Update August 27 - Victory! You know you've made an impact on the race when Gallego backers tweet Wilcox staffers to "enjoy their dirty coal money." We phonebanked, we rallied, we meme'd, but most of all we got the word out: Wilcox has secret deals with dark-money-source APS and openly takes coal-funded electric utility money. Local media tried to portray the race as simply one of personalities - they weren't interested in Gallego's efforts to talk climate policy with an editorial board - so we immediately obtained 400 signatures on a petition to the papers to cover climate issues. In short, we highlighted the contrast between a climate hawk and one who doesn't care about the issue (or worse, would obstruct progress), and emerged victorious, thanks to smart on-the-ground organizing. Gallego defeated Wilcox, 48% to 36%, and is assured of a fall victory with no Republican opponent.
It's a rare chance to elect a climate hawk in the House of Representatives this year in Phoenix, Arizona. We're delighted to endorse Ruben Gallego in Arizona's 7th Congressional District, in a Democratic primary August 26.
Here's the setup. Retiring Rep. Ed Pastor has represented the deep blue district, but he's apparently taken a vow of climate silence - he's scored a grand total of 3 points, out of 100, on our scorecard by cosponsoring a handful of solar bills and otherwise ducking the issue. The front-runners are Iraq war veteran Ruben Gallego and county supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, facing each other (and assorted others) in less than five weeks.
Gallego's announcement focused on climate change and wage disparity: "There really needs to be an argument on these issues, also from a Hispanic perspective," he said. "I think we need Hispanic congressmen and congresswomen to start stepping up and talking about climate change, start talking about a living wage or at least a higher minimum wage, because that directly impacts Latinos here in this country." He opposes both the Keystone pipeline and the Rosemont copper mine, and he wants to bring more solar energy (and jobs!) to the sunny state. Rep. Raul Grijalva, MoveOn, Dolores Huerta, and DailyKos are among his endorsers.
Meanwhile, his opponent takes coal money but doesn't bother to include an energy/environment page on her website. Best guess: she'll avoid mentioning climate and score in the same range as Pastor. Gallego, on the other hand, can be one of the few chances in 2014 to put a climate champion in the House.
Polls from a while back showed Gallego leading by a few points, but with a huge percentage of undecideds - in other words, the kind of race where voter contact and turnout make a difference. And that's why we're backing up our endorsement with boots on the ground, just as we're doing in the Hawaii primaries. Best of all for Arizona's democratic future, the more we turn out voters in a district that historically doesn't vote much, the more we help turn them into habitual voters...and help turn around the politics of a sometimes-crAZy state.
We’re endorsing climate hawk Shenna Bellows to be the next Senator from Maine because business as usual is no longer good enough in the face of a local and worldwide crisis. Long-time incumbent Susan Collins admits the existence of a problem, to her credit; but far from proposing credible solutions, her actions range from policy homeopathy to delay to active hindrance.
While working on our sophisticated scorecard measuring leadership - not just votes - on climate for Senate Democrats, we are also tracking four Senate Republicans in advance of the 2014 election. We’re measuring Susan Collins’ record of public engagement, bills authored and cosponsored, press releases, website, and internal Senate groups joined, beginning January 2011, using the same yardsticks we’re applying to Democrats. And, to be blunt, her record of leadership is worse than her mediocre voting record.
We weight public engagement far more than any other factor. Leaders need to be interacting with citizens on this immense issue, whether it’s speeches on the Senate floor or town halls with local fishermen or keynoting business conferences. Collins hasn’t done any of that. Instead, she had one moment in the spotlight in September 2011 delivering the GOP’s rebuttal to President Obama’s weekly address, in which she demanded a time-out for EPA regulations.
The bills she’s authored have been, mostly, to track, curb, and delay “major regulations,” DC-speak for EPA rules. She’s cosponsored a pro-Keystone XL bill and bills to “rein in the EPA.”
Her press releases likewise sound a similar theme: the only acceptable response to climate change is to sit down and do nothing for a year. Or two. Or until Congress thinks of a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, ooops, we mean, EPA regulations.
Collins’ appeal to some national environmental groups is obvious: she accepts the science, unlike most Republicans of the climate zombie era, and bipartisanship sounds nice. But her delay-and-dither approach is flat out wrong. Maine, faced with ocean acidification and warming seas affecting its iconic lobster harvest, deserves better. Support for business-as-usual politicians like Collins, and her many counterparts on the Democratic Party side, is tantamount to acceptance of a business-as-usual carbon emissions trajectory.
We founded Climate Hawks Vote to elevate the voices of those few leaders who see the climate crisis as a priority. Shenna Bellows has earned our endorsement. She will seek limits on carbon emissions. She opposes the Keystone XL pipeline. And - unlike Collins - she’s taken a firm stand on an issue important to Maine voters and the larger climate community: she’s opposed the proposed Portland Montreal Pipeline Reversal, a plan to re-engineer an existing pipeline to carry carbon-intensive tarsands from Canada to Portland, Maine and then to the global marketplace. Maine needs to elect Shenna Bellows to the Senate.
Climate Hawks Vote announces endorsements of two Michigan Democrats: Paul Clements for Congress in Michigan’s Sixth District, and Gary Peters for Senate, because the Koch brothers and Big Oil need to stop using Michigan’s shores as a dumping ground for their pollution and Michigan’s politicians for their agenda.
Paul Clements is challenging none other than Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee - these days, the House Big Oil Lackey Committee. As the face of Big Oil, Upton was named the number one enemy of the earth. It’s into his pockets that Big Oil money goes - he’s among the top recipients of money from the oil, gas, and coal-fired electric utility industry. And when Big Oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River, Upton demanded answers for about a week, then went back to business as usual, pushing bills to gut the EPA.
Voting out Fred Upton piqued our interest… but Climate Hawks Vote won’t get involved in a race between a horrible Republican and a mediocre Democrat (we won’t name names, but our scorecard will). Luckily for the voters of southwestern Michigan, Paul Clements is a true climate champion. “Climate change is the greatest threat to Michigan and to the world in the 21st century,” he says. His new ad - watch it here - touts clean energy solutions.
We wouldn’t be endorsing if we didn’t think Clements has a chance; he’s considered to be Upton’s toughest challenger in years, and anything can happen to entrenched incumbents in a year in which Eric Cantor lost. The district begins as R+1, i.e. a very slight Republican edge that can be beaten by smart Democratic campaigning. Climate Hawks Vote aims to defeat Upton to send a clear message: Big Oil and Michigan waters don’t mix.
We’re also endorsing Gary Peters, running against Terri Lynn Land in an open seat for Senate. Like Clements, Peters is explicitly running on climate change and the effect it’s having on the Great Lakes. Peters fought the Koch Industries-created piles of petcoke in Detroit, and he’s been carrying a bill to boost electric vehicles - a classic made-in-Michigan solution to climate change.
Climate Hawks Vote is delighted to endorse Scott Peters in California’s 52d Congressional District of San Diego for his strong climate leadership and for taking first place in our August 2014 survey. And his approach just may break partisan gridlock in Congress.
Scott Peters has a reputation as a problem solver. Climate hawks tend to fly on the left wing of the Democratic Party, but Peters has demonstrated that climate transcends political partisanship. He’s spoken out onsuper-pollutants, national security, and resiliency, all issues that should not be bogged down in partisan bickering.
Peters eked out a victory in 2012 in a swing district, and he’s facing a very tough reelection fight - DC pundits consider his race one of the few true tossups of 2014. He could have ducked the thorny climate issue. Instead, he stepped up to the plate in a big way once in office, taking on a leadership role in the House Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition, authoring bills, and speaking out in the national and local press. That took political courage.
His courage is reflected in our scorecard, which measures leadership - not just votes - on climate. In the short time he’s been in Congress, he’s in fifth place among all Democrats in the House of Representatives, above stalwart climate hawks in Oregon, Vermont, and deep blue parts of California; the scorecard is cumulative since 2011.
Peters has also been endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce - the first time we’ve ever agreed with the Chamber! but that fact gives us hope: perhaps climate can transcend politics. We need to return Scott Peters and his problem solving approach to Congress.
Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Senator, has earned a very high score on our scorecard, and thus our endorsement. She’s carrying one bill, the Energy Savings & Industrial Competitiveness Act, so we knew she had an interest in energy efficiency. What surprised us in scoring her actions was the depth of her commitment to the issue. She’s stumped for energy efficiency up and down her home state. She’s visited manufacturers, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Ivy League classes, an island historic hotel, and, it seems just about every business in the state to send a message with broad appeal: the energy that is both the cheapest and the cleanest is the energy that isn’t used in the first place. She’s been speaking out on energy efficiency, frequently and consistently, for years. And in doing so, she’s educated and engaged the public on a critical issue with bipartisan appeal.
If Shaheen were in the House of Representatives, she’d rank among the top half-dozen House Democrats on our tough scorecard. Again, we’re scoring leadership to separate climate hawks from those who might vote the right way but who duck the issue in engaging with the public.
Shaheen is being challenged by a joke of a Republican who’s flip-flopped as much on climate science as his residency. However, Climate Hawks Vote doesn’t endorse mediocre Democrats who’ll put the climate crisis on the back burner just because they’re fighting bad Republicans. Rather, we selectively endorse only those who demonstrate leadership. Here, Jeanne Shaheen understands the moral imperative of the climate crisis. She’s working with a Republican, Rob Portman (R-OH), to pass a solid bill. She’s earned our endorsement, and she deserves another term in the Senate.
Climate Hawks Vote is delighted to endorse in four California Congressional elections, joining our prior endorsement of Scott Peters (CA-52, San Diego). In order purely alphabetical, they're Lois Capps, Heidi Hall, Mike Honda, and Ted Lieu.
Lois Capps (CA-24, Santa Barbara) has earned our endorsement by being a tireless advocate for action on climate. She has the second-highest score among all Democrats in the House of Representatives on our scorecard measuring leadership. Her climate resilience ideas, in particular, have been adopted by the White House. We especially appreciate her passion in connecting the dots between climate change and two issues important to her constituents: public health and the Santa Barbara coastline.
Heidi Hall (CA-01, Redding and far northern California) says: “The greatest threat to our national security, public health and long-term economic growth is climate change.” The region is being hit hard by climate change - homes in Weed were recently lost to wildfire while Shasta Dam is shockingly barren. Yet her opponent, a first-term Republican of the tea party variety, denies basic climate science, voted to shut down the government, and flirts with the state of Jefferson. Heidi’s pragmatic approach includes keeping her district in the state of California. Imagine that.
Mike Honda (CA-17, Silicon Valley) has been a stalwart on climate change among other progressive causes. He’s authored a core bill, HR 4461, requiring climate change education - a happy contrast to those red states whose textbooks question science. And he’s tied a tech-savvy Smart Electronics bill to climate change. He’s spoken out for a carbon tax and against Republican efforts to gut the EPA. He’s being challenged by a technology mogul who promises to represent the businesses of Silicon Valley; but Mike represents something far more important, people. His leadership on climate is demonstrated by the fact that he’s among the top 10 members of Congress on our very tough leadership scorecard.
Ted Lieu (CA-33, coastal Los Angeles) is running in the seat held by the retiring Henry Waxman. In backyards and in living rooms throughout the South Bay and Westside of Los Angeles, Ted has promised to make climate change his top issue. He’s voiced opposition to export of coal to Asia. And he’s floated the idea of an AB32 (California’s landmark global warming law) at the national level. The debate Congress should be having - whether California’s exemplar leads the way or whether to embrace a cap-and-dividend or carbon tax - stands in stark contrast to the asinine “debates” being put forth by current House leadership.
Climate Hawks Vote is delighted to endorse Rick Weiland, running for US Senate in South Dakota; incumbent Tom Udall, US Senator from New Mexico; and incumbent Jeff Merkley, US Senator from Oregon.
Rick is running tirelessly - he’s visited all 311 towns in South Dakota - on a simple message of taking the country back from the big banksters and Big Oil who have polluted our democracy. The crazy race has not one but two independent spoilers. We’re endorsing Rick for one simple reason: he’s a climate hawk of the prairie populist variety.
Rick Weiland has opposed the Keystone XL pipeline from the beginning. Right away he saw the truth of the matter: a big money con to risk the prairies of the heartland while putting profits in the pockets of TransCanada. Of particular interest to energy efficiency experts, he has chaired the International Code Council - he spearheaded efforts to create the nation’s first green construction code for commercial buildings and has met with Chinese officials to exchange ideas. At Climate Hawks Vote, where we scrutinize energy efficiency bills that are introduced by Democrats and throttled by Republicans, we have no doubt that Rick can translate his experience into bills promoting carbon neutral buildings. His experience as a regional FEMA director will give him insights into future disaster management as floods and droughts take their toll on the prairie. And he’s running to limit the power of Koch money to buy our democracy; his first bill will be to give Congress the power to limit spending.
We’re also endorsing stalwart climate hawks Tom Udall and Jeff Merkley. Jeff has introduced climate-related bills on a variety of topics including energy security, electric vehicles, federal planning, and energy efficiency job creation. Tom engages the public, whether drought-stricken farmers or winter athletes, on climate change. Both have spent the past six years establishing themselves as climate champions, and both have earned our endorsement. We are confident in their reelection prospects and continued public service.
Climate Hawks Vote announces its final two endorsements in fall 2014 races: incumbent Chris Van Hollen, in Maryland’s 8th district, and Dave Peiser, challenging Darrell Issa in California’s 49th district. Both have earned our support for their carbon pricing ideas.
The most interesting bill introduced in the 13th Congress from a climate hawk perspective is that by Chris Van Hollen. HR 5271, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act, caps fossil fuel pollution and auctions off permits, to return the proceeds to the American people. The bill will encourage energy conservation and a shift to renewable energy, while American families will benefit in forms both intangible - cleaner air and water - and practical - “pay to the order of” checks. Details are at the Climate and Prosperity website.
We score every bill introduced in Congress affecting climate, whether or not they’re given a chance of passing, for a few reasons. Bills introduced spark the national conversation. They can serve as trial balloons this Congress to pass in a later Congress. And occasionally we’re surprised, as in the case of climate hawk Matt Cartwright’s energy efficiency for schools bill, HR 4092. We rank bills from core to peripheral. Chris’ cap-and-dividend bill is, obviously, core to our mission of scoring leadership on climate. And if it passes it can mean the difference between a healthy planet and a perilous future.
We’ll be updating our House Democrats’ climate leadership scorecard after the election (and finishing the Senate scorecard, and catching up on sleep). Our preliminary eyeballing indicates that HR 5271 will put Chris Van Hollen into the top 10% of climate leaders. Thus, he’s earned our endorsement.
We’re also endorsing Dave Peiser for a slightly different approach: his platform highlights a carbon rebate, paid for by a tax on carbon polluters. Dave has made climate central to his campaign, and his website shows a thorough grasp of climate issues from carbon tax to an end to fossil fuel subsidies to green jobs. If elected, he’d embody the grassroots Citizens Climate Lobby. And we must confess: we like anyone willing to challenge Darrell Issa, who made “Solyndra” into a dirty word for a couple of years without a shred of evidence supporting his claims. Voters in the 49th District: Fire Issa, Hire Peiser!
Carbon tax and cap-and-dividend proponents, note: we’ve previously endorsed Ted Lieu (CA-33), who has promised that his first bill introduced will be a variation on the theme of cap-and-trade - Waxman-Markey, or California’s AB-32. The question how best to price carbon is a meaningful debate worthy of the dignity of the 114th Congress, instead of the asinine “I’m not a parakeet” disavowals routinely issued by the current crop of Congressional Republicans.
We launched in June 2014 with the goal of electing candidates who grasp the magnitude of the climate crisis. The fall 2014 elections would be our first test of an explicitly political grassroots climate organization. Could we turn out voters on a shoestring through fieldwork alone? Short answer: yes, by a lot.
Our endorsed candidate Paul Clements released a poll 6 days before the election showing him down by only 4 points against Fred Upton, with Upton’s support falling 10 points in a month. Given Upton’s prominent position as the chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and the fact that we were the only climate/environmental group on the ground in Michigan's Sixth District, we put all the resources we could muster into the Benton Harbor area of Berrien County during those last few days.
No spin - Clements lost.
At the same time, we - and I’m pretty sure it was only Climate Hawks Vote - increased voter turnout among Democrats in six precincts by nearly 40%. Not a typo.
More below the fold.
Bear with me for some math, but first some stage-setting: Early on I heard through the grapevine that far southwest Michigan was virtually untouched - Gary Peters made one stop throughout his campaign. Climate Hawks Vote hired one phenomenal organizer in Benton Harbor township. The more I heard about Benton Harbor’s history of segregation and poverty the more I was convinced we were doing the right thing by working that region. In mid-October Larry Lessig’s MayDay SuperPAC joined us in the race with ads throughout the district. Otherwise, the race was flying under the national radar til that poll and subsequent stories in Grist, Huffington Post, and Inside Climate News.
By the weekend before Election Day, Mayday/PCCC was phonebanking throughout the district. Climate Hawks Vote had one team on the ground knocking on doors; we were phonebanking aggressively - locally and with national volunteers - using a targeted list of Benton Harbor-area African Americans who voted in Presidential elections but not necessarily midterms; and we even stuck a talon into running an Election Day ad on facebook, thanks to a nice video from friends at www.ACT.TV. Our message was simple: Fred Upton had been captured by Big Oil Money, while Paul Clements stood for education and clean energy.
In 2010, Upton beat a candidate named Don Cooney in Berrien County with 66.97% of 43,870 votes cast - detailed chart here. In 2014, Upton beat Clements with 59.60% of 42,222 votes cast - details here. In other words, turnout was about the same if possibly a bit lower in 2014, and overall Clements did better than Upton’s 2010 opponent, consistent with the fact that he was a strong candidate who’d raised far more funds than any prior Upton opponent.
I've crunched a few numbers from those two charts. In four precincts in Benton Harbor city proper, Upton got 132 votes in 2010 and 136 votes in 2014. The Democrat got 1419 votes in 2010, and 1480 votes in 2014 - a gain of 61 votes, or 4.2%. Was it Clements’ message, PCCC/Mayday’s work, or us? To answer that, look at the next set of precincts.
We were most active in the broader Benton Harbor Township region. In six precincts in Benton Harbor Township, Upton got 867 votes in 2010 and 1002 votes in 2014. The 2010 Democrat got 1470 votes, while Clements got 2056 votes. That’s 584 more votes, or a gain in Democratic turnout of 39.8%!
A couple of takeaways.
First, pollsters have identified a Rising American Electorate - young voters, persons of color, college educated - also known as the Obama coalition, which overlaps nicely with climate voters. They’re also midterm dropoff voters. They canbe turned out to vote, although it’ll take time, money (we put in about $3,000 not counting organizer salary), and dedication. We’ll need to scale up to have the same impact throughout an entire district.
Second - in response to suggestions in the national media that climate isn’t a winning issue and that bigger groups than Climate Hawks Vote wasted their money - we have no regrets. We’re proud to have endorsed Paul Clements, a no-compromises climate hawk, and hope to see him two years from now.
Equally important, we empowered 548 or so voters in a poor and segregated community to stand up for their democratic right to choose their leaders. Because #BlackLivesMatter.
Onward to 2016.
Climate Hawks Vote — Scorecard
112th Congress (2011-2012)
- Jim Inhofe (R) –∞ (not really, but sort of)
- Tom Coburn (R) not scored
113th Congress (2013-2014)
- Inhofe (R) –∞ (not really, but sort of)
- Coburn (R) not scored
114th Congress (2015-2016)
- Inhofe (R) –∞ (not really, but sort of)
- James Lankford (R) not scored
We haven't yet scored either one of these Republicans. Request a Senate Democrats scorecard now, and you'll get a Republicans scorecard later.