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Climate Politics Almanac: August 2 primary preview, Kansas and Michigan
We look at Drying Kansas and Pipeline-Fight Michigan
KS-Gov: Democratic governor Laura Kelly upset white nationalist-affiliated Kris Kobach in this drought-stricken red state four years ago by seizing on the unpopular austerity policies of her right-wing predecessor. Kelly is running for a tough re-election against the chosen candidate of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity, Donald Trump, and the entire Republican establishment, Derek Schmitt, who has fought aggressively to thwart calculations of the “social cost of carbon” as state attorney general.
KS-Treasurer: When a vacancy opened up for Kansas treasurer, Gov. Kelly moved her lieutenant governor Lynn Rogers over to the position. The Republican primary contest to face Rogers in the competitive general election will be between state representative Steven Johnson and state senator Caryn Tyson.
Abortion Amendment: America’s slide toward theocracy will be put to the test in a close contest over Resolution No. 5003, which would overturn a 2019 court ruling to stipulate that Kansas law provides that “there is no constitutional right to abortion.” The amendment’s passage would make it even harder to obtain an abortion in this region of the country, since all of Kansas’ neighboring states have imposed severe restrictions. The Catholic Church has given over $750,000 to the Yes side of the amendment, taking advantage of an IRS loophole that allows for churches to engage in political activity via ballot initiatives.
KS-03: Kansas Republicans moved parts of Kansas City out of this district and turned it from a D+4 to a R+3, thus creating a tougher re-election race for Rep. Sharice Davids, the only Democrat in the Kansas congressional delegation, as well as the only current indigenous Democratic Member of Congress. Davids will face a rematch against her 2020 opponent, health care exec Amanda Adkins, who has called for more drilling and criticized Biden administration policies that “force” an energy transition “under the auspices of limiting America’s climate impact.”
MI-Gov: Democratic governor Gretchen Whitmer—who has taken a wonky approach to climate policy and is the subject of a recent Washington Post profile contrasting her proactive response to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe with that of certain other Democratic leaders—is running for a second term.
The field of Republican candidates/election deniers vying to be her general election opponent in a crucial swing state speaks volumes about the current Republican Party. Establishment support seems to favor right-wing media figure Tudor Dixon, a Big Lie proponent who has support from the most influential family in Michigan Republican politics, the extremist DeVos family, whose matriarch Betsy praised Trump’s exit from the Paris agreements while serving as his Education Secretary. Another contender is real estate broker Ryan Kelley, who was arrested for his role in the January 6 insurrection, and calls January 6 “good times” because gas was cheaper. Businessman Kevin Rinke is running ads implying that Dixon is disloyal to Trump because DeVos resigned after January 6. Chiropractor Garrett Soldano—a driving force behind anti-Whitmer pandemic protests that grew to be very dangerous— rounds out the field of viable contenders. All Republican candidates have pledged strong support for maintaining and expanding Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline, which Whitmer has temporarily shut down, citing risks of a major oil spill in the Great Lakes.
MI-03: This Grand Rapids-based district became a very competitive D+3 in redistricting, although incumbent Republican Rep. Peter Meijer would probably be the favorite in a year like 2022 were it not for his contested primary. Meijer voted for the second Trump impeachment, and is thus being challenged by 2020 election denier and former Trump official John Gibbs. The Democratic nominee is going to be attorney Hillary Scholten, who ran against Meijer in 2020 and is endorsed by LCV on the basis of her support for chemical and lead pollution reduction.
MI-07: The general election contest is all set in this Lansing-based district, which went from R+6 to R+4 in redistricting. Rep. Elissa Slotkin is a New Democrat and former intelligence officer who has been praised by LCV for not being a climate change denier but has also gone out of her way to distinguish herself from Green New Deal champions. State senator Tom Barrett, a flagrantly anti-trans right-winger, will be Slotkin’s opponent.
MI-08: Democratic incumbent Dan Kildee (formerly MI-05), running unopposed in the Democratic primary, is a slight favorite. His district, redrawn to be more Republican, still includes Flint, where jurors are in the middle of deliberating the water crisis civil trial. The Republican slate of challengers are mildly different flavors of eco-fascist.
MI-11: Michigan lost a seat in the last round of redistricting, and the reshuffle caused two Democratic incumbents to be pitted against each other. Rep. Haley Stevens currently represents about 45% of this district. She’s a New Democrat, endorsed by the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, and has been receiving substantial assistance from outside groups, with over $3 million coming from the right-wing AIPAC. Consequently, Rep. Andy Levin, who presently represents only 25% of the district, seems to be an underdog, although he may still benefit from the name recognition that comes from being a part of a respected progressive Michigan dynasty. During his two terms in the House, Levin has stood out strongly on labor issues. Climate groups unsuccessfully urged Biden to choose him as a Labor Secretary who would “bridge” blue-green “divides.” Levin is deputy whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, whose BUILD GREEN Act was an important early intervention for transit electrification in the since-failed Build Back Better negotiations. In an April debate, Levin highlighted his status as a Green New Deal champion, and called for the toxic Line 5 pipeline to be shut down, while Stevens retreated from her previous opposition to Line 5, seemingly because the minority of unions who support her in the race are Line 5 proponents. Sunrise Movement activists are pushing hard for Levin.
MI-12: The Squad is supporting the re-election of their fellow Member, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Green New Deal champion who is being challenged in her new and more compact Detroit-based district. Hedge-fund money has flowed in to attack Tlaib and support her main opponent, Detroit city clerk Janice Winfrey, who outside groups claim can better represent Detroit as a Black woman than Tlaib, the only Palestinian American in Congress. Tlaib has also been criticized for voting against last year’s bipartisan infrastructure deal, since she conditioned her support for major highway spending on the passage of Build Back Better/meaningful climate action.
MI-13: There doesn’t really seem to be a strong climate candidate in the crowded race for this open seat. Retiring Rep. Brenda Lawrence has endorsed non-profit CEO Portia Roberson, whose environmental platform emphasizes her wonky but needed support for including race in the EPA’s environmental-justice screening tool. Self-funding has helped state representative Shri Tanedar come out on top in a recent poll. Rounding out the major contenders are state senator Adam Hollier, who has received major support from crypto and AIPAC interests, attorney Sharon McPhail, and John Conyers III, the son of longtime Detroit congressman Conyers Jr.
State Senate: Republicans have held the majority in the Michigan Senate since 1984, but Michigan’s new independent redistricting commission produced maps that give Democrats a chance of reversing Republicans’ current 22-16 advantage.
One of the primary races to watch is SD 8, where incumbent Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) has raised significant money following a widely-publicized floor speech earlier this year, and has the endorsement of Michigan LCV over Michigan Legislative Black Caucus Chair Marshall Bullock (D-Detroit).
LCV has also endorsed the only Democratic candidate, state representative Darrin Camillerri, in SD 4, based in Wayne County’s southwestern township of Brownstown, which will be a competitive general election.
Another pickup opportunity for Dems is in SD 14 just west of Ann Arbor. Clean Water Action has endorsed former Jackson Councilmember Kelsey Heck Wood, while Sierra Club has endorsed Washtena County Commissioner Sue Shink.
The Grand Rapids-based SD 30 is likely to be competitive too, and LCV is supporting Democrat David Lagrand against incumbent Republican senator Mark Huizenga.
Dems are also targeting SD 35 in Saginaw, where LCV has endorsed the only Democratic candidate, Bay City Commissioner Kristen McDonald Rivet.
Incumbent Republican senator Michael McDonald will be defending the Clinton Township-based SD 11, which is now Dem-leaning, and LCV has endorsed Macomb County Commissioner Veronica Klinefelt over Eastpointe Mayor Monique Owens.
The final contest that will likely prove important to determining the majority is the the open seat contest in St. Clair Shores-based SD 12, where LCV has endorsed the only Democrat, state representative Kevin Hertel.