To: Interested Parties
From: Pete Maysmith, LCV SVP of Campaigns
Date: November 2nd, 2023
Re: The most important state and local races to protect our environment and democracy
The 2024 Presidential race has already kicked into high gear and next year the nation will also decide control of Congress, eleven governorships, and most state legislatures. But before attention turns entirely to 2024, next week voters across the country will decide control of a number of vital state and local offices. Races across the country will have significant impacts on clean energy progress and holding the line against attacks on our democracy. Important in their own right, many of these races will also serve as a bellwether for top of mind issues and voting trends for 2024.
Before Congress passed the historic clean energy investments in the Inflation Reduction Act the majority of climate progress in the last decade was the result of state and local action. Because of that leadership, 40% of the country now lives in a place committed to 100% clean energy. Furthermore, much of the success of the IRA’s investments are now in the hands of these local leaders. We need mayors, city councils, and state legislators who understand the importance of implementing climate action.
Below you’ll find a list of races across the country that are major priorities. These are the most important races this November for tackling climate change, improving our environment, protecting our democracy, and highlighting what’s ahead for the country.
Virginia House of Delegates and State Senate
Since being elected in 2021, Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin has consistently attempted to roll back climate progress and protections for voters. Prior to his term, Virginia Democrats passed a number of key climate and democracy wins that are now under threat if the Governor also gets a Republican majority in the legislature to rubber stamp his agenda. The slim Democratic majority in the state Senate has shielded critical policies from rollbacks including the Virginia Clean Economy Act and the Voting Rights Act. Governor Youngkin has called for rolling back the state’s landmark emissions standards as well as electric vehicle protections. And he has also repeatedly tried to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, one of the most successful clean energy programs in the country.
Youngkin’s Spirit of Virginia PAC has raised $26.5 million and he has staked his political future on electing anti-climate and anti-democracy candidates to control both chambers. Virginia League of Conservation Voters-PAC (VALCV-PAC) has invested over $2.2M to help elect climate champions in the state Senate and state House, by far their largest investment in state legislative races. Next week’s election will be crucial to ensure the state has a backstop against Governor Youngkin’s administration and can later build on the enormous success the state had on both clean energy and voting rights under the previous administration.
New Jersey Legislature
New Jersey for years has been a center of environmental progress. Governor Phil Murphy has often been listed among the greenest Governors in the country and the state has some of the strongest environmental justice provisions in the nation. But big oil has used their deep pockets to attack state clean energy efforts like offshore wind, spreading widely debunked misinformation. The state legislature has the opportunity to protect these clean energy investments and continue to make progress on issues like cleaner transportation. Our state affiliate New Jersey LCV Victory Fund has invested over $150,000 in making sure we maintain a pro-environment majority in the state.
Incumbent Mayor Lauren McLean has been a national example of how to be an environmental champion against enormous odds. She set comprehensive climate goals for city departments, dramatically increased tree cover and protections for open spaces, and passed new zoning codes to make the city more affordable and less polluted. Boise continues to be a tremendous example of clean energy progress. McLean’s opponent Mike Masterson has said he wants to slow down that progress and cast skepticism on electric vehicles. This race will be another key example of how strongly the public supports candidates who run on their environmental records. Conservation Voters for Idaho Action Fund has made historic investments in the race, spending over $500,000 and knocking on over 13,000 doors.
Across the country in Minnesota’s northern city of Duluth, another incumbent climate champion mayor is up for reelection. During Mayor Emily Larson’s first term, the City of Duluth created their first-ever Sustainability Office and implemented plans that have reduced pollution by 32%. The city has also taken environmental justice head on, starting a new program to remove lead from water pipes. Her opponent Roger Reinhart however said he’d leave climate action to personal responsibility and that the city isn’t going to “be able to change the climate.” Voters will have the choice to reaffirm their city’s commitment to climate action with their vote on Tuesday.
Incumbent Mayor Regina Romero has been a true climate champion during her first term as Mayor of Tucson. Romero helped Tucson become a conservation leader in the Southeast by tackling contamination in water and reducing the city’s consumption from the Colorado River and Lake Mead. Chispa Arizona PAC is running a $35,000 paid media program including radio and digital ads in support of Romero.
The Keystone state’s Supreme Court currently has one vacant seat on its seven member body. Over the last four years, this state court has had a number of incredibly important decisions before it. The Court ruled against an unconstitutional gerrymander attempt and rejected a Republican effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the battleground state. In 2022, Pennsylvania officially joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (“RGGI”) but it has been unable to participate in the program due to an injunction from the Commonwealth’s highest court. That case is currently before the state Supreme Court and the winner of this race could cast the decisive vote that will determine if the state can join RGGI. The race between Republican Carolyn Carluccio and Democrat Dan McCaffery has turned into nearly an eight figure race. A McCaffery win would go a long way to protecting our democracy from outside attacks and ensuring climate action initiatives get a fair hearing.