Dear EarthTalk: Besides the presidential election, what other electoral races are environmentalists keeping an eye on this coming November?
— Matt Sloan, Sacramento, CA
The non-profit League of Conservation Voters (LCV) helps Americans sort out the good guys from the bad when it comes to the environmental track records of candidates in important high-level races across the country. Besides endorsing specific candidates, the group also keeps a running “dirty dozen” list of the politicians with the worst environmental records. Meanwhile, the group’s LCV Action Fund is a related political action fund that can channel funding to the candidates it supports.
One of the races that LCV is following is New Mexico’s Senate race between Democrat Martin Heinrich and Republican Heather Wilson. Both are hoping to leave the House for the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jeff Bingaman, who is retiring after four terms—but that’s where the similarity ends.
Heinrich has a perfect 100 percent lifetime score on LCV’s National Environmental Scorecard, a yardstick used to rate Congress members on environmental and clean energy issues. He participates in the forward-thinking Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition and is a staunch defender of the federal government’s ability to protect public health and hold polluters accountable under the Clean Air Act. Heinrich also supported the single largest investment in clean energy in history—an economic recovery package that pledged $80 billion toward energy efficiency, renewable energy and public transit.
Meanwhile, as one of LCV’s “Dirty Dozen,” Heather Wilson has just a 15 percent LCV lifetime score as a member of the House. She is one of the House’s top 20 recipients of funding from oil and gas interests, and has voted consistently to protect tax incentives and loopholes for oil and gas companies.
A coalition of green groups including the LCV Action Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund has spent $1.5 million in ads accusing Wilson of voting against New Mexico families and in favor of polluters—an amount equal to what GOP-affiliated groups spent on pro-Wilson ads.
Another close one in a neighboring Southwestern state, Arizona, pits Democrat Richard Carmona (LCV’s choice) against Republican Jeff Flake. “Throughout his career, Dr. Carmona has stood up for public health safeguards and would champion clean energy technologies that create jobs in Arizona and across the country,” reports LCV, which has endorsed him. His opponent, 12-year incumbent Congressman and former uranium mining lobbyist Flake, has a nine percent lifetime score on LCV’s scorecard.
Back east in Massachusetts, LCV has endorsed Democrat Elizabeth Warren, who vows to eliminate tax subsidies for Big Oil and uphold the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Her opponent, incumbent Republican Senator Scott Brown, has a lifetime LCV score of 22 percent, and repeatedly votes to give billions in taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil, gut the Clean Air Act, and pull funding from renewable energy.
Overall, LCV is endorsing candidates in 12 Senate races and 29 House races around the country. For a complete list check the “endorsements” page of the lcv.org website. The group has also endorsed one gubernatorial candidate, Washington Democrat Jay Inslee, and one presidential candidate, Barack Obama.