THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Saturday, August 3, 1996 TAG: 9608030318 SECTION: LOCAL PAGE: B1 EDITION: NORTH CAROLINA SOURCE: BY CATHERINE KOZAK, STAFF WRITER DATELINE: COLINGTON ISLAND LENGTH: 92 lines
A team of college students has spent a week stumping around Dare County's conservative Democratic turf to pin an anti-environmentalist label on U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.
``What we're here to show people is the environment is a nonpartisan issue,'' said Adam Linker, 19, a student at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. ``And it's something that can get him out of office.
``I would say the Outer Banks is very receptive to environmental issues, but as far as politics, a lot of them are more conservative,'' he added. ``We know it is a good area to come to.''
Clean Up Congress, a nonprofit political action committee that focuses on getting pro-environmental representatives in Congress, hired Linker. He was one of eight students who set up camp in a Colington park and fanned out across Outer Banks' communities to talk to folks about Helms. The senator is being challenged by Charlotte Democrat Harvey Gantt.
The students, who are paid a small wage and partial expenses, said they have had fun while knocking on doors.
They go door-to-door telling people that Helms is not considered a pro-environment candidate, passing out what they call Helms' 1995 ``scorecard'' on environmental issues, and urging people to register to vote.
The scorecard, tabulated by the League of Conservation Voters, gives Helms a 1995 score of zero on environmental protection.
Clean Up Congress contends Helms has voted to weaken restrictions on certain toxins and water pollutants, has supported laws prohibiting scientists from protecting additional endangered species, has urged the slashing of the EPA's budget and wants to eliminate the red wolf recovery program.
But a spokesman for Helms in Washington said the group has misrepresented the senator.
``Sen. Helms has a long record of supporting the environment and the taxpayer at the same time,'' the aide said. ``He believes the two are not mutually exclusive.''
Although Helms has been criticized by Democrats for voting against the environment, the North Carolina Republican has recently garnered local bipartisan support for a bill he sponsored in the U.S. Senate this session for the Oregon Inlet jetty project.
``A lot of people here don't realize Helms is anti-environmentalist,'' said J.J. Levin-Richardson, 20, of Raleigh. ``There are a lot of people who are uninformed and who don't know.''
People the students contact are generally polite, many are receptive, and some are impressed enough to donate to the nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, the students said.
``Out here on the Outer Banks, it's a great distance from the capital and some people may feel distanced from politics,'' Levin-Richardson said. ``But if you have someone knocking on your door and telling you about issues, it can have a tremendous impact.''
As the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and a powerful supporter of the conservative Christian Coalition, Helms' name invariably inspires strong reaction. But the canvassers said they concentrate solely on the 24-year veteran senator's environmental track record - not on other political stands.
``We've encountered some very hard-core Helms supporters,'' Linker said. ``I think a lot of them put environmental issues lower down on their list of priorities. . . Helms is more (to the) right than most politicians. We want to tell people it's OK to be Republican and not like Helms.''
Clean Up Congress was created by Woody Holton, a Duke University graduate and son of former Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton. Young Holton created the national PAC group in 1990, and that year succeeded in helping to defeat Oregon Republican Rep. Denny Smith. The campaigned against Oliver North in Virginia in 1994 and Washington's Rod Chandler, a pro-logging candidate who ran for the U.S. Senate in 1992.
Todd Foreman, the North Carolina director of Clean Up Congress, said the organization's strategy is to register 15,000 new voters, contact 250,000 people and turn out 90 percent of the anti-Helms voters in November.
So far, Foreman said, the group has collected $70,000 and contacted 35,000 people.
Canvassers have hit Raleigh, Asheville, Chapel Hill and plan to visit Wilmington and Winston-Salem, Foreman said. MEMO: Who are they?
Clean Up Congress was created in 1990 by Woody Holton, son of former
Virginia Gov. Linwood Holton. The group campaigned against Oliver North
in Virginia in 1994 and Washington's Red Chandler, a pro-logging
candidate for the U.S. Senate, in 1992. ILLUSTRATION: Color photo by DREW C. WILSON, The Virginian-Pilot
J.J. Levin-Richardson, a student at Clark University, right, is part
of a team traveling across the state to spotlight the environmental
voting record of Sen. Jesse Helms. The group of eight was hired by
Clean Up Congress, a nonprofit political action committee.
A group of college students wants voters to know why they disagree
with Sen. Jesse Helms' environmental record. by CNB