Memo: State elections saw a Green Wave in 2022

To: Interested Parties
From: Pete Maysmith, LCV SVP of Campaigns
Date: November 9, 2022
Re: State elections saw a Green Wave in 2022

Last night, across the country, leaders who ran on climate won. In state elections up and down the ballot, we saw a Green Wave of environmental champions. In 2018, we saw new Governors come into office ready to pass major clean energy and environmental legislation. As of this morning, nearly all of them won reelection (with only Nevada still too close to call). In Maryland and Massachusetts, new candidates who championed 100% clean energy with major plans for their first year in office won. In Minnesota and Michigan, voters elected new pro-environmental legislative majorities who we expect to hit the ground running with major climate and clean water bills.

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. 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. We now have leaders in key offices across the country ready to build on this success with bold environmental agendas.

We also know we cannot have a healthy environment without a functioning democracy. Candidates fighting to uphold voting rights won in key races for Attorney General and Secretary of State and states passed important voting rights initiatives on the ballot.

Throughout the week, we will continue to follow races that have not been called. Below is a list of races up and down the ticket in states across the country that are major priorities for LCV’s state affiliates. These were the most important 2022 state victories for improving our environment, protecting our democracy, and building the cleaner, healthier future every community deserves.

Governors

Choosing state executives who will champion climate action and protect democracy has never been a higher priority. That’s why our state affiliates invested $19.5 million in Governors races this year, spending $3.3 million specifically to turn out voters who care about climate change. 

Climate champions re-elected

Colorado 

Governor Jared Polis was reelected for a second term. The environment is one of the top five issues his campaign has highlighted during his reelection campaign, and he released an extensive Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Roadmap for Colorado. Polis’ opponent, Heidi Ganahl, 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.

Connecticut

During Governor Ned Lamont’s first term, Connecticut passed a number of landmark climate laws, including 100% clean electricity. That progress was 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. 

Maine

Governor Janet Mills took her 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 to victory last night. Republicans repeatedly attacked Governor Mills for support of offshore wind and clean energy but voters rewarded her support with a second term. Paul LePage, Governor Mills’ opponent, is on the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States, highlighting his past record as governor 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. 

Michigan

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 were under threat if her opponent, Tudor Dixon, won the race. Dixon had said she would work to protect Line 5 and has even thrown doubt on the 2020 election result.

Minnesota

Governor Tim Walz has a strong record working to protect clean air and water, and build clean energy across the state. During his first term, Minnesota passed 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, consistently downplayed the climate crisis and committed to rolling back clean car standards and several other environmental initiatives if elected.

New Mexico

During Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s first term, the state passed more pro-climate and conservation executive action and legislation than at any time in the state’s history. All of these accomplishments were 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 this year’s election was the most consequential race for the state’s future in a generation.

Wisconsin

Governor Tony Evers has championed several major climate initiatives, including the state’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan during his first term. 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 ensures 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.

New state leaders win

Maryland

Maryland LCV endorsed Wes Moore early in the primary, because of his deep commitment to climate action including 100% clean energy, preserving the Chesapeake Bay, and fighting for environmental justice across the state. Dan Cox lost last night highlighting his poor environmental record and dangerous actions on democracy. Cox 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 and was named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States

Massachusetts 

Current Attorney General Maura Healey won her race for Governor as a climate champion and is now the first openly LGBTQ women elected Governor. 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 sent millions of dollars back to low-income communities for climate resiliency and utility relief. Her office also filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that alleged ExxonMobil lied to consumers and investors about the risks of climate change. 

Pennsylvania 

Governor-elect Josh Shapiro won, highlighting his record holding big polluters accountable for water and public safety violations and fighting Trump-era EPA efforts to weaken federal protections. 

His opponent Doug Mastriano, 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. Mastriano was also named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States

Big wins in state legislatures

New environmental majorities

Minnesota

Climate champions flipped the state senate to a pro-environmental majority. 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.

Michigan

With Governor Whitmer’s reelection and the state senate flipping for the first time since 1983, Michigan now has a pro-environment trifecta in the state. Governor Whitmer has passed important climate and clean water provisions through executive order but could now tackle big environmental issues with legislation in 2023.

Legislatures turn big environmental wins into electoral success

Colorado

This past year, Colorado passed a bill in the state Legislature to better regulate toxic air pollution. The state has now turned those wins into electoral success. Look for Colorado to continue making major investments in clean air and clean energy, as well as clean water and the Colorado River.

Maine

Maine’s Legislature passed major climate and clean energy legislation over the last two years. And with Governor Mills reelection, can now continue building on that success. Additionally, Maine’s constitutional officers are elected by the Legislature. This includes the secretary of state — currently held by voting rights champion Shenna Bellows. Now the legislature can choose champions for our environment and democracy to fill these key positions.

New Mexico

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. They’ve now protected those majorities and with Governor Lujan Grisham’s reelection, can continue that success.

Preventing anti-environment super majorities

North Carolina

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 had gained an anti-environment supermajority in the state Senate and state House, they would have been able to severely limit the governor’s power and override his veto. Now Governor Cooper can build on his clean energy success.

Wisconsin

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. Thankfully, pro-environmental candidates won enough seats to prevent a Republican supermajority to protect Governor Evers veto. He has also vetoed several 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 also has implications for the presidential election in 2024 and beyond to certify the election. 

Attorneys General Champion environment and democracy and win

Colorado

Attorney General Phil Weiser has made environmental protection a key campaign issue and ran 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, made no mention of the office’s role to protect the environment on his campaign website and said he would not have challenged the Trump administration’s attacks on clean air protections as Attorney General Weiser did.

Michigan

Attorney General Dana Nessel won reelection after 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 her opponent Matthew DePerno committed to ending. DePerno also led the charge to attack Michigan election results, quickly becoming a national figure in former President Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and is under investigation for alleged illegal tampering with voting machines. DePerno was also named to the 2022 Dirty Dozen in the States

Wisconsin

The race for Attorney General is one of the most important for the environment and democracy in Wisconsin this cycle. Attorney General Josh Kaul won after spending his first term joining 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. He took that record to a victory last night.

Supreme Courts

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.

Michigan

Incumbent justice Richard Bernstein won, preserving the progressive majority. The Michigan Supreme Court is a critical backstop against extreme partisanship and attacks on voting rights. They also make crucial decisions on environmental protections and hear Public Service Commission cases focused on utilities, which will have major implications on future clean energy development.

Montana

The Montana state Supreme Court will maintain a 4-3 pro-environmental majority with the re-election of Ingrid Gustafson. 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.

Ingrid Gustafson defeated Public Service Commissioner James Brown. 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.

Secretary of State

Michigan

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson won reelection having stood strong for democracy in her first term. She upheld the state’s election result in 2020, 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. 

Other Races

New Mexico Lands Commissioner 

In her first term, Stephanie Garcia Richard was a champion for climate and conservation and turned that into a win on Tuesday. 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 previously been a target of the oil and gas industry.

Ballot Initiatives

New York 

New York passed the $4.2 billion Clean Water, Clean Air, and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act. 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. This is one of the largest single investments in environmental programs in New York in a decade.

Michigan

Our state affiliate worked with the Promote the Vote 2022 campaign to fight for the Right to Voting Policies Amendment, Proposal 2 that passed Tuesday. 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.

Oregon

Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 113, which will hold politicians accountable for their unexcused absences from the Capitol. Over the last several legislative sessions,  Republicans have left the Capitol to prevent a caucus so no votes can take place when there is a bill they oppose. This has been used to kill and delay a number of bills including major climate legislation.

Election:

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