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The Climate Politics Almanac: State of the State Treasurers, Part Two

We continue our overview of state treasurers and the upcoming elections for these crucial officials.

The U.S. Climate Politics Almanac continues its overview of state treasurers and the upcoming elections for these crucial officials, who oversee trillions of billions of dollars in public investments. States are listed in rough descending order of the size of their investments. Subscribe to get the full series.

South Carolina

Second class citizen Curtis Loftis (R-S.C.)

South Carolina’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio of about $24 billion. Treasurer Curtis Loftis (R) is in his third term, having ousted a Republican incumbent in his first election for this office in 2010. A white male South Carolinian, Loftis posted on Facebook that he was tired of feeling like a “second class citizen” during the nationwide George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020. Treasurer Loftis was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. Loftis has not yet officially announced whether he’ll seek a fourth term, and there are no declared candidates in the race

Wyoming

Wyoming’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of nearly $25 billion. Treasurer Curt Meier (R) was elected to his first term in 2018. Meier has held elected office since he was elected to the Wyoming State Senate in 1994. He has not yet officially declared his intention to run in the primary election, which will be held on August 16.

Arizona

Arizona’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio of $23 billion.

Kimberly Yee (R) has served as Arizona’s treasurer since 2019. Elected as the first Asian American to serve in the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010, Yee’s legislative career focused on curtailing reproductive rights, including sending a mandatory ultrasound law to former Governor Jan Brewer’s desk and sponsoring another bill that was labeled “junk science” for promoting misinformation about the drug RU-486. In May 2021, Yee announced she will run for the governor’s office being left open by incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who is termed out. 

Also in May, Yee joined the Republican sign-on letter urging Kerry against climate financial action. Yee would seem to be offended by any pressure campaign to align business activity with social values, since she started her 2020 op-ed defending her support for former President Donald Trump by pushing back against activist boycotts of Goya Beans. However, Yee is not universally opposed to divestment from businesses, since she interpreted Arizona state law to require her to divest state funds from Ben and Jerry’s parent company after the ice cream sellers withdrew from Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The primary for governor as well as for the treasurer position that Yee is vacating will take place on August 2. The only declared Democrat in the treasurer race so far is state senator Martín Quezada, who has an A+ rating from Sierra Club and has decried the Republican-led dismantling of former Governor Janet Napolitano’s climate advisory group. On the Republican side, the candidates are State Senator/Trumpist conspiracy theorist David Livingston, as well as State House Commerce Chair Jeff Weninger, both of whom have F ratings of their legislative record from the Arizona Sierra Club chapter. 

Ohio

Ohio’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of $20 billion. Treasurer Robert Sprague (R) was elected to his first term in 2018, winning 53-47%. Sprague was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. The primary election will take place on May 3, and so far Sprague has no announced Democratic opponents. 

Utah

Utah’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio of around $18 billion. Treasurer Marlo Oaks (R), an investment banker, was appointed in July 2021 by Governor Spencer Cox. Oaks has not yet announced whether he’ll run for a full term, and there are not yet any declared candidates for this primary election, which will take place on June 28.

South Dakota

South Dakota’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio that is nearly $12 billion. Treasurer Josh Haeder (R) is in his first term. Haeder was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. He will run for re-election and has no declared opponents yet.

Oregon

Oregon’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of over $11 billion, and its Public Employee Retirement System has over $1.7 billion in fossil fuel holdings. There will not be an election for this position in 2022. However, incumbent Treasurer Tobias Reed (D), who was just re-elected in 2020, is a candidate in the competitive and crowded race for governor. Although Reed was among the treasurers who opposed Lee Raymond’s re-election as a JPMorganChase director, the authors of the Primary School digest have cast considerable doubt on his progressive credentials, writing:

“His time in the [Oregon State] House was mostly that of a quiet background member (albeit a moderate), but his tenure as Treasurer has been insidiously awful. One of his first acts in the office was to sell off tens of thousands of acres of state forest to a logging company over the governor’s objections. He refused to stop investing state money in private prisons, aided Facebook’s recent destruction of pristine coastline, and fought against the largest expansion of Portland public transit in decades.”

Rhode Island

James Diossa in 2013

Rhode Island’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio of about $10 billion. Treasurer Seth Magaziner (D) is in his second term, having won his first election by highlighting his past as an investment manager for a firm that emphasized social responsibility. Magaziner has shown an activist streak. In addition to being among the treasurers who opposed Lee Raymond’s re-election as a JPMorganChase director, Magaziner was part of an unsuccessful effort to replace Wells Fargo’s board of directors, has withdrawn state money from hedge funds, and claims the state is on track to be completely divested from fossil fuels by the end of the decade. Term limits barred Magaziner from running for re-election, and in September, he entered the crowded 2022 governor’s race.

So far, the only declared candidate is former Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, who was elected in 2012 as the first Latino mayor of a predominantly Latino city of 22,000, and “received national attention for becoming mayor while the city was in bankruptcy.” Diossa boasts of navigating Central Falls out of municipal bankruptcy, and advanced several sustainable transit measures while mayor. According to the Boston Globe, prospective candidates include:

“State Senate Finance Chairman Ryan W. Pearson, Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor…state Representative Scott A. Slater, and Nicholas A. Autiello II, who was a special adviser to the former governor Gina M. Raimondo.”

Other potential candidates reportedly include Providence City Council President John Igliozzi and State House Finance Chair Marvin Abney. Igliozzi has served on the City Council since 1997, and is considering running for numerous offices in next year’s elections. In the General Assembly, Abney, Pearson, and Slater all have middling climate leadership records. Pryor has been commerce secretary since 2015, and was a housing and development director in Newark, NJ prior to that. Autiello, who previously lost a campaign for state senate and claimed to be a foreign policy expert supporting the 2020 presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, now works for the Sustainable Markets Initiative, a decarbonization PR campaign that includes Shell and BP as major partners.

Indiana

Indiana’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of $10 billion. Treasurer Kelly Mitchell (R) replaced a controversial predecessor when she won her first term in 2014. Asked about climate during her failed 2020 bid for Congress, Mitchell said she wanted clean air and clean water, but pledged her commitment to an “all of the above” energy strategy. Term limits prevent Mitchell from running for another term in 2022, and so far there are five Republican candidates and no declared Democratic candidates in the race to succeed her

Kansas

Kansas’ state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of over $8 billion. Treasurer Lynn Rogers (D) was Governor Laura Kelly’s running mate in 2018, when the Kelly-Rogers ticket was able to prevail in a deep red state because of a toxic Republican candidate and an unpopular outgoing Republican governor who had badly mismanaged Kansas’ finances. When former Republican Treasurer Jake LaTurner was elected to Congress in 2020, Kelly appointed Rogers as Treasurer. Republican State Rep. Steven Johnson will likely be Rogers’ opponent in the general election, and since Kelly’s re-election bid is expected to be a tossup, the treasurer race likely will be as well. 

Read part one here. Part three will review nine more state treasurer races, from New Mexico to Delaware.

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