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2022 Primary Preview: May 10
Nebraska and West Virginia races offer slim hopes for climate
May 10: Nebraska, West Virginia
NE-Gov: Republican governor Pete Ricketts, a staunch Keystone XL promoter who has peddled misinformation about the Biden administration’s efforts to conserve agricultural land, is termed out. Democratic state senator Carol Blood is trying to take her past success winning Trump-friendly territory statewide, and she has the support of anti-KXL crusader and state party chair Jane Kleeb.
In the Republican primary, state senator Theresa Thibodeau is running, but the race appears to be between Charles Hebster, Brett Lindstrom, and Jim Pillen. Lindstrom is a state senator accused by Ricketts of being too “liberal” for, among other things, voting for a 2015 gas tax increase. Hebster, a groping wealthy cattle rancher endorsed by Trump, has funded ads attacking one of the eight women who has accused him of sexual assault. Hog kingpin Pillen is a University of Nebraska Board of Regents member endorsed by Ricketts; he has attacked the “far-left” Green New Deal and pledged to stand up against a supposedly “radical transgender agenda.”
NE-02: Although Nebraska Republicans made the second district slightly more red through redistricting, the Omaha-based NE-02, which Joe Biden carried in 2020, remains the state’s only competitive district. Climate played a major role in helping Democrat Kara Eastman win an upset primary victory in this district in 2018, when she came close to knocking off Rep. Don Bacon. After falling short in a 2020 rematch, however, Eastman is not running again. Health care worker (and Green New Deal supporter) Alisha Shelton and state senator Tony Vargas are the two candidates for the Democratic nomination. Trump tried to recruit a Republican to run against Bacon, one of only a dozen House Republicans to support the bipartisan infrastructure package, but Bacon’s lone Republican primary opponent Steve Kuehl says he doesn’t have a chance of beating Bacon.
WV-02: Rep. Alex Mooney vs. Rep. David McKinley. There are no statewide contests this year in West Virginia, where coal is king, poverty is pervasive, and climate legislation goes to die. The state lost a seat in redistricting, so a primary race between two Republican incumbents to determine who will represent the 2nd congressional district is the only noteworthy federal election here. Rep. David McKinley pledged to block the Biden administration’s “extreme climate change policies” when he became the top Republican on the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on environment and climate change. He has given lip service to the need for climate action, despite previously authoring an amendment to block the Department of Defense from assessing national security threats from the “always changing” climate during the Obama administration. McKinley is endorsed by coal baron West Virginia governor Jim Justice, despite having committed the Republican heresy of supporting last November’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. (This is probably as good of an indication as any that that bill does not reflect significant climate progress). As a Republican on the Financial Services Committee, Rep. Alex Mooney has pushed back against efforts by banking regulators to act on climate risks, and won an endorsement from Trump for more proactively pushing Trump’s Big Lie.
Up next in the Climate Politics Almanac: the May 17th primaries.