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Climate Politics Almanac: June 21 primary preview

A look ahead at Tuesday's elections in DC and Virginia

June 21 preview

Washington, DC

Note: The Washington Post’s endorsements are written by the likes of Jo-Ann Armao, a right-wing independent who lives outside of the city—and thus are usually a good guide for who not to support.

Robert White, candidate for DC Mayor

Mayor: During her first year in office, Mayor Muriel Bowser negotiated a settlement that cleared the final hurdle to a merger between Exelon and Pepco, creating the nation’s largest utility and prompting calls for an investigation into Bowser’s relationship with Exelon. The Exelon-Pepco merger had been opposed by a grassroots coalition of DC residents, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which pointed out that Exelon’s business model relies on “suppressing the growth of affordable clean energy.” This was not the last time that Bowser alienated progressives, and she is being challenged this year by several candidates. Most notable is Councilmember Robert White, who is endorsed by Sierra Club DC and has proposed a “Jobs Guarantee for DC” to fund 10,000 climate-related jobs. The Post, of course, is backing Bowser.

Hill Heat pick: Robert White

Attorney General: Outgoing Attorney General Karl Racine has built a progressive record that includes suing Big Oil for climate misinformation. Racine is supporting trial lawyer Brian Schwalb as his successor. Schwalb’s environmental platform is a bit more meager than that of his primary opponent, Bruce Spiva, a civil rights and antitrust attorney who boasts of already having sued Big Oil in the past. Spiva is endorsed by Sierra Club DC and a number of progressive organizations.

Hill Heat pick: Bruce Spiva

DC Council:

Green New Deal for DC Action has endorsed Erin Palmer in her challenge to incumbent Council Chair Phil Mendelson, who is supported by the Washington Post and most of DC’s establishment. The at-large Council race features “enigma” incumbent Anita Bonds, and the progressives Nate Fleming (endorsed by Jews United for Justice and the Post) and Lisa Gore (endorsed by DC Working Families Party).

Hill Heat pick: Erin Palmer

Sierra Club DC and Sunrise DC are backing incumbent progressive Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, but the Post complained she has moved too far to the left, and has endorsed one of her opponents, crypto-Republican cop Salah Czapary. In the open race for Ward 3’s council seat, the field has narrowed to two main candidates, and will be decided between the Post’s endorsed candidate, Eric Goulet, who has received substantial corporate support, and Matt Frumin, who has won endorsements from Racine and other progressives. In the open seat race to represent Ward 5, the field is crowded, but the Sierra Club, Racine, and the Sunrise Movement DC have endorsed School Board Member Zachary Parker, while the Post’s pick is Bowser appointee Faith Gibson-Hubbard.

Hill Heat picks: Brianne Nadeau, Matt Frumin, Zachary Parker


Virginia will hold its primaries for federal elections only on June 21, as state and local elections are on odd years. Climate movement organizations like Clean Virginia, Sunrise Virginia, Chesapeake Climate Action, and Virginia LCV are primarily focused on local and state issues like stopping the fracked-gas Mountain Valley Pipeline, and have not been particularly active in the congressional primaries. Neither of Virginia’s senators are up for reëlection this year.

The main races to watch will be in VA-02 and VA-07, where Republicans will pick their nominees against two incumbent Democrats representing swing districts. In VA-02, the incumbent is Rep. Elaine Luria, a “New Democrat Climate Change Task Force co-chair” and Jan. 6 commission member who lost the city of Norfolk in redistricting and now represents a coastal, highly climate-pollution vulnerable R+6 district.

In VA-07, the incumbent is Rep. Abigail Spanberger, an outspoken centrist now representing a D+2 district that will be put to the test whether suburban northern Virginia’s 2021 lurch toward Republicans was temporary.

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