What the Super Tuesday primary races mean for climate and clean energy
So much for the Gulf oil spill as a political game-changer. In Tuesday’s primaries, the BP stink didn’t sink anyone. In fact, the winners included a number of candidates with oil under their nails. Let’s survey the damage:
Arkansas Senate race
You’re not from around these parts, are ya?: If anyone was going to be dragged down by a snuggly relationship with Big Oil, it was Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark). No one in the Senate has felt more Money Love from oil and gas companies — almost $550,000 in campaign contributions during her political career. She’s one of three Democrats signed on as a cosponsor of Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to stop the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases — aka the “Big Oil Bailout.” Just last week, the League of Conservation Voters started running one of the first oil-spill attack ads featuring an image of the burning Deepwater Horizon oil rig and portraying Lincoln as a “big winner” in terms of Big Oil campaign contributions.
And yet “Big Oil Blanche,” as the LCV has dubbed her, managed to turn the “special interest” taint on its head. In the end, she beat out challenger Bill Halter, the state’s lieutenant governor, to take the Democratic nomination. She told voters that she was an Arkansas native daughter under siege from outside agitators, namely Washington-based conservation groups and national unions, who tossed almost $10 million behind Halter’s campaign. (She didn’t even seem to mind earlier this year when LCV named her to its “Dirty Dozen” list of candidates it hopes to defeat.) It also didn’t hurt that both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton threw her bouquets.
That may not be enough to save her in the fall. She’s already well behind Republican candidate John Boozman in the polls.
After winning yesterday, Lincoln told reporters that it was “amazing” to her that anyone might blame her for the BP spill. Then, she added: “I’m ready to go down there with my dishwashing liquid and wash off some of those birds.”
Remember, Blanche: Dawn works best.
California Senate race
California schemin’: Even before she easily won California’s GOP primary for senator, trouncing former congressman Tom Campbell and state assemblyman Chuck Devore, Carly Fiorina, the one-time Hewlett-Packard CEO, was dumbing down her campaign to take a shot at her Democratic opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer.
A TV spot that started airing last week first shows Boxer pointing out that climate change is a key national security issue. Then Fiorina appears and snarks into the camera, “Terrorism kills. And Barbara Boxer wants to talk about the weather … we’ve had enough of her politics. I’ll work to keep you safe.” Watch it:
PolitiFact concluded that the ad was a “major distortion” that deserved a “Pants on Fire” designation.
And Evan McMorris-Santoro, writing for Talking Points Memo, points out that Fiorina has landed a 180-flip on climate change. Indeed, two years ago, when Fiorina was carrying water for John McCain, she had a much different take on global warming, as she explained to Grist’s Kate Sheppard:
It’s an issue that matters to a lot of people. In particular it matters to a lot of young people. I think it’s important that when we think about taking on some of the great challenges now as opposed to leaving them to future generations, we have to talk not only about Social Security and medical care, but also about leaving our planet cleaner for the next generation than we found it.
She was so much younger then.
Photo: Wikipedia commons
California governor’s race
They call her Flipper …: Another big primary winner with a dubious environmental agenda is Meg Whitman, the former head of eBay. She hammered state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poisner in California’s Republican primary for governor and will face off against Democrat Jerry Brown, who wants to return to the governor’s mansion after a 27-year hiatus.
Whitman’s already on record is saying her first act as governor would be to freeze implementation of the state’s climate change law. (See the response of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who accuses Whitman of “backwards thinking.”)
Whitman now says the Gulf oil spill has turned her against offshore drilling. In fact, she claims she’s “historically” been against it. Except, apparently, for that little spell at the Republican National Convention a few years ago when she sung the praises of John McCain’s plan to lift the ban on, yes, offshore drilling.
California’s 19th Congressional District
The Earth was moved: But it wasn’t all bad news from California. Richard Pombo, a fan of drilling and foe of most things natural, got skunked in his attempt to return to the House from the state’s 19th Congressional District. In the Republican primary for the open seat, he finished a distant third in to state Sen. Jeff Denham. But don’t get too excited. Denham proudly promotes on his website that he has signed the “No Climate Tax Pledge.”
Virginia’s 5th Congressional District
Lesser of three evils: And in Virginia’s 5th Congressional District, Republican Robert Hurt knocked off two Tea Party candidates and will line up next fall against Rep. Tom Perriello, a Democrat considered vulnerable in the conservative district for his votes for health-care reform and the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill. While Hurt was the least right-wing of the GOP candidates in the primary, he chants the party line when it comes to climate policy: “Passage of the ‘Cap-and-Trade’ bill not only means higher utility bills and taxes for business, but it will make an already dire economic situation worse.”