Vote in climate hawk Democrats to break the power of Big Oil

  • Published on October 3rd, 2016

By RL Miller

I spent the end of summer 2015 watching SB350, a big climate bill, get gutted in the California legislature. Chevron and Exxon climate hawks votefreaked out over a bill requiring a 50% reduction in petroleum use in California by 2030, and they convinced a big group of so-called moderate Democrats in the state Assembly that the bill would mean the end of the world. Sure, I fought back along with many allies, but in the end the fossil fuel folk won that round.

I returned home with a taste of ashes in my mouth, but determined to act.

The plan, in two steps:

  • get SB32 passed, and
  • win at least one message race against a Big Oil-friendly moderate Democrat.

See, the single thing that motivates politicians more than anything is fear of losing their jobs – and the second best motivator is watching colleagues lose their jobs. If one of those moderate Assembly Democrats could lose a primary over doing the bidding of Big Oil, the rest would get better knowing that they’re next. (That’s how the Tea Party rose to power so fast – primarying and winning a handful of Republican races.)

Climate Hawks Vote was the first green group to endorse Nanette Barragán, running in California’s 44th Congressional district. She and Isadore Hall were competing in an open primary, and thanks to California’s top two rules, the November 8 general election is between the same two Democrats. Nanette is a smart young Latina with a compelling life story as the 11th child of Mexican immigrants who worked hard to achieve the American dream — check out her (very short) video here:

The DCCC doesn’t care about this Dem vs Dem race – you won’t get emails from them begging for money or promising triple matches. But I care, very much. I’ve gone on record with the media that this is the single most important Congressional race in California for climate hawks, and Nanette has used both my DailyKos blog posts and stories I pitched to reporters in her campaigning.

Now, Isadore Hall came out of that group of moderate oil-soaked Democrats. He voted down a fracking moratorium. He literally hangs out with lobbyists for Western States Petroleum Association to telegraph his voting strategy. He’s one of Big Oil’s biggest recipients of money in California, and if he goes to Congress he’d likely have the dubious distinction of being California’s most oil-friendly Democrat. We can’t let that happen.

In sharp contrast, Nanette has been running on a climate platform: linking bad air in the industrial district to high asthma rates and touting her reputation as a fracking fighter. She refuses Big Oil money.

In the June 7 primary, she came in a distant second – Hall got 40 percent of the vote, she got 21 percent, and eight other candidates split the remainder. But she immediately consolidated endorsements by several losing candidates. In late July she put out a poll showing that it’s a four point race – she has 34%, and Hall has 38%. That’s a difference that can be made up by fieldwork. California politicians are watching this race closely.

And there’s a sense that momentum in the race has really shifted. Within the last week, Nanette has picked up the endorsements of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee; Our Revolution; and local newspaper the Daily Breeze (she already obtained the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times). She’s meeting and greeting voters in Carson today.

This summer, the Assembly passed SB32, to great fanfare — that’s Step One on my list. Step Two: elect Nanette Barragan.

Climate Hawks Vote is launching a field campaign to reach voters in Spanish, Tagalog, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages. We start to break the power of Big Oil in California now.

Can you help us keep that momentum swinging toward Nanette and away from Big Oil-backed Democrats? Can you chip in $10 to help fund our field program?


About the Author

The chair of the Democratic Environmental Caucus, RL Miller also runs Climate Hawks Vote, which backs candidates for office who are serious about taking action on climate change.