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. As with prior races, we’re backing up our endorsement with organizing on the ground. Past successes include winning nominations for Brian Schatz, Hawaii-Senate, and Ruben Gallego, Arizona-07.
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.
Update, August 15, 2014: Brian Schatz defeats his challenger! We're utterly confident that he'll win in November. We helped Stanley Chang raise his profile as the most progressive of the candidates running in the First Congressional District, and we helped elevate the importance of climate change as an issue in the race. We called over 2000 voters, registered 50 new and mostly young voters, and held too-many-to-count one-on-one conversations with voters on the importance of voting climate. We're delighted to announce our first two endorsements: Brian Schatz for Senate-Hawaii and Stanley Chang for Congress in Hawaii's 1st Congressional District. And we're backing our endorsements with boots, or in our case talons, on the ground in advance of the August 9 primary. Practically the first words Brian Schatz said upon arrival in Washington were: "Climate change is urgent, solveable, human-caused, and real." He's shaken up the Senate by, among other things, organizing the #UpForClimate all-night talkathon. And he told a Netroots Nation 2013 panel the same thing that they heard at Climate Hawks Votes' NN13 off-grid talk the previous day: we need to elect Democrats who will prioritize the climate crisis, not just treat it as yet another Democratic issue. In short, he's Climate Hawks Votes' prototype politician - a Democrat bringing new energy to Washington, prioritizing the issue, engaging the public, and laying groundwork for bold action on climate. He's leading on climate while also leading on other issues as well. He's become a Senate champion on protecting and expanding Social Security, gun violence prevention, and similar progressive priorities, and is endorsed by PCCC and MoveOn, among others. Oh, and he's been endorsed by a certain Hawaii-born resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Stanley Chang is a Honolulu city councilmember acting locally - leading the charge to ban styrofoam within city limits - and thinking global warming. He's been endorsed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC, and he literally studied under Elizabeth Warren (she taught his Harvard Law class). He campaigns hard and his fundraising is excellent. He has a very solid grasp of climate science and how it affects Oahu. And he's putting climate on his website, which matters - among the many factors on our climate leadership scorecard is whether they mention clean energy (good) or advocate climate policies from opposing the Keystone XL pipeline to ending fossil fuel subsidies (much better).Like Sen. Schatz, Chang will bring new energy to Congress. Like Sen. Schatz, he'll also stand up for other progressive causes, from LGBT rights to raising the minimum wage. We're excited to endorse both!Endorsements matter in persuading voters, but talking to voters matters more. That's why we're backing up our endorsement with organization on the ground in Honolulu. We'll be independent of both campaigns, per federal rules, to help elect both of these climate leaders. That means registering and reaching out to voters.Which brings us to the obligatory fundraising appeal: the more we have, the more we can do. Donate here or via ActBlue. Mahalo!