the sage-covered hills and irrigated valleys of central Washington.
“People in Seattle wouldn’t have any idea what Nick’s talking about,” he told the crowd with an easy segue into his speech on conservative Eastern Washington values that would allow him to get tough on crime and welfare reform while cutting taxes.
Foreman is an unusual blend of the two halves of Washington state.
Raised in Seattle, Foreman is an East Sider by marriage, moving to his wife Gail’s hometown of Wenatchee to practice law and grow apples 20 years ago. His father was a sociologist with a master’s degree in divinity. Foreman wrote a Christian rock opera in the 1970s that enjoyed a brief revival in the Puget Sound area in 1992.
He strongly supported the property rights initiative in 1994, which would have required the state to pay landowners any time a new rule lowered their property values. The initiative failed, but Foreman got high praise from its sponsors for his efforts.
The silver-haired candidate shares the challenge of most Republicans in the crowded field: Beat former state Sen. Ellen Craswell of Poulsbo, the presumed front-runner for the Sept. 17 primary. Then hope to run in the general election against a Democrat he can paint as a Seattle liberal.
On that night, in front of that crowd, Foreman’s assessment of the preference for an Eastern Washington Republican was undeniably true.
But Foreman knows the reality of Washington state politics on which the historical precedents rest. There are 2-1/2 times as many voters around the Puget Sound as there are in Eastern Washington.
Anybody who has trouble doing the math can ask Sid Morrison for help. The former congressman gave up a safe seat to run for governor in 1992 and finished second.
What makes Foreman in 1996 better than Morrison in 1992?
“I have a statewide network - he did not,” Foreman said as Temple’s train moved the crowd back to Yakima. “He had been off in Congress quite a few years.”
The network is led by House Republicans who worked with Foreman in the last session, the first House controlled by the GOP since 1982. After an electoral tidal wave swept some 30 Republican freshmen in, they elected Foreman, who was then in just his second term, to be their majority leader.
State Rep. Barbara Lisk of Zillah said the endorsements by his fellow legislators will help win over undecided voters in the GOP primary.
“People trust their legislators,” said Lisk, one of several officeholders who accompanied Foreman on the train ride and introduced her constituents to him.
Rep. Larry Sheahan of Rosalia, also elected in 1992, said Foreman was chosen majority leader for his grasp of complex issues and his ability to get along with different factions.
Early in his term as majority leader, Foreman was handed an extra duty. Rep. Jean Silver of Spokane, the GOP’s budget master for a decade in the minority, was not physically able to handle the job of committee chairwoman. Silver was eased into a ceremonial post while Foreman drafted the House budget and negotiated with Senate Democrats.
Republicans were happy with the outcome. They repealed parts of a tax increase passed by Lowry and the Democratic-controlled Legislature the previous session.
Foreman is proud of budget cuts that eliminated the state Energy Office, a remnant of the 1970s oil embargo that he said “outlived its usefulness,” and streamlining the Puget Sound Water Quality Commission, a move that prompted some groups to label him “anti-environmental.”
“Malarkey,” Foreman said. “We still spend $20 million to clean up Puget Sound. We just cut the administrative staff by $2 million.”
The experience has Foreman eager to submit his own budget to the Legislature next January. His campaign commercials promise to cut that budget by $1 billion.
Foreman made the cuts sound relatively painless during an interview on the train. Revenue projections call for $19.5 billion in the next two years; at current levels, the state’s array of programs require only about $18.6 billion.
“That’s $900 million (in savings) without cutting anything,” Foreman said. Then he’d eliminate Affirmative Action programs, do away with commissions and programs for minority or ethnic groups, such as the African American or Hispanic Affairs commissions, and cut duplication.
“We’d go agency by agency and streamline,” he said.
State agencies are currently the Foreman campaign’s nemesis.
The Public Disclosure Commission is holding hearings to determine whether he broke tough new campaign fund-raising laws and the Department of Ecology has alleged he is irrigating part of his apple orchard without proper permission.
The same day that Foreman took the train ride from Yakima to Prosser, the PDC held its second day of hearings on his campaign.
Commission staff contend Foreman and some of his top campaign associates set up a sham committee to skirt the state’s tough new fundraising laws. Legislators are not allowed to accept campaign money during the session. The Campaign for Washington, which Foreman said was designed to promote the GOP’s “Contract with Washington” and not his candidacy, collected money during that time.
“It clearly is not good to have these allegations at this time,” he conceded. “But I am absolutely convinced that we did nothing wrong.”
Foreman expects to win the dispute eventually, either at the commission or in U.S. District Court, where he has filed a lawsuit alleging the campaign disclosure law is unconstitutional.
His dispute with Ecology is probably less damaging politically. The agency contends Foreman violated water rights laws by irrigating part of his orchard without permission. He countered he does not need a permit, sent a letter asking the department for clarification more than two years ago, and never received a reply.
For many urban residents of the Puget Sound, water law may be too arcane to contemplate. For some East Side residents, a fight with Ecology may be a badge of honor.
“With these people, it helps him,” said Lisk, the Zillah representative, looking around the fund-raiser.
The wheels are not coming off his campaign, Foreman insisted after the train pulled into Yakima. “Quite to the contrary. We’re stronger every day.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: DALE FOREMAN (R) Resume: 48, born Seattle, resident of Wenatchee … Law degree 1975, bachelor of arts 1970, Harvard University … Lawyer, author of books on medical and dental malpractice; orchardist; state legislator, currently House majority leader … member, state Trial Lawyers Association, state Horticulture Association and Farm Bureau; past chairman, state Heart Association … Married, three children. Finances: Raised $756,000 as of Sept. 3, about $57,000 of it his own money. Why he’s running: “Washington state has been run by liberals from Seattle and Tacoma for the last 12 years. I want to lead the state in a new conservative direction.” First priority: “Ask for the resignations of all Lowry appointees and replace them with people who are not career bureaucrats, telling them to come back to me with a plan to downsize their agencies by 7 percent.”