The Climate Voters’ Handbook: California

The Climate Voters’ Handbook: California

The fight for our climate continues in California.

California has proven it can lead on climate action. But as wildfires, heat waves, and droughts harm our communities and grow worse by the year, we must keep the momentum going. We need to elect leaders who understand the urgency of the situation and are ready to maintain California’s position as a climate action trailblazer. We also have an opportunity to pass a climate and clean air ballot measure.

What happens in California ripples out and can impact the entire country. This year, the state led the charge by adopting some of the world’s strongest zero-emission vehicle standards, paving the way for other states to follow suit. So, too, with elections. The outcome of key races will determine our state and nation’s ability to take timely action on climate change. And we need pro-climate leaders in office to invest in that future.

Recently, we’ve seen historic progress from the federal government on climate action. The Inflation Reduction Act is the biggest investment in clean energy and climate justice in our nation’s history. We’ll need leaders at the state and federal levels to make sure that those investments are rolled out in the strongest way possible and with a focus on communities historically left behind. But the Inflation Reduction Act alone is not enough.

We must continue to invest in climate action to stop the worst impacts of extreme weather events. In a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 78 percent of respondents indicated they think it is important for California to be a leader in tackling climate change. This election, we can make sure our elected officials represent this broad desire for the state to step up.

Learn more about what’s at stake in California during the midterm elections this November and how you can take action. Click on the links below to head to each section:


THE WHEN: Important dates

Don’t know if you’re registered to vote? Want to request a mail-in ballot? You’re in the right spot to have all your logistical questions answered! Check out this list of key deadlines and resources to make sure you don’t miss the chance to vote by November 8.

Make sure to…
By this deadline
More info
Register to vote
In person: Tuesday, November 8, 2022 (Election Day)
By mail: Postmarked by Monday, October 24, 2022
Online: Monday, October 24, 2022
Vote early
Begins Tuesday, October 11, 2022.
Ends Tuesday, November 8, 2022, at 8 p.m.
Submit your mail-in ballot
By mail: Postmarked by Tuesday, November 8, 2022
Drop off: Tuesday, November 8, 2022 by 8 p.m.
Election Day: voting deadline
Tuesday, November 8, 2022, by 8 p.m.


THE WHO: Meet the candidates

We must face the climate crisis head-on by electing environmental champions who will put Californians before the profits of polluters. The following candidates have impressive records of fighting for a cleaner, healthier, and more equitable climate future.


Running for U.S. Senate
Senator for California since 2021

Why we support Padilla

  • Padilla is a champion for California’s coasts and waters. He introduced the Living Shorelines Act of 2021 to provide grants for projects that protect coastal communities. These investments will help restore crucial habitats and stabilize coasts against major storms. Padilla aided in incorporating this proposal into the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • He has shown that people’s health is top of mind. He introduced legislation to restore the Salton Sea, which would help eliminate toxic dust clouds that harm surrounding communities. He also worked to ensure that infrastructure money is dedicated to removing lead service lines.
  • Padilla knows that extreme weather poses an imminent threat and helped secure billions of dollars to address catastrophic wildfires and drought. We need leaders who are ready to rise to these unprecedented emergencies, and Padilla has proven himself as a champion for Californians time and time again.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-06)
Representative for California since 2013; physician

Why we support Bera

  • As a physician, Bera understands the public health impacts of pollution in our air and water and is fighting to protect communities from these harms. He’s spoken out about the need to update our nation’s aging water infrastructure by replacing lead pipes and has voted to provide the much-needed investments to do so.
  • Bera has stepped up as a member of the Science, Space & Technology Committee and used his position to highlight the connection between climate change and drought. As a member of this committee, he also introduced the America COMPETES Act to support groundbreaking clean energy research and development.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-40)

Why we support Mahmood

  • Mahmood recognizes the clear threat that offshore drilling poses to our climate and communities and has committed himself to the fight.
  • Mahmood has a long history of philanthropic commitment to his community. He serves on the board of the Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, the largest homeless shelter in Southern California. He is also the chair of the Organization for Social Media Safety, which seeks to protect children from cyberbullying and exploitation. We need more leaders like Mahmood who have shown their compassion and commitment to uplifting others.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-02)
Representative for California since 2013

Why we support Huffman

  • Huffman has a relentless commitment to climate action and has acknowledged that it is the top issue of our time. It’s no surprise that he is a member of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which put together a Climate Crisis Action Plan that sets a path to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
  • Environmental justice must be a core pillar of any climate action, and Huffman has shown his dedication to lifting up frontline communities and those most impacted by environmental destruction. He has consistently advocated for Indigenous tribes and introduced legislation to help them access water-resilient infrastructure, helping to secure that funding in the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Huffman is passionate about protecting California’s coasts. He serves as chair of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee and co-chair of the National Marine Sanctuary Caucus and California Coastal Caucus. In those roles, he has championed coastal restoration, introducing legislation to protect our coasts like his recent Coastal Habitat Conservation Act.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-47)
Representative for California since 2019

Why we support Porter

  • Porter is well known for her takedowns of injustice through shrewd questioning during congressional hearings. This includes exposing oil executives for their ongoing deception and refusal to adequately step up on climate change.
  • Porter serves as the chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. In this role, she holds polluters accountable and eliminates waste, fraud, and abuse to better protect public lands, manage wildfires, support tribal affairs, and tackle the climate crisis.
  • Porter is a clean energy champion. She is a member of the Sustainable Energy & Environment Coalition, which advances policies that promote clean energy innovation. She’s also worked to increase public support for renewable energy by introducing a bill to educate about our energy grid.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-03)

Why we support Jones

  • Wildfires have gotten worse in California as a result of climate change, and Jones has committed to protecting communities from these extreme events, calling for a Federal Fire Insurance plan.
  • As a physician, Jones cares deeply about public health and has released a detailed plan to improve our health-care system by decreasing drug and other health costs, increasing access to care for those who need it most, and investing in public health.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-49)
Representative for California since 2019

Why we support Levin

  • Levin has been working to boost clean energy even before he took office. While he was on the board of directors of the Center for Sustainable Energy, he opposed the redevelopment of a gas and oil power station. As a member of Congress, he continues to advocate for strong policies to keep our air clean and combat climate change, like pushing for renewable energy on public land and conservation through the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act.
  • Not only has Levin taken steps to reduce emissions from the power sector, but he has also tackled transportation as the number one contributor to climate change. He introduced the Zero-Emission Vehicles Act to encourage adoption of electric and fuel-cell cars. He supported investments in electric vehicles that were included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the historic Inflation Reduction Act. He also introduced the Green Spaces, Green Vehicles Act to fund electric vehicle charging infrastructure on public lands.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-11)
Representative for California since 2013; current Speaker of the House

Why we support Pelosi

  • Pelosi’s long-standing commitment to fighting climate change has been reinforced over the years. She was instrumental in leading the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act—the strongest climate action in the nation’s history. Thanks in no small part to Pelosi’s influential support, we have won historic investments in clean energy and climate justice.
  • Pelosi has a long history of lifting up communities and individuals in need. She helped craft the American Rescue Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, distributing millions of vaccines and getting financial assistance to people across the country. She also helped shape the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has major wins for our health, including funding the transition to zero-emission vehicles to clean up our air and the replacement of lead water pipes to clean up our drinking water.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-36)
Representative for California since 2015

Why we support Lieu

  • Lieu has been a leader in the fight for climate change solutions for decades. As a member of the California State Assembly in 2006, he coauthored California’s landmark climate change bill. He hasn’t stopped that fight to reduce emissions and also introduced the Climate Solutions Act of 2019 to set national renewable energy standards.
  • Lieu is not afraid to stand up to big polluters. He led efforts in urging the Department of Justice to investigate whether Exxon-Mobil spread misinformation about climate change.


Running for U.S. House of Representatives (CA-41)
Federal prosecutor

Why we support Rollins

  • Rollins has named climate change as an existential threat that is causing increased destructive wildfires in California and has proposed clear policies to tackle this crisis. He supports clean energy incentives, energy efficiency programs, and rebates for clean energy and vehicles.
  • As a prosecutor, Rollins has defended our democracy from attack. He was involved in prosecuting several of the insurrectionists that attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. This work inspired Rollins to run for office to continue to fight to protect the democratic process.

Important note: This election cycle, the NRDC Action Fund focused on endorsements for key federal and gubernatorial races. We know there are other important races on the ballot, so we encourage you to seek out other trusted resources to help you learn about candidates in races we have not covered.

THE WHAT: Ballot measures

Voting for candidates with strong environmental track records is one way to do your part—and in California, there is an opportunity to go further this election cycle. This year, there are a number of ballot measures that offer a chance to build a future with health, equity, and the environment in mind.

From securing the right for individuals to make their own reproductive health care choices with Proposition 1 to the fight for clean air for all with Proposition 30, your vote can help secure California’s chance to reap these great benefits.

NRDC Action Fund supports Proposition 1, a state constitutional amendment on abortion rights. A majority YES vote on Prop 1 would prohibit the state from denying or interfering with an individual’s right to protect their own health and future.

The NRDC Action Fund supports Proposition 30, which would invest an incredible $100 billion over the next 20 years to tackle the largest source of climate emissions—transportation—all without raising taxes on 99.8 percent of Californians.

If passed, Prop. 30 will provide approximately:

  • $20 billion to fight and prevent catastrophic wildfires
  • $35 billion to expand zero-emission charging and fueling infrastructure
  • $45 billion for subsidies to help consumers, businesses, and local governments afford zero-emission cars, trucks, school buses, public transit, and other clean mobility options

This is the scale of investment we need in order to meet our climate, air quality, and equity goals. We have seen major wins with the passage of the rule to phase out sales of new internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 and the federal investments in electric vehicle infrastructure provided by the Inflation Reduction Act. We can’t stop there. Prop. 30 is critical to supplement federal investments; provide incentives to consumers and businesses to transition to clean vehicles; and fund the clean car charging infrastructure that makes this transition possible.

The problem? Ballot measures tend to be wonky and hard to understand, which means a lot of people end up skipping them when voting. We can’t let this opportunity for historic climate investment pass us by! Check out the next section to see how you can get involved to make sure people know to vote YES on Propositions 1 and 30.

Learn more about Proposition 30.

Just as there are ballot measures that will help California reach a healthy and equitable future, there are also ballot measures that run the risk of preventing the state from achieving those goals. For Fresno County residents, one of those is Measure C, which extends a sales tax that will drive funds toward road and highway expansion for 30 years while underfunding investments in public transportation and safe streets for biking and walking. This approach will exacerbate Fresno’s air quality problems and undercuts the state’s transportation and climate goals. It does not meet the needs of the residents and was drafted without giving the public an opportunity to participate in the process. The NRDC Action Fund joins environmental justice groups, clean air advocates, the League of Women Voters of Fresno County, and labor organizations in opposing Measure C. We ask Fresno County residents to vote NO on this measure, which would undermine California’s progress in tackling the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state: transportation.

Learn more about Fresno Measure C.

THE HOW: Take action

Share this voter guide on social media
Make sure your friends and family know that the climate is on California’s ballot and that they have all the info they need to vote for climate champions on November 8.

Share to Facebook. >>
Share to Twitter. >>

Sign up to be a poll worker on Election Day!
Poll workers power our democracy—and California’s polling stations need your help this year more than ever.

Volunteer with Power the Polls to make sure every polling location stays open and every voter has a chance to cast their ballot. >>

Join Slack to connect with other climate activists
Find other people like you fighting for climate action in California—because a grassroots movement requires strength in numbers. You’ll be the first to know about important volunteer opportunities and actions you can take to help secure a victory this fall. Look for the #local-california channel once you’ve joined for updates on Prop. 30 and California-specific races.

Join NRDC Action Fund’s All In for Climate Action Slack space—and look for the #local-california channel. >>

THE RESULTS: As of November 16, 2022

We know that when it comes to fighting climate change and securing a clean and healthy future for everyone, every election counts. This one was no different. Democrats fought hard to retain their majority in the Senate, while Republicans are poised to take narrow control of the House of Representatives.

But a split Congress means leaders from both parties have a responsibility to work together to build a livable future for all. Now it is important to continue to push for equitable climate action and insist that both parties work to deliver a clean energy future. The NRDC Action Fund has a long history of working with bipartisan legislatures to achieve real climate progress. There is tough work ahead—but for now let’s celebrate the new and returning climate champions.

Here are the returning climate champions at the helm in California:

  • Alex Padilla has been re-elected as senator.
  • Jared Huffman has been re-elected as representative for District CA-02.
  • Nancy Pelosi has been re-elected as representative for District CA-11.
  • Ted Lieu has been re-elected as representative for District CA-33.

The following candidate was not elected this year:

  • Asif Mahmood, who ran for representative for District CA-40.

Candidates weren’t the only ones on the ballot this year. On Election Day, California missed a big opportunity to pass state ballot measures that would have helped build that future with health, equity, and the environment in mind. Proposition 30 would have invested an unprecedented $100 billion to fight and prevent catastrophic wildfires, expand electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and help individuals, businesses, and communities access electric vehicles. Proposition 1 would have enshrined the right to reproductive freedom into the state constitution. At the local level, Fresno County passed Measure C to maintain a sales tax that will undercut the state’s transportation and climate goals by driving funds for road and highway expansion.

Our journey does not end on Election Day. We will continue to defend the wins and learn from the losses over the last two years. And we hope you will continue to support this work.

Paid for by the NRDC Action Fund, in coordination with Yes on 30: Clean Air California, A Coalition of State Firefighters, Working Families, Rideshare Companies, and Environmental Groups. Content not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Paid for by the NRDC Action Fund, in coordination with No on Measure C 2022.

Paid for by the NRDC Action Fund and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.