The presidential race has been sucking up a lot of oxygen (and just plain sucking), but there are in fact other important races playing out across the country. Here are four Senate contests with notable green (or not-so-green) angles.
Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren (D) vs. Scott Brown (R)
Elizabeth Warren is beloved by progressives across the country for her economic populism, and she’s getting a lot of love from the green community too. Even though environment and energy haven’t been major motivating issues for her, she calls for fast climate action and an emphasis on clean energy. Her opponent, incumbent Scott Brown, is one of the more centrist Republicans in the Senate, yet he’s getting a lot of hate from the green community. Brown has bucked his party on wind power, calling for extension of a key wind tax credit that Mitt Romney opposes. But he’s buddied up with Big Oil and the Koch brothers (he’s gotten about $333,000 in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry). He voted to push through the Keystone XL pipeline and maintain oil-industry subsidies (even while claiming said subsidies don’t exist). And he’s been wishy-washy on climate science and has opposed EPA’s efforts to regulate CO2.
Poll check: Warren is up by three points.
Missouri: Claire McCaskill (D) vs. Todd Akin (R)
Incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill brags on her campaign website that she opposed cap-and-trade and “hasn’t been afraid to break with members of her own party to protect Missouri’s coal-fired power plants and fight back against unnecessary EPA regulations.” Last year, the League of Women Voters ran an attack ad that accused McCaskill of favoring polluters at the cost of children’s health, and MoveOn bashed her for “repeating Republican talking points about clean energy.” But greens are holding their fire this year because McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the Senate and they don’t want to see her lose to Tea Party favorite Todd Akin. Yes, that’s the Todd Akin who’s deeply deluded about rape and reproduction. Turns out he’s just as deeply deluded about climate change. He also opposes renewable-energy tax credits, wants the military to use coal-to-liquids technology, and calls for eliminating the EPA.
Poll check: McCaskill has a slim lead.
New Mexico: Martin Heinrich (D) vs. Heather Wilson (R)
Green groups are enthusiastically throwing support behind U.S. Rep. Martin Heinrich, a clean-energy advocate who’s long been active on environmental causes. And they’re enthusiastically heaping scorn on Heather Wilson, a former U.S. rep who is skeptical about climate change and was one of the top recipients of oil and gas money in Congress. The Sierra Club, for example, spent six figures to air this ad accusing Wilson of poisoning kids and coddling oil companies. Wilson is hitting back by accusing Heinrich of chasing a “green dream” and being an environmental extremist because he opposes the Keystone XL pipeline and voted for cap-and-trade in 2009.
Poll check: Heinrich is up by about 10 points.
Montana: Jon Tester (D) vs. Denny Rehberg (R)
Jon Tester — an organic farmer as well as Montana’s junior senator — earned cred in sustainable-food circles in 2010 when he successfully sponsored a measure to promote and protect small-scale, local-focused agriculture, part of a big food-safety bill. Tester hasn’t delighted greens on energy issues, though; he’s a fan of wind and solar, but also “clean coal,” oil, and even Keystone XL. Still, greens like him a lot more than his opponent, Denny Rehberg, Montana’s sole U.S. rep. Environmental groups are aggressively targeting Rehberg for defeat, and his campaign is fighting back by calling them “anti-job environmental extremists.” Rehberg has long carried (polluted) water for the mining industry and, it just so happens, gotten big campaign contributions from same; he’s also one of the top recipients of oil and gas money in the House.
Poll check: They’re neck and neck.