Rancher files at last minute for state lands commissioner race
NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
SPOKANE — Republican rancher Clint Didier did not think too much about the office of state lands commissioner until he noticed that incumbent Democrat Peter Goldmark was not facing serious opposition.
Didier, a tea party favorite, realized no Republican had filed to challenge Goldmark, so he jumped into the race just two hours before the filing deadline.
“This is way too important to be mismanaged,” Didier, a rancher and former NFL player with two Super Bowl rings, said.
The lands commissioner controls 1 million acres of farmland, 2 million acres of forest land and 2.6 million acres of aquatic lands, Didier said. One of his jobs is to use those lands in a productive manner to generate money for various state operations.
“These lands are not being managed in a husband-like manner,” Didier contended, “We are not producing optimum revenues for school systems.”
Goldmark disputes Didier’s remarks, contending he has done a good job of steering the Department of Natural Resources through the recession and deserves a second term.
“I’ve recovered one of our primary timber accounts from the brink, reduced state management fees to send more money directly to the beneficiaries, and directed $10 million back to cash-strapped counties that were in desperate need of support in these tough economic times,” Goldmark said.
He also questioned Didier’s qualifications and desire.
“I’m appalled he filed at the last minute,” Goldmark said. “That’s not a very strong starting point.”
There is a third candidate for the job in independent Stephen Sharon of South Seattle, but most observers figure Goldmark and Didier will be the top two vote-getters in the August primary.
Goldmark said the state’s budget woes have been a challenge.
“We’ve been having to cut programs to conform with state budgetary needs,” Goldmark said. “It takes a sharp eye to do that while sustaining our work with trust lands, putting fires out, law enforcement and other practices.”
Goldmark said he has had to make big decisions, such as laying off 10 percent of staff, and smaller ones, such as eliminating coffee service at board meetings, to balance the budget.
The agency must spend money to prepare for timber sales, which produce more than $200 million in annual revenues for a special fund to build schools across the state, Goldmark said.
“We have to maintain our revenue-producing capability,” Goldmark said. “Timber sales are the core of our mission.”
In addition to the budget, challenges facing the agency include three large planning efforts, Goldmark said. They are producing a long-term strategy for dealing with the endangered marbled murrelet, creating a plan for the Olympic Experimental State Forest, and creating a 10-year sustainable harvest plan for all state trust lands.
Goldmark is also trying to create renewable energy from state lands by finding ways to convert biomass left over from timber harvests into aviation fuel, Goldmark said.
The cleanup of Puget Sound is also a major project, he said.
Didier is a farmer and rancher in Franklin County, and ran unsuccessfully for the GOP Senate nomination in the 2010 election. Didier said he was called two days before the filing deadline by a friend who advised him to look at the scope of the lands commissioner job and the politics of Goldmark. That’s when he decided to run.
He has done little campaigning since filing, preferring to wait until after the August primary.
Lands Commissioner candidates
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science, Portland State University.
Civic experience: Presidential appointee to Washington State Committee of national Farm Service Agency 2000-2008.
Total spent, raised*: $5,389.84 (including a $1,656 loan), $1,658.84 .
Top donors: Connell Oil, $500; Franklin County Republican Central Committee, $500; David Miller of Spokane, $500; Sylvia Miller of Spokane, $500; Connie Coopersmith of Mead; $250; Michael Coopersmith of Mead, $250.
Occupation: Commissioner of Public Lands.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Haverford College; Ph.D. in molecular biology, University of California Berkeley; postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology, Harvard.
Civic experience: Former president and member of the Washington State University Board of Regents; Okanogan School Board member.
Total spent, raised*: $336,305.72 (including $851 in personal funds), $98,268.45.
Top donors: Harriet Bullitt of Leavenworth, $1,800; Wendy Ann Goldmark, $1,800; Hampton Lumber Sales of Portland, $1,800; Interfor Pacific of Bellingham, $1,800; Justice for All PAC, $1,800; Washington Education Association PAC, $1,800.
Stephen A. Sharon
Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration, University of Washington.
Civic experience: None cited.
Total spent, raised*: Has agreed to raise and spend no more than $5,000, exempting him from the requirement to name donors.
* As of July 12, source: Washington Public Disclosure Commission