Memo: the most important state and local races to protect our environment and democracy in 2022
To: Interested Parties
From: Pete Maysmith, LCV SVP of Campaigns
Date: October 25th, 2022
Re: The most important state and local races to protect our environment and democracy
In 2022, Congress passed landmark climate and clean energy legislation. The Inflation Reduction Act was the largest investment in climate action in history. But until this year, nearly all major progress on climate and clean energy has come from state and local leaders who have tackled the climate crisis head-on. As a result of their leadership, 40% of the country now lives in a place committed to 100% clean energy. If we are going to keep making the progress we know we need, we must continue to elect leaders at every level of government who will put climate action at the top of their agenda. State and local leaders will also be crucial for implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act, ensuring we use its funding to build a stronger clean energy economy and invest in those communities who need it most.
As we saw in 2020, our democracy is also under grave threat. In many places, the only thing standing in the way of election tampering and fraud were state and local leaders who stood up for voting rights and the integrity of our elections. We know we cannot have a healthy environment without a functioning democracy.
Below you’ll find a list of races up and down the ticket in states across the country that are major priorities for LCV Victory Fund’s state affiliates. These are the most important 2022 races to improve our environment, protect our democracy, and build the cleaner, healthier future every community deserves.
Choosing state executives who will champion climate action and protect democracy has never been a higher priority. That’s why our state affiliates invested $3.3 million to turn out voters who care about climate change and help elect pro-environmental Governors across the country.
Re-electing climate champions
Governor Jared Polis is running for reelection for a second term. The environment is one of the top five issues his campaign has highlighted for reelection, and he released an extensive Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap for Colorado. Polis’ opponent, Heidi Ganahl, has leaned into her support of the oil and gas industry, noting in a public appearance that she would address climate change by investing in oil and gas because the state’s fossil fuel sector produces “cleaner” energy.
During Governor Ned Lamont’s first term, Connecticut passed a number of landmark climate laws, including 100% clean electricity. That progress is under threat from candidate Bob Stefanowski. He has previously made climate denying statements and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States, a list of the nation’s worst state level candidates on the environment and democracy. Our state affiliate believes that if Stefanowski wins, the state could be forced into four years of defense against rollbacks and new gas expansion. The state’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, which is currently an essential state partner, could be rolled back along with the newly formed CT Equity and Environmental Justice Advisory Council (CEEJAC) and the Governor’s Council on Climate Change, both created by Executive Order.
Governor Janet Mills has a forward-looking approach to addressing climate change, accelerating the state’s transition to 100% clean renewable energy while reducing the state’s dependence on oil, and protecting Maine’s waters, wildlife, and way of life for future generations. Paul LePage, Governor Mills’ opponent, is on the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States, highlighting his past record siding with polluters and attacking basic protections for Maine’s environment. LePage left office with a devastating anti-renewable energy, anti-environment, and oil-dependent legacy. LePage vetoed toxic chemical protections, let critical conservation funding expire, and put an oil lobbyist in charge of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer is a proven champion for climate action and clean water for all Michiganders. She made a historic commitment to 100% clean energy and built thousands of clean energy jobs across the state. The governor’s historic Clean Water Plan was the largest investment to protect the Great Lakes and drinking water in state history, and she worked to block the Line 5 oil pipeline that threatened drinking water across the Great Lakes. These signature achievements are under threat if her opponent, Tudor Dixon, wins the race. Dixon has said she would work to protect Line 5 and has even thrown doubt on the 2020 election result.
Governor Tim Walz has a strong record working to protect clean air and water, and build clean energy across the state. Under his leadership, Minnesota has a mandate to reduce emissions 50% by 2030 and is now the first Midwest state to implement Clean Car standards. If voters deliver a pro-environment legislature, Walz has committed to passing 100% clean electricity. His opponent, Scott Jensen, has consistently downplayed the climate crisis and has committed to rolling back clean car standards and several other environmental initiatives if elected.
Under current Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s leadership, the state has had more pro-climate and conservation executive action and legislation than at any time in the state’s history. All of these accomplishments are under threat from Lujan Grisham’s opponent, Mark Ronchetti. Ronchetti is a weatherman who has made climate denying statements, accepted over $300,000 in contributions directly tied to the oil and gas industry, and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. Conservation Voters of New Mexico believes the governor’s race in New Mexico will be the most consequential race for the state’s future in a generation.
The campaign for Nevada governor will be one of the most competitive gubernatorial races in the country. During his first term, Governor Steve Sisolak created a climate czar position in the governor’s office, committed Nevada to raising its renewable portfolio standard to 50% by 2030, and received an A rating from Nevada Conservation League. Sisolak’s opponent in November is Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo who didn’t mention climate change or clean energy once in his platform despite the massive climate fueled drought and wildfires affecting so many across the state.
Governor Tony Evers has championed several major climate initiatives, including the state’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. The governor is also responsible for nominating members of the state Public Service Commission, which governs state utilities and has major influence on the energy makeup of the state. Our state affiliate believes reelecting Governor Evers will ensure Wisconsin stays a climate leader and continues to expand clean energy. While challenger Tim Michels was leading the Michels Corporation, the company faced violations and decades of allegations of ignoring unsafe working conditions that range from harassment to a death on the job. The Michels Corporation builds pipelines for major oil companies, including the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline. Michels is also on the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States.
Opportunities for new state leaders
Dan Cox, the Republican nominee, has a 16% lifetime environmental score from Maryland LCV, has previously denied climate science, and is running as a far right MAGA candidate. He also sponsored three bus-loads of supporters who traveled to the “Million MAGA March” that resulted in the U.S. Capitol insurrection on January 6th. Cox has a long history of paranoid and false comments about the 2020 election, is already sowing doubts about a free and fair election in 2022, and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. Maryland LCV endorsed Wes Moore, who has committed to 100% clean energy, preserving the Chesapeake Bay, and fighting for environmental justice across the state.
Current Attorney General Maura Healey, is running for Governor as a climate champion. She released a comprehensive climate plan that targets 100% clean electricity by 2030, focuses on environmental justice, and builds jobs across the state. As Attorney General, her settlement with Columbia Gas is sending millions of dollars back to low-income communities for climate resiliency and utility relief and her office filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that alleged Exxon Mobil lied to consumers and investors about the risks of climate change.
Oregon LCV endorsed candidate Tina Kotek is in a three-way contest against two well-funded, anti-environment candidates. Christine Drazan, the Republican nominee and former House Republican leader, is in lockstep with extreme national Republicans. Independent Betsy Johnson has a disastrous 20+ year environmental voting record. Both Drazan and Johnson were named to the Dirty Dozen in the States; two candidates for the same race have never been nominated together, but this highlights how dangerous both candidates are for Oregon’s environment.
Both Johnson and Drazan accepted significant money from the oil and gas industry and have opposed every single major climate bill in Oregon’s recent history, including 100% Clean Energy for All, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, and the Oregon Environmental Protection Act. In contrast, Kotek has pledged to continue this progress, while Drazan helped lead the 2020 House Republican walkout to kill the Clean Energy Jobs bill. One of Oregon’s biggest recent victories is Governor Kate Brown’s executive order on climate, the Oregon Climate Action Plan. Both Johnson and Drazan have publicly said that a top priority would be ending it.
Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee, earned a 0% score on the 2019/2020 Pennsylvania Environmental Scorecard. He opposes the state joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, one of our state affiliate’s biggest priorities, and he introduced SB 1219, calling for unfettered fracking, pipeline expansion, and looser oversight of drilling activities. Perhaps most disturbingly, CNN highlighted Mastriano’s direct involvement in trying to overturn the 2020 election result in Pennsylvania. He was later subpoenaed by the January 6th Committee for trying to overturn the election in his own state and was also among those that crossed police barriers during the Capitol insurrection, even paying for transportation to the Capitol for other Trump supporters. Mastriano was also named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States.
Mastriano’s record contrasts with Democratic candidate Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s record holding big polluters accountable for water and public safety violations and fighting Trump-era EPA efforts to weaken federal protections.
Opportunities for new environmental majorities
Arizona has the opportunity to tie the state Senate. The state has experienced devastating climate impacts, including record heat waves and drought, with little support from state lawmakers. Arizona was also on the frontlines of attacks on our democracy in 2020. A tied state Senate would give Arizona the chance to address both issues head-on.
Minnesota is one of only two states with a split Legislature. Governor Walz has pushed for 100% carbon-free electricity goals throughout his first term, but the anti-environment Senate leadership has been an obstacle to any progress. From firing appointed commissioners in retaliation for Walz implementing strong vehicle emission standards through Clean Cars Minnesota, to blocking all legislation that contains the word “climate,” leaders in the Senate have been steadfast in supporting corporate polluters.
The Minnesota Senate is one of our best opportunities this year to flip a chamber to pro-environment control, and subsequently gain a pro-environment trifecta in the state. Democrats only need to flip three seats to elect a pro-climate majority in the Senate.
New Hampshire has the chance to flip both the state House and Senate, giving the state a chance to follow its New England neighbors with major climate and clean energy legislation. As the region expands offshore wind and as new federal clean energy funding comes to the state, it is critical to have a legislature that will champion climate action and environmental justice.
Expanding environmental majorities
Our state affiliate has endorsed 13 state climate champion candidates in priority races throughout California. If these candidates are elected, it would secure a climate majority in the state Legislature. In this year’s Legislature, our state affiliate helped secure billions in budget surplus funding for climate action. As new federal money comes into the state from the IRA, it will be essential to have a legislature that continues to prioritize clean energy jobs and environmental justice.
Protecting environmental majorities
This past year, Colorado passed a bill in the state Legislature to better regulate toxic air pollution, with the help of climate champions in the state Legislature. But the state Senate is at risk of losing its pro-environmental majorities. That could take the state backwards at exactly the wrong time, when they must make dramatic investments in clean air and clean energy, as well as make major decisions on clean water and the Colorado River.
Maine’s current Legislature has passed major climate and clean energy legislation but that is under threat in both legislative chambers. Even if Governor Mills is reelected, opportunities for continued climate progress will be severely limited without a legislature that will champion climate action. Additionally, Maine’s constitutional officers are elected by the House for the term of the Legislature. This includes the secretary of state — currently held by voting rights champion Shenna Bellows. If Republicans were to gain control, they would undoubtedly replace Bellows and other constitutional officers with anti-environment, anti-democracy candidates who would limit access and attack voting rights.
Over the last four years, New Mexico has had more pro-climate and conservation legislation than at any time in the state’s history. Just last year, New Mexico joined ranks with the now 16 other states that have adopted clean car standards to increase the number of electric vehicles on the road. That’s on top of passing a 100% clean electricity mandate and legislation to protect 30% of land for conservation by 2030. But the state House is at risk of losing a functional pro-environment majority, which could set the state’s progress back.
Over the last four years, Nevada has passed landmark clean energy mandates, clean car standards, and clean air provisions. With slim pro-environmental majorities and very close elections in every statewide and federal race, November results are incredibly close and likely to come down to just a few seats for both the state Assembly and Senate.
Preventing anti-environment super majorities
The state constitution, drafted in 1972, uniquely and explicitly gives Montanans a right to a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations. It has been used in several landmark Montana legal cases and upheld by the Montana Supreme Court, making it one of the single most important tools to protect Montana’s environment. A supermajority in the Montana Legislature would allow anti-environmental legislators to start the process to amend the constitution and remove this unique protection. Prominent Republicans have already stated they are coming after Montanans’ constitutionally protected rights with one party leader calling the Montana constitution a “socialist rag.”
During Governor Roy Cooper’s first term, he implemented the state’s first ever climate plan that set a goal to reduce 50% of emissions and increase zero-emission vehicle sales to 50% of new cars sold by 2030. But if Republicans gain an anti-environment supermajority in the state Senate and state House, they would be able to severely limit the governor’s power and override his veto, which he has used to stop a number of anti-environment and anti-democratic bills.
Governor Tony Evers created Wisconsin’s first ever clean energy plan and has championed clean water and environmental protection. The same cannot be said about the Wisconsin Legislature. Governor Evers vetoed anti-democracy bills that would have created new requirements for requesting absentee ballots and given the state Legislature more authority over the Wisconsin Elections Commission. Protecting the governor’s veto will also have implications for the presidential election in 2024 and beyond to certify the election. That veto power is threatened by anti-environmental supermajorities, which are just one seat away in the Senate and five seats in the Assembly.
Attorney General Phil Weiser has made environmental protection a key campaign issue and is running in part on a climate action platform. During his tenure, he has added multiple attorneys to focus on water protection and the growing climate fueled water crisis. His opponent, John Kellner, makes no mention of the office’s role to protect the environment on his campaign website and says he would not have challenged the Trump administration’s attacks on clean air protections as Attorney General Weiser did.
Attorney General candidate Matthew DePerno led the charge to attack Michigan election results, quickly becoming a national figure in former President Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. DePerno was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. He filed a lawsuit to overturn county election results, continues to push the conspiracy theory that state voting machines were broken into and changed, and is under investigation for alleged illegal tampering with voting machines. Current Attorney General Dana Nessel is fighting to protect Michigan drinking water and the Great Lakes with a lawsuit against Canadian oil company Enbridge and their Line 5 pipeline, a suit DePerno has committed to ending.
Attorney General Keith Ellison is running for reelection against Jim Schultz. Under Ellison’s leadership, Minnesota sued oil companies for misleading the public on climate, sued the Trump administration for attacking key environmental protections, and fought to hold corporate polluters accountable. Jim Schultz, on the other hand, when asked whether the Attorney General’s Office has a role in addressing climate change, dismissed climate action as “far left political activism” and “business harassment.”
Attorney General Aaron Ford oversees the Nevada Consumer Protection Bureau, which ensures utility companies don’t take advantage of ratepayers, preventing unwarranted cost increases. The agency is also key to implementing a clean energy transition. Sigal Chattah, Ford’s Republican challenger, has supported and amplified far-right conspiracies and the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election. Halfway through the primary, texts were leaked in which Chattah suggested that her opponent, the first African American elected to a statewide constitutional office, “should be hanging from a [expletive] crane.”
The race for Attorney General is one of the most important for the environment and democracy in Wisconsin this cycle. Our state affiliate endorsed incumbent Attorney General Josh Kaul. Over the last four years, Kaul has joined lawsuits aimed at protecting the environment and holding corporate polluters accountable, including national efforts to address climate change and calling for stronger drinking water protections. He has also fought attacks on our democracy and protected state voting rights. In 2018, Kaul won by just .65% and Governor Tony Evers won by 1.1% and the race will likely again be decided by a slim margin.
State Supreme Court races hold a significant amount of authority over climate and energy protections as well as voting rights and safeguards for our democracy. As the country makes historic investments in clean energy and climate action through new laws like the Inflation Reduction Act, State Supreme Courts will make crucial decisions on how these projects are implemented and sited throughout the country. As we continue to see unprecedented attacks on the foundations of our democracy, we must continue to elect judges who understand that voting rights must be protected and election results upheld.
Two justices are up for reelection this year: Brian Zahra and Richard Bernstein. Our Michigan affiliate has endorsed Bernstein and Kyra Harris Bolden, Zahra’s opponent. The Michigan Supreme Court is a critical backstop against extreme partisanship and attacks on voting rights. They also make crucial decisions on water rights and hear Public Service Commission cases focused on utilities, which will have major implications on future clean energy development.
The balance on Montana’s highest state court is at risk this election cycle. The Montana state Supreme Court currently has a 4-3 pro-environmental majority. Over the last several years, it has been the last line of defense in preventing anti-conservation and anti-democracy legislation from becoming law of the land.
One of the current pro-conservation justices, Ingrid Gustafson, is up for reelection and will face Public Service Commissioner Jim Brown in the general election. Until 2020, Brown served as an attorney and lobbyist for some of the most extreme political actors in Montana. He lobbied on behalf of Citizens for Balanced Use, an organization that seeks to expand private development on public lands and against renewable energy expansion.
The state currently has a 4-3 pro-environmental majority on the Supreme Court, our state affiliate in North Carolina is supporting Justice Sam Ervin for reelection and Judge Lucy Inman for an open seat. The Court is currently overseeing a gerrymandering case appeal of the state-senate legislative district map and congressional map, which aim to make the maps fair for voters and a true representation of the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court has taken up a number of crucial high profile environmental cases. Public Utility Commission cases go before the Court, making the Court responsible for final decisions during disputes about how much Ohioans pay and if the utility is investing in the public interest. They will also make crucial redistricting decisions that could help ensure fair representative elections. The Court is also still hearing cases related to the HB6 FirstEnergy $60 million bribery scandal, in which the FBI arrested state legislators and utility executives connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.
Current Justice Pat DeWine has accepted thousands of dollars in campaign funds from FirstEnergy and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. In 2018, DeWine ruled in favor of FirstEnergy, refusing to enforce a $43.4 million refund that was owed to Ohio consumers. Additionally, DeWine has accepted $30,540 from the electrical utility industry, $19,150 from the mining industry, $10,950 from chemical manufacturing industries, and $3,225 from the oil and gas industry.
Secretaries of State
In 2020, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson upheld the state’s election result, certifying the election against a number of right wing attacks, and she implemented a number of voter access reforms during her first term. Her Republican challenger, Kristina Karamo is an election denier who rose to prominence claiming without evidence that she witnessed election fraud in Detroit’s ballot count.
Nevada’s elections are currently under threat from a dangerous candidate. Jim Marchant, an election denier, is a direct threat to the recent pro-democracy legislation passed in the Silver State and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. He filed a lawsuit to challenge the results of the 2020 election, and tried to have all electronic ballot counting stopped in Nevada. The Washington Post highlighted Marchant’s work to organize secretary of state office seekers across the country as a wave of election-denying, conspiracy-driven candidates. Nevada Conservation League endorsed Cisco Aguilar, who has committed to upholding democratic protections and fending off attacks on the state’s elections.
Arizona Corporation Commission
If a seat is flipped on the Arizona Corporation Commission this year, it could be the swing vote to bring 100% clean electricity to Arizona. Chispa Arizona has endorsed current Commissioner Sandra Kennedy and Tempe City Councilwoman Lauren Kuby. Kennedy and Kuby’s vision and work align with Chispa Arizona’s fight for environmental justice. They both received the Clean Air, Clean Politics seal. Running against them as a slate are Nick Myers and Kevin Thompson. Thompson was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States. He spent over a decade working at Southwest Gas, the largest provider of fracked gas in the state and one of the same companies he’d be tasked with regulating as commissioner. He also served on the American Gas Association’s public policy committee, a trade association that has fought against many local climate initiatives. Thompson and Myers oppose mandates like the state’s renewable energy standard, incentives for electric vehicles, and even energy efficiency requirements for utilities.
New Mexico Lands Commissioner
As commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richard has been a champion for climate and conservation. She has helped drive royalty rate reform, making sure big oil companies pay their fair share for drilling, and she has fought to protect large swaths of public land. Because of Richard’s commitment to the environment, she has been a target of the oil and gas industry, which does not want to see her win reelection to solidify her legacy of environmental protection. During her 2018 election, a Texas-based super PAC funded by Chevron Corp. spent $2 million against her.
Corpus Christi, Texas City Council
Four candidates are running as a block to bring change to their city’s leadership. The city has been a hub for fossil fuel development and these candidates have committed to creating the first city-wide climate action plan and rethinking what investments are made across the community.
New York LCV is building voter support for the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act that will be on the November ballot. In April, NYLCV and allies helped secure additions to the bond act that seek to invest $650 million for clean water infrastructure, including funds to replace lead pipes, and $1.5 billion for climate mitigation, including $500 million allocated for schools to purchase electric school buses and $400 million to green schools and public buildings.
California Environmental Voters is leading a coalition of labor organizations, environmental groups, firefighters, public health advocates, environmental justice organizations, and businesses supporting California’s Proposition 30 The Clean Air Initiative. Prop 30 would invest nearly $100 billion in new revenue over the next 20 years to fight and prevent catastrophic wildfires, expand electric and zero emission vehicles charging/fueling infrastructure and support consumers and organizations to purchase clean vehicles. Half of all funding for the vehicle and infrastructure investments would benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities. Prop 30 would raise revenue by requiring the wealthiest Californians (those making over $2 million) to pay their fair share.
Our state affiliate is working with the Promote the Vote 2022 campaign to fight for the Right to Voting Policies Amendment, Proposal 2. The constitutional amendment would significantly reform voting policies to be more equitable for Michigan voters with the inclusion of:
- Nine days for early in-person voting;
- Implementation of state-funded absentee-ballot drop boxes, and postage for absentee applications and ballots;
- Recognizing the fundamental right to vote safely without harassing conduct;
- Military or overseas ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day;
- Voters’ right to verify identity with a signed statement, instead of requiring photo ID;
- Voters’ right to a single application to vote absentee in all elections;
- Post-election audits to be conducted by election officials only;
- Required disclosure of donations to fund elections;
- Election result certification by election boards to be based only on the official records of votes cast.
Paid for by LCV Victory Fund, www.lcvvictoryfund.org, and not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.