Conservation Insider Bulletin, Nov 7

Conservation Insider Bulletin
Published weekly for the Conservation Council of North Carolina
Conservation News to Peruse & Use
Editor: Dan Besse, cib@conservationcouncilnc.org

That cheering you hear is conservationists nationwide celebrating the end of the Bush Reign of Error, as change sweeps the electorate. We review key results nationally and in North Carolina, this week in CIB:

Campaign Watch: Green Day

Of course, our lead story of the week (the year?) is the Obama victory and the change it portends for national environmental policy. This week we include notes on the environmental role in that victory. Looking beyond the presidential contest, we also review a raft of Election Day results of critical environmental significance.

LCV Celebrates Big Day at the Polls: The national League of Conservation Voters (LCV) held a nationwide telephone briefing on Thursday to review environmental successes in the 2008 elections. LCV was an early and enthusiastic backer of the historic Barack Obama candidacy. LCV staff reported that its paid and volunteer voter contact efforts targeted green-leaning voters in six swing states (including North Carolina); Obama won all six.

In Congressional contests, LCV is also celebrating a strong performance by its endorsed candidates. Of 116 Congressional candidates endorsed by LCV or its associated state groups, 92 won and only 18 lost. As of Thursday afternoon, six contests (including both the Alaska Senate and House races) were still too close to call. Winners included seven of the 13 contests involving incumbents designated among the anti-environmental "Dirty Dozen" non-honorees. (Two of the other six were the Alaska races.) Full details are at www.lcv.org.

LCV noted that overall it and its 35 state partner groups spent a cumulative $13 million in supporting or opposing candidates in this 2008 election cycle, and that 78% of the supported candidates (Congress and state legislatures) won. Representative of the kind of candidates LCV supported is Gary Peters, who defeated "Dirty Dozen" member Rep. Joe Knollenberg to take Michigan's 9th Congressional District seat. Peters, who was known for his work at the state level to protect the Great Lakes, campaigned for Congress on the issue of reviving the domestic auto industry through investment in production of cleaner, more efficient vehicles.

In North Carolina, LCV went three for five, backing winners Kay Hagan in the U.S. Senate race, newly elected Larry Kissell (8th Congressional District), and re-elected Rep. Heath Shuler (11th District). Unfortunately, underdog Congressional contenders Roy Carter (5th District) and Daniel Johnson (10th District) fell short in very tough districts. LCV was particularly jazzed up about its statewide efforts on behalf of the Obama and Hagan campaigns. LCV noted that it spent more than $500,000 in North Carolina to contact voters here over 188,000 times via mail, phone, and canvass. Obama won North Carolina by a razor-thin margin of about 14,000 votes. LCV's ranking of Elizabeth Dole (defeated by Hagan) among its "Dirty Dozen" targets helped to frame Dole's image as an advocate for Big Oil.

CCNC Picks Do Well Statewide: CCNC enjoyed a similarly successful campaign in its statewide and state legislature efforts in 2008. Overall, CCNC's endorsed statewide candidates for governor (Bev Perdue), attorney general (Roy Cooper), and treasurer (Janet Cowell) swept to wins. In legislative races (CCNC's primary campaign focus), all 22 endorsed Senate candidates and 44 of its 48 endorsed House candidates won. (Two House races, one win and one loss, were close enough that recounts are possible.) For more details, here is the legislative contest summary from CCNC political director Brownie Newman:

There is much to report on the positive front from the Legislature. First and foremost, all but one of our pro-environmental candidates were re-elected on Tuesday. Wins include our six state Senators who occupy tough swing districts:

· Donald Davis (D-Greene), District 5 won the open seated created by the retirement of John Kerr. He defeated state Rep. Louis Pate for the position. The CPAC should feel good about supporting Davis in a tough five candidate primary as well as in the General Election. He should be a strong leader on our issues.

· Neal Hunt (R-Wake), District 15 survived the blue wave that washed across much of the urban and suburban areas of the state, winning over Democratic challenger Chris Mintz.

· Josh Stein (D-Wake), District 16 picked up the seat created by Janet Cowell’s run for State Treasurer. Stein was expected to win in the General, but as with Donald Davis, the Conservation PAC can feel good to have supported Stein where it counted in the tough Primary Election as well.

· Steve Goss (D-Watauga), District 45 still stands where lightning has now struck twice. He again won a district that by all objective measures should not be held by a Democrat. Two years ago, the Senate Republicans could be forgiven for overlooking this sleeper race but this year have no such excuse. Goss won re-election in this heavily Republican district by a margin of 53-46.

· Joe Sam Queen (D-Haywood), District 47 won his re-match with Keith Pressnell. For the first time, the race was not a complete squeaker with Queen achieving a 53-46 spread.

· John Snow (D-Cherokee), District 50 cruised to victory in his far western district by a 57-42 margin. Since Snow’s upset win in 2004, the Republicans have so far failed to recruit a strong candidate to run against Snow in a district where they should be highly competitive.

Conservation Council endorsed candidates also fared well in the NC House. Environmental champion and Speaker of the House Joe Hackney will return to the chamber with a strong hand as his Democratic majority retained their overall position in the chamber, offsetting a couple of losses with several pickups. Before outlining our long list of wins in tough districts, let me note the races where our endorsed candidates did not win:

· Barbara Garrity-Blake (D-Carteret) lost her bid to unseat Rep. Pat McElraft in District 13 by a 56-43 margin. Garrity-Blake ran a strong campaign but was swimming upstream in this Republican-leaning district.

· Al Swanstrom came up just short in his effort to unseat Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) in District 36. He lost by the smallest of margins with a 50-49 spread.

· Ed Ridpath lost his race against Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) in District 37 by a 53-46 margin.

· The one CPAC-endorsed incumbent to lose on election night is apparently Jim Harrell (D-Alleghany) who is behind in the vote total by a tiny number of votes.

On the plus side, we have a large number of strong environmental legislators who occupy tough swing districts who retained their seats on election day. Here are races we consider to be of particular note:

· Alice Underhill (D-Craven) retained her seat in House District 3 by a margin of 49-47. Many people continue to believe that Underhill may be the only Democrat that has the capacity to retain this seat.

· Grier Martin (D-Wake) held District 34 by a healthy margin.

· Ty Harrell (D-Wake) won re-election to House District 41 in what was one of the most targeted districts in the state by both parties.

· Alice Borden (D-Alamance) won a blowout in District 63 despite earlier nervousness among Democrats that this seat may be tough to hold this cycle.

· Cullie Tarleton (D-Watauga) won re-election to the seat (District 93) he captured two years ago in the Boone area.

· Jane Whilden (D-Buncombe) picked up the District 116, which was vacated by environmental Freshman of the Year Charles Thomas.

· Phil Haire (D-Jackson) won an easy victory in House District 119 although he only narrowly held the seat two years ago.

Complete 2008 CCNC endorsements are posted at www.ccnccpac.org and complete results will be available there soon.

Smart Growth Candidate Prevails in Wake County Voting: In addition to the national and state-level races, there were local elections with environmental ramifications across North Carolina, including both county officials and bond issues. We're not ready yet to provide a survey of noteworthy local results, but we do want to mention one, highlighted a week ago in the last 2008 pre-election CIB.

In a bellweather contest for Wake County Commissioner, smart growth advocate Stan Norwalk defeated incumbent Commissioner Kenn Gardner by a margin of 55-45 out of over 400,000 votes cast. Norwalk, a founding leader of the local planned-growth advocacy group WakeUp Wake County, won despite heavy spending on attacks against him. A group called the "N.C. Homeowners Alliance" tried to paint Norwalk as a kind of Mad Taxer because of his support for the use of land transfer taxes to help pay for the costs of public infrastructure required by new development. This so-called "Homeowners Alliance" was financially underwritten by realtor organization contributions in its campaign of anti-Norwalk mailers and robocalls. Their failure in this contest may indicate that voters are beginning to lose patience with such fulminations.

Washington Watch: Transition Team and EPA Rumors

This is the first presidential election which we can recall in which the prevailing candidate has made a major environmental issue one of the centerpieces of his campaign. For Obama, clean energy has not been a secondary topic or a minor commitment. It has been at the heart of his economic action package—in fact, his centerpiece economic proposal is a ten-year, $150 billion plan for investment in solar, wind, biofuels, and efficient vehicles to address oil dependency, fight global warming, and create enduring jobs.

Given that emphasis, it should come as no surprise that environmental leaders are playing a prominent role in the very earliest acts of Obama's transition from campaign to governance. In fact, the head of Obama's transition team, John D. Podesta, is a member of the League of Conservation Voters' (LCV) national board of directors. Podesta is a former chief of staff for the Clinton White House, who currently heads a major progressive policy research foundation, the Center for American Progress. Another member of the Obama transition team, Carol Browner, is former EPA head under Clinton and also a current member of the LCV board of directors. (By the way, CCNC executive director Carrie Clark is another of the 30-member LCV board. Pretty rarified company...)

Obama's emphasis on environmental policy means that the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency is likely to have real influence within his administration. Therefore, we take note of the early rumors on who may be in line for that post. Among the supposed candidates: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance and a leading environmental activist. Other names making the list of rumored possibilities include Lisa Jackson, head of New Jersey's Dept. of Environmental Protection; Robert Sussman, former deputy administrator of the EPA under Clinton; Kathleen McGinty, who has been an aide to Al Gore, chair of the Clinton Office of Environmental Policy, and head of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Environmental Protection; Mary Nichols, chair of the California Air Resources Board; and Dan Esty, a leading Obama energy advisor who heads Yale's Center for Environmental Law and Policy.

No comments: