Election Results: Good News for Environment

Kate Sheppard
November 9, 2007

Green hearts are all a-flutter over last night's elections. Not all good news on the environment front, but plenty of it at least.

Dems took the House, the Senate is in the very least in a deadlock, and voters decided in favor of the environment on several ballot initiatives. Though voters in Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon and South Carolina voted in favor of takings and eminent domain initiatives, and Californians voted against taxing oil to raise funds for renewable energy, yesterday's elections were overwhelmingly eco-friendly.

In Washington State, the odious "takings initiative" ballot measure 933 failed by a comfortable 15 percent margin. The initiative to require the state's utilities to increase the amount of renewable resources in their supply systems passed, and voters soundly re-elected environment-crusading Senator Maria Cantwell.

In California, voters rejected Proposition 90, the eminent domain legislation that would have wounded land-use regulation. Fifty-four percent of voters there also approved Proposition 84: The Clean Water, Parks, and Coastal Protection Bond, which will put $5.4. billion toward water projects, land conservation and habitat preservation. But they rejected the oil tax ballot initiative that would have raised up to $4 billion for research and development of renewable fuels. Prop. 87 aimed to reduce petroleum consumption in the state by 25 percent by 2017, but thanks in no small part to the $100 million the oil industry pumped into the anti-87 campaign.

Californians also voted to keep Arnie in office, which was expected and isn't that much of a loss on the green front at least.

Though the Senate is still tottering between red and blue majority, there were some very happy gains that will change the environmental attitudes on Capital Hill without a doubt. Jon Tester's narrow win in Montana, over incumbent Republican Conrad Burns is a favorite among them. Burns spent three terms in the Senate denying climate change, helping out big oil, and thwarting mercury regulations. Tester, on the other hand, stood at the front of the initiative last year to pass a law in state legislature requiring Montana to get 15 percent of its energy from renewables by 2015. He's an organic farmer, a renewable energy advocate, and a conservationist. Pretty much, he makes me swoon in a totally platonic way.

The environmentally odious Rick Santorum was squarely defeated in Pennsylvania. Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican who had been rumored as a presidential possibility at some point in the past year, lost by a whopping 18 percent.

Claire McCaskill's close win in Missouri is also a big one for environmentalists, as Republican incumbent Jim Talent has been a notoriously un-green Senate member.

Over in the House, the biggest win of the night for enviro voters was in California's 11th district where voters ousted Richard Pombo (R) in favor of Jerry McNerney. The country's natural resources rejoice.

Not to mention the fact that the Dems now take over the committee chairmanships, a big deal for enviros, especially as far as the Resources, Science, Energy and Commerce, and Agriculture committees.

In New Mexico's 1st district, state Attorney General Patricia Madrid (D) and incumbent Heather Wilson (R) remain neck-and-neck in what has been a heated race. Madrid made energy independence a key issue in her campaign and has taken on the EPA for not enforcing anti-pollution laws, while Wilson has been a consistently anti-environment representative. Vote tallies might not be final until Friday.

League of Conservation Voters Dirty Dozen denizen Charles Taylor lost his seat in North Carolina's 11th district to Democrat Heath Shuler, a big win for environmental voters. The 8-percent margin was much higher than election forecasters predicted, and Taylor's pro-logging, climate-change denying, and fuel-efficiency thwarting won't be missed.

In Pennsylvania, two pro-environment Murphies battled it out against incumbent Republicans. The race between Jim Gerlach (R) and challenger Lois Murphy (D) in the 6th district concluded with the incumbent prevailing with a slight margin, but the jury's still out on Patrick Murphy (D) and Michael Fitzpatrick (R) in the 8th.

In Indiana, green-leaning Dems got two big victories -- in the 2nd district, where Joe Donnelly (D) topped Chris Chocola (R), and in the 8th district, where Brad Ellsworth (D) bested John Hostettler (R).

And in a particularly interesting New York House race, voters in the 19th district selected Democrat John Hall (better known for penning the pop song "Still the One"), who received the Sierra Club endorsement, over incumbent Republican Sue Kelly, who was endorsed by the League of Conservation voters.

Ohio green-leaners had a somewhat depressing night. In the 15th district, Deborah Pryce, supporter of ANWR drilling and weakening the Endangered Species Act, beat challenger Mary Jo Kilroy. And in the 1st district, Democrat John Cranley lost to Republican Steve Chabot.