As you gather your election night supplies (popcorn for watching, champagne for celebrating or something stronger to drown your sorrows) be sure you keep handy this primer on important Senate races. The outcomes in these contests could determine whether the Senate is led by a Clean Air Hero or a Dirty Air Villain for the next two years.
Former Rep. Heather Wilson and current Rep. Martin Heinrich are vying for an open Senate seat to represent The Land of Enchantment. A broad coalition of environmental groups have pledged their support for Heinrich because he has voted hundreds of times to protect the environment, to stand up for bedrock environmental laws and to improve public health. In contrast, in the House, Wilson voted four times to shield the makers of a toxic fuel additives from being held accountable for contaminating drinking water all around New Mexico. Wilson is still stuck in her polluter-funded past, supporting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline and more “drill, baby, drill” energy policy and doubting the science on man-made climate change.
In the Bay State, incumbent Senator Scott Brown is being challenged by Harvard professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. While Brown is running as a moderate Republican, he chose to side with polluters in voting for an extreme proposal that would have prevented EPA from reducing carbon pollution (thankfully, it failed). He also supported H.R. 1, the Senate budget bill, which was called “the worst anti-environmental bill EVER” for its crippling cuts to DOE’s clean energy programs and the EPA along with dozens of harmful environmental riders (again, thankfully, it failed). Warren’s campaign platform proclaims a strong commitment to public health and environmental protection. Warren has promised to end subsidies for Big Oil and to invest in clean energy. She isn’t afraid to talk about the promise of green jobs or the threat of climate change.
In Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Former Governor Tommy Thompson are competing for an open Senate seat. On both rhetoric and record, Baldwin can only be considered one of the most pro-environment Members of Congress. She boasts a 97% lifetime rating from the League of Conservation Voters, she is one of our Clean Air Heroes, and she has been a leader on the need to address climate change. While Thompson once said that the U.S. “must aggressively take on global warming,” times seem to have changed and his new campaign website never mentions climate change or any of its synonyms. Instead, it focuses on continuing our dependence on dirty energy by building the Keystone XL pipeline, opening new areas to oil and gas drilling and expanding “fracking” for natural gas.
Two former governors, Tim Kaine and George Allen, are competing for an open senate seat in Virginia. On energy, the records are clear. Allen has taken over half a million dollars in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry and consistently voted against the environment and to protect tax breaks and loopholes that line Big Oil’s pockets. What’s Kaine’s record? As Governor, he worked for land conservation, river cleanup, clean air, public transportation and energy efficiency. Fossil fuel interests, however, aren’t content to sit this one out and let the records speak for themselves. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS has already spent more than six million dollars opposing Kaine on top of millions being spent by other pro-polluter groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the curiously named American Commitment (commitment to what, asthma?)
In Ohio, incumbent Sherrod Brown is running against challenger Josh Mandel. Outside groups have already spent $9.7 million opposing Brown. Much of this shadow spending (in ads like this, this and this) attacks Brown for his votes on clean energy and protecting public health. After all, he’s a Clean Air Hero, he understands “the very real danger of climate change, which threatens our nation’s economic, environmental, and energy security,” and he’s championed a bill to end $15 to $20 billion in subsidies to Big Oil. In contrast, Mandel is a climate denier who has said he thinks the scientific research on the matter “is inconclusive and riddled with fraud.” He also thinks rules to reduce mercury from coal-fired power plants are “unnecessary” and wants to put a moratorium on any new protections.
Now you are ready. Grab your concessions and settle in for a long election night of watching the returns roll in and finding out whether or not clean energy and clean air champions win the day.