2020 Election: Big Wins for the Environment

2020 Election: Big Wins for the Environment
Alexander Spacher/NRDC Action Fund

Check here for the latest updates on the victories of pro-environmental candidates and the outcomes of ballot initiatives across the United States.

UPDATE: On November 7, 2020, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected as the next president and vice president of the United States.

The votes have been cast—and while we have to wait for the results of many tight races (including the one for the White House) until every vote is counted, good news for the planet has already begun coming in from around the country. See below for the latest updates on some of the 2020 election’s most promising victories in the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, and to learn how people voted on ballot initiatives that will directly impact environmental justice, clean air and water, conservation, endangered species, and the climate crisis.

U.S. SENATE (11 wins and counting!)
U.S. House of Representatives (14 wins and counting!)
Ballot Initiatives (7 wins and counting!)


U.S. SENATE (11 wins and counting!)

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Gary Peters—Michigan

Michiganders have just re-elected their junior senator: a strong proponent of the job-creating renewable energy industry and someone who has vigorously fought to secure federal loans for the state’s automakers who are seeking to develop new, advanced clean-vehicle technologies. Gary Peters has also led efforts to clean up the Detroit River, bring wind farms to the Great Lakes, and slow the spread of invasive species into their ecosystems.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Mark Kelly—Arizona

The state that produced two Republican icons, Senators Barry Goldwater and John McCain, now has two Democratic senators representing it in Washington. Joining Senator Kyrsten Sinema on Capitol Hill will be Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and Navy combat pilot with a background in marine engineering and nautical science. Kelly credits his unique experience of seeing large-scale physical changes to the earth from the space shuttle with helping him understand how climate change is altering our home planet.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Tina Smith—Minnesota

After leading by double digits for months, Tina Smith saw her numbers fall in recent weeks as the race between her and her Republican opponent tightened dramatically. In the end, Minnesotans decided to give Smith, who was appointed to her Senate seat in 2017, a full term. The win ensures that this outspoken proponent of clean energy and climate action will continue to be heard in Washington for years to come as a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Ben Ray Luján—New Mexico
New Mexico voters have apparently decided that Democrat Ben Ray Luján—currently in his sixth term representing the state’s 3rd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives—will do a better job as senator than his Republican opponent, a TV meteorologist who supports fracking, opposes the Green New Deal, and wants to see more drilling for oil and gas on federal lands. Luján, by contrast, has fought hard in Congress to promote solar and other forms of clean power as a member of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition and as chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s Task Force on Green Economy and Renewable Energy.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Jeff Merkley—Oregon

Oregon voters have given Democrat Merkley, currently serving his second term as Oregon’s junior senator, a third term. As a senator, Merkley has already introduced legislation that would dramatically reduce oil consumption and stop new oil, gas, and coal extraction on public lands and waters. Going forward, he promises to continue to fight for these causes, which are clearly important to the voters in his state.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
John Hickenlooper—Colorado
In a race watched closely by national pundits, challenger John Hickenlooper has defeated incumbent Cory Gardner to become Colorado’s newest senator. As the state’s governor, Hickenlooper signed into law legislation boosting Colorado’s renewable energy standard and dramatically reducing ozone and methane pollution from oil and gas facilities. Significantly, Hickenlooper placed climate action and the protection of public lands at the center of his campaign—and Coloradans have rewarded him with a Senate seat.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Cory Booker—New Jersey
Incumbent Democratic senator and erstwhile presidential candidate Cory Booker has handily won his race against his Republican challenger, which will send him back to D.C. for a second full term. As the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, Booker created the city’s first Office of Sustainability in 2008 and oversaw Newark’s Sustainability Action Plan five years later. Since then, he has cofounded the Senate’s first-ever Environmental Justice Caucus and co-introduced the Environmental Justice Act of 2019. Another term gives Booker a chance to build on what has already become a remarkable environmental record.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Jeanne Shaheen—New Hampshire
Back when she was serving as her state’s first female governor, two-term incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen signed New Hampshire’s Clean Power Act, which slashed emissions of four major pollutants from power plants. She also oversaw energy efficiency measures that ended up saving the state’s residents and businesses $400 million. Now New Hampshire voters have reelected her to a third term, ensuring that Shaheen will continue to bring her staunch advocacy for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and clean air to Washington, D.C.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Ed Markey—Massachusetts
Markey, a Democrat, has been representing Massachusetts in Washington, D.C., since 1976—first as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives and, since 2013, as a U.S. senator. Now, Bay State voters want him in the Capitol for six more years, where he plans to build on his stellar record of environmental achievements, which include coauthoring the American Clean Energy and Security Act, chairing the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, and introducing the resolution for the Green New Deal.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Chris Coons—Delaware
Right after many Delawareans cast their votes for their home state’s Democratic presidential nominee, they moved to the next box down on their ballots and voted to reelect Chris Coons to his second full term as the state’s junior senator. Since taking office, Coon has been instrumental in efforts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and to encourage investment and create jobs in Delaware’s rapidly expanding clean energy sector.

VICTORY IN THE SENATE!
Dick Durbin—Illinois
A pillar of Illinois politics, Dick Durbin has just been elected to his fifth term in the U.S. Senate, where he has served as the Democratic Whip for 15 of the last 23 years. An ally of environmental advocates, Durbin has fought to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, keep oil companies like BP from polluting the Great Lakes, and protect fenceline communities from hazardous petcoke dumps. As Senate Democrats set about attempting to undo the Trump administration’s damage to U.S. environmental policy, he’ll have his work cut out for him.


THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (14 wins and counting)

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Lauren Underwood—Illinois’s 14th District
In 2014, President Obama appointed Lauren Underwood to serve as a senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; in that capacity, she worked with communities to help them prepare for—and prevent—public health disasters. Though Underwood is one of only two Democrats to represent this red-leaning district in the suburbs of Chicago over the past 20 years, she has been reelected by voters who clearly appreciate her stated commitment to prioritize clean water and climate action. 

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Abigail Spanberger—Virginia’s 7th District
Former CIA operations officer and first-term Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger has been elected to serve a second term by voters in this Central Virginia district, which rests between Richmond and Charlottesville. Spanberger rightly sees climate change as a national security threat and is a cosponsor of the Climate Action Now Act, which would require the United States to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Susie Lee—Nevada’s 3rd District
A prominent Las Vegas–area activist and former environmental consultant, Susie Lee will be returning to Washington, D.C., for a second term. With her informed understanding of matters such as water management policy, toxic release monitoring, and EPA compliance—along with her dedication to protecting Nevada’s public lands, such as the Basin and Range National Monument and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area—Lee will remain a formidable force on Capitol Hill.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Steven Horsford—Nevada’s 4th District
Steven Horsford first won a seat representing this large district north of Las Vegas back in 2012—but then lost his bid for a consecutive term two years later. Undaunted, he fought for and eventually won that second term in 2018. Now voters have decided to give him a third. As a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Horsford introduced bills to expand public land designations in his home state and was instrumental in securing federal designations and protections for Nevada’s Wovoka Wilderness Area and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Susan Wild—Pennsylvania’s 7th District
Voters first elected Susan Wild, a former litigator and the first female City Solicitor for Allentown, to represent their eastern Pennsylvania district back in 2018—and now they want her back in D.C. for a second term. Among her stated priorities: banning fracking on public lands, protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and making sure that the United States formally recommits itself to the Paris Agreement.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Matt Cartwright—Pennsylvania’s 8th District
For the fifth time, Pennsylvanians in this northeastern district have elected Matt Cartwright to be their voice in Washington, D.C.—and in doing so, they’ve ensured that one of Congress’s most tireless advocates for the environment will remain in the Capitol for the 117th Congress. As vice-chair of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition and as a member of the Safe Climate Caucus, Cartwright has put environmental issues at the very center of his representative role: keeping water supplies safe from fracking pollution, boosting energy efficiency in our nation’s schools, and closing coal royalty loopholes.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Haley Stevens—Michigan’s 11th District
Voters in this district northwest of Detroit are sending Haley Stevens, an incumbent Democrat now finishing up her first term, back to Washington, D.C., for a second one. Before joining Congress, Stevens served as the chief of staff for President Obama’s auto task force, which helped save hundreds of thousands of auto-industry jobs in her home state after the Great Recession. On Capitol Hill, she’ll continue to promote clean-car technology, improved infrastructure, and clean water.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Mike Levin—California’s 49th District
As the former executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party, Mike Levin has a keen understanding of what it takes to win a congressional seat in this historically conservative part of southern California—something that has served him well in two elections. With his extensive professional background in clean energy, Levin goes into his second term with a mission to address the climate crisis by helping to lead the country out of its fossil fuel past and into a zero-emissions future.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Elissa Slotkin—Michigan’s 8th District
Voters in this district east of Lansing elected Elissa Slotkin to her first term back in 2018, impressed by her life spent in public service: first at the CIA, where she worked as a Middle East analyst, and later in high-level defense- and intelligence-related jobs for presidents of both parties. Now, voters have asked Slotkin to represent them for a second term in our nation’s capital—where she’ll continue to speak up about the threats to our national security posed by climate change and to fight for clean air and clean water, especially in the Great Lakes region.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Elaine Luria—Virginia’s 2nd District
This former small business owner has been elected to serve a second term, representing a competitive coastal district that’s highly vulnerable to sea level rise and climate-related flooding events. Thankfully, she’s a strong believer in science—having served for two decades as a nuclear engineer and Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Donald McEachin—Virginia’s 4th District
Voters in this very large and highly diverse district have elected Donald McEachin to represent them for the third time. A veteran of state politics, McEachin established his environmental bona fides early on in Richmond, cofounding both the Virginia Environment & Renewable Energy Caucus and the state’s United for Climate and Environmental Justice Task Force, all while working to enroll Virginia in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He’s taken this same dedication to D.C., where he’ll continue to fight for clean air and water, climate action, and environmental justice.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Sean Casten—Illinois’s 6th District
Sean Casten spent years working in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors before running for Congress in 2017 and winning a seat representing this district in the westernmost precincts of Chicagoland. Now that he’s won a second term, his constituents will expect him to continue to push for clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels. Casten is a member of both the House Select Committee on Climate Crisis and the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology; he also currently serves as the co-chair of the New Democrat Coalition Climate Change Task Force.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Katie Porter—California’s 45th District
Katie Porter has become the breakout star of the 116th Congress, thanks largely to the coolly methodical (and highly entertaining) way that she questions witnesses who appear before the committees on which she serves. Voters in California’s 45th district, knowing a good thing when they see it, have now elected Porter to a second term. She’ll be returning to Capitol Hill—with her trademark whiteboard and dry-erase markers, we hope—to continue shaming bad actors, including corporate polluters and greedy oil executives.

VICTORY IN THE HOUSE!
Jason Crow—Colorado’s 6th District
After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Jason Crow enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Upon returning home, he continued his public service by working as an advocate for veterans’ issues. Crow won his first term in 2018, and now Coloradans in this district west of Denver have decided they want to keep him in Washington, where he’ll continue to be a strong voice for protecting our air, water, and public lands, and for moving the country to 100 percent clean energy by 2050.


PROPOSITIONS & BALLOT MEASURES (7 wins and counting!)

PASSED!
Denver, Ballot Measure 2A: Sales Tax to Fund Environmental and Climate-Related Programs and TABOR Spending Limit Increase
A measure that will fund programs supporting job creation, improvements to air and water quality, access to clean energy, energy efficiency, and climate resiliency through a sales tax increase of 25 cents on every $100 spent. Half of the estimated $40 million raised annually will go toward strengthening the fights for environmental justice in Denver’s underserved communities.

PASSED!
Colorado Proposition 114: Gray Wolf Reintroduction Initiative
This will reintroduce to Colorado a population of endangered gray wolves, which went extinct in the state nearly 80 years ago. The absence of this predator, and its role as a keystone species, has disrupted the natural order of some of the state’s ecosystems.

PASSED!
Nevada Question 6: Renewable Energy Standards Initiative
This will amend the state constitution to require Nevada’s electric utilities to acquire 50 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030.

PASSED!
San Antonio, Texas, Advanced Transportation District: Proposition A, Sales Tax
This will reallocate a portion of an already existing 1/8 cent local sales tax toward the funding of public transit projects for this fast-growing city, beginning in 2026. As much as $40 million will go to expanding bus service and making buses more frequent, enhancing access for individuals with disabilities, and investing in an Advanced Rapid Transit system.

PASSED!
New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 1: Appointed Public Regulation Commission Amendment
The amendment to the state constitution will depoliticize the public regulation commission so that major decisions about New Mexico’s energy future—including its investments in clean energy—will be made by experts, not political appointees.

PASSED!
Columbus, Ohio, Issue 1: Community Choice Aggregation Program Measure
This measure will give residents and business owners in Ohio’s largest city the ability to join together in order to purchase clean electricity at bulk rates, increasing Columbus’s usage of wind and solar energy while keeping prices lower—and pushing the city even closer to its goal of achieving 100 percent clean energy by 2022. It will also create local jobs in Ohio’s expanding renewables sector.

PASSED!
Michigan Proposal 1: Use of State and Local Park Funds Amendment
This will free up more funding for the renovation, maintenance, and operations of state parks, and also remove a cap on the size of Michigan’s natural resources trust fund.