Memos & Research

Memo: NM-01 Victory Highlights How Environmental Champions Can Win

Jun 3, 2021

LCV Senior Vice President of Campaigns Pete Maysmith

To: Interested Parties
From: Pete Maysmith, SVP of Campaigns, LCV
Date: June 3, 2021
Re: NM-01 Victory Highlights How Environmental Champions Can Win

LCV Action Fund-endorsed candidate, and now Representative-elect, Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) sailed to victory on June 1 in a hard-fought race. Conventional wisdom would suggest that this race could have been difficult for Democrats to hold on to. Typically, the party that holds the White House falters or underperforms in off-year elections. However, Stansbury overperformed former Rep. Deb Haaland’s win in 2020 and President Biden’s margin. In fact, Cook Political Report analyst Dave Wasserman suggested that Stansbury and Democrats “might expect” a 10 – 15 point margin of victory, far short of the nearly 25 point margin Stansbury won by. 

While it’s hard to pinpoint Stansbury’s landslide to any one thing, what we do know is Stansbury stood firm in her support for clean air, clean water, and combating climate change, despite attacks from her opponent. Prioritizing these issues is a lesson for pro-environment candidates across the country, and now we have the opportunity to do so with the American Jobs Plan.

Climate and clean energy was at the center of this campaign

As reported in The Hill, this special election was always going to be fought on climate change and clean energy. Not only because of Haaland’s ascent to Secretary of Interior, but also because of the economy of New Mexico. As E&E noted, “the oil and gas industry is essential to New Mexico, providing thousands of jobs and a large piece of the state government’s revenue.” Issues of climate and clean energy are front-and-center for many New Mexicans and impact jobs across the state, and it wasn’t always a given that this would benefit Democrats.

Stansbury leaned into clean energy, clean air, and clean water

Stansbury embraced her credentials as an advocate for clean air, clean water, and public lands. Ads run on Facebook alone reached thousands of people in the district, a plurality between 25 and 34, highlighting her support for clean air, clean water, and public lands. Stansbury also ran ads touting her endorsements from environmental groups, like the Sierra Club. She repeatedly touted her support for moving to a clean energy economy in New Mexico. And as The Washington Post reported, Stansbury focused her campaign on “infrastructure spending and interventions to slow climate change.”

Stansbury’s opponent attacked her on climate, and lost

Mark Moores, Stansbury’s opponent, focused his campaign on casting Stansbury as a “radical.” As part of this strategy, he ran ads proclaiming that Stansbury supported legislation to jack up gas prices ahead of Memorial Day weekend travel. Moores was a staunch supporter of the oil and gas industry, a few of which helped fund his campaign.

Combating climate change and moving to a clean energy economy is popular, and Stansbury’s win proves it’s good politics and good policy

Going big on combating climate change and transitioning to a clean energy economy is not just good policy, it’s good politics. And Republican attacks on the issues failed to land, despite the prominence of the oil and gas industry in the state.

Members of Congress have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to go big and take bold action with President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. And these investments are particularly popular:

  • Modeled state and Congressional level district data from Data for Progress and LCV showed overwhelming bipartisan support across the country for the investments the American Jobs Plan would make in climate, clean energy, good-paying union jobs, and justice. Across 11 swing Congressional districts* average support for the plan is 78% and in the swing Senate states of Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina, and Wisconsin, an average of 80% of registered voters support the government making investments to create good-paying jobs in clean energy.
  • Our March poll with Climate Power from Hart Research Associates found that nearly 7 in 10 voters nationally and in battleground states believe Congress should pass Biden’s plan to Build Back Better, which will create millions of new good-paying jobs, tackle the climate crisis, and build our economy back better than before.
  • In fact, our research showed clean energy investments DRIVE support for the plan, and, what’s more, the typical attacks from the fossil fuel industry fall flat with voters — 66% still say that the emphasis on clean energy investments makes them more likely to support the plan.
  • And a new Climate Power/Data for Progress poll found that 67% of voters say the federal government should be doing more to modernize American infrastructure and 73% say it is time for Congress to invest in infrastructure.
  • Governors are also supportive of bold action. In fact, 13 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico have taken legislative or executive action toward a 100% clean energy future.
  • Even the oil industry sees the writing on the wall, though it remains to be seen if the American Petroleum Institute’s recent embrace of carbon pricing is a political feint or a genuine evolution of policy. 

By following Stansbury’s example and embracing clean energy, jobs, and justice, Democrats have a chance to not just win elections, but make meaningful change and protect our planet.