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Climate Politics Almanac: June 7 primary results
California, Iowa, Montana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Dakota
California’s electoral system sends the top two finishers in the primary, of whatever party, to the general election. No particular advantage is conferred for finishing on top in the primary, though it can be an indicator of strength heading to November.
Results of the state and local races:
Ventura County Measures A and B: Defeated by Big Oil
Measures A and B sought to modernize regulation of Ventura County’s 4,000 oil wells so that it is no longer predominantly governed by 75 year old permits written on “fragile onion skin paper.” Based on public reporting, Hill Heat has calculated that complying with Measure A and B’s updated regulations would have cost Chevron, Shell, and Exxon an estimated grand total of $792,000. Instead, Big Oil spent over 10 times that amount on a successful misinformation campaign against Measures A and B. Votes are still being counted, but Measures A and B appear to have been defeated 52-47% (a margin of about 5000 votes) in the most expensive ballot initiative election in county history.
Controller: Lanhee Chen (R) and Malia Cohen (D)
A correction from our previous post: Controller Betty Yee is termed out. In the primary to determine Yee’s successor, Republican Lanhee Chen (who was credited with writing the entirety of Mitt Romney’s 2012 economic plan, including the exclusion of carbon dioxide from the Clean Air Act) finished first. Chen’s Democratic opponent, San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, should have plenty of Dem votes to pick up in the general election.
Insurance Commissioner: Ricardo Lara (D), probably Robert Howell (R)
In the crucial climate race for Insurance Commissioner, the “incredible disappointment” incumbent Ricardo Lara finished in first with 37% of the vote, and the race for second place is too close to call as mail ballots continue to be processed. To advance to the general election against Lara, Assemblymember Marc Levine, who campaigned as a climate hawk, will need to net about 40,000 votes over Republican Robert Howell, who he currently trails.
Los Angeles Mayor: Rick Caruso (recently R) and Karen Bass (D)
In the race for LA Mayor, real estate billionaire Rick Caruso finished first, narrowly ahead of Rep. Karen Bass. [Update June 17th: After all mail-in ballots were counted, Bass finished well ahead of Caruso, 43%-36%.]
In the fall, Bass will probably pick up most of the votes that went to Kevin de León and other progressive candidates who were running, but Caruso’s self-funding should ensure this is an expensive if not competitive election in November to determine whether LA wants someone as mayor who thinks the world can be turned into a luxury commercial real estate playground.
San Francisco District Attorney recall: Chesa Boudin recalled
As expected, San Franciscans voted overwhelmingly to recall scapegoated District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Mayor London Breed, who through various recalls and scandals has now installed a surprising degree of the city’s political apparatus despite herself being embroiled in several ethics controversies, will now get to appoint the DA. (While the national implications of right-wing dark money funding Boudin’s recall must not be overlooked, it should be noted amidst national media hype about this election that Tuesday’s primary also saw progressive DA candidates either win outright or advance to the general election in nearby Bay Area counties.)
State Senate District 8: Dave Jones (D) and Angelique Ashby (D)
Former Assemblymember Dave Jones became a national leader in confronting the ways that the “insurance industry is a major player in the global warming money machine” during his eight years as state insurance commissioner. This year, his campaign for state senate is backed by Sierra Club, Sunrise Movement Sacramento, and the Center for Biological Diversity, among others, and he finished first in the primary with nearly 46% of the vote. Another Democrat, Sacramento Councilmember Angelique Ashby, came in second with about 42% of the vote. Ashby will likely have significant corporate outside money support in what looks like it will be a competitive general election.
Results of the key Congressional primaries:
CA-13, Open: In this Modesto-based congressional district, Assemblymember Adam Gray finished in first with over 33% of the vote, defeating Phil Arballo, who ran an aggressive campaign calling out Gray’s corporate record. Republican John Duarte came in a close second with about 30%, setting up what will likely be a competitive general election to determine if Gray continues his Big Oil servitude in Congress.
CA-15, Open: Assemblymember Kevin Mullin will be the favorite in the general election, which he advanced to with a comfortable but not insurmountable lead over former San Mateo County Supervisor David Canepa.
CA-16: Incumbent Rep. Anna Eshoo will be the favorite in her rematch with Rishi Kumar.
CA-22: Assemblymember Rudy Salas finished first in this primary. (Salas is accustomed to coming in first, as he does in most rankings of California legislators’ gifts from Big Oil). His general election opponent has not officially been determined yet, but it looks like it will be Republican incumbent Rep. David Valadao, who faces a more Dem-leaning district this year but has historically won in Dem districts before.
CA-29: Incumbent Rep. Tony Cárdenas made a strong showing in this initial round, winning 57% of the vote, well ahead of Green New Deal champion Angelica Dueñas.
CA-32: Incumbent Rep. Brad Sherman will get another two years as crypto’s fiercest congressional critic, as a Republican opponent finished ahead of environmental justice advocate Shervin Aazami.
CA-34: The primary round of the general election matchup between incumbent Rep. Jimmy Gomez and Green New Deal champion David Kim was Gomez 51%-Kim 35%.
CA-37, Open: Climate hawk Daniel Lee outperformed expectations and could theoretically still make up about 1,000 votes over Jan Perry and advance to the general election, but state senator Sydney Kamlager will be the general election favorite regardless.
CA-42, Open: Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia got the Republican opponent that he wanted, and should have little trouble getting elected to Congress in November.
CA-50: Incumbent Rep. Scott Peters of keeping-prescription-drug-prices-high fame also got the Republican opponent that he wanted, as Green New Deal champion Kylie Taitano finished third.
Statewide: Sen. Chuck Grassley is 88 years old, and will be favored to win six more years in the Senate after a term that included shepherding the (climate pivotal) nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh through the Senate. His Democratic opponent will be former Navy admiral Mike Franken.
Republican governor Kim “Alleged Global Warming” Reynolds will also be favored to win re-election over small business owner Deidre Dejear.
A trio of statewide elected Democrats, Auditor Rob Sand, Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (who has served since 1983), and Attorney General Tom Miller (who has served almost uninterrupted since 1979), will attempt to win re-election in a tough environment.
IA-03: Democratic Rep. Cindy Axne, who as both a Financial Services and Agriculture Committee Member, has spoken out about derechos and other climate disasters in Iowa, will face a tough re-election contest in this R+2 district based in Des Moines. Republican state senator Zach Nunn, who has voted to gut net metering among other bad climate votes, will be her general election opponent.
State legislature: A pair of promising climate hawks lost primaries by very small margins. In Iowa City’s House District 90, centrist Adam Zabner defeated Andrew Dunn, who had the support of the Sunrise Movement.
In Senate District 37 near Cedar Rapids, state representative Molly Donahue defeated Green New Deal supporter Austin Frerick.
In Sioux City’s House District 1, anti-monopoly campaigner JD Scholten, whose remarkable 2018 campaign is probably the single biggest reason why white supremacist Steve King is no longer in Congress, won an uncontested primary.
MT-01: Montana added a new congressional district this cycle, and its 1st congressional district, which is now based on the western side of the state and includes the college towns of Missoula and Bozeman, will probably be competitive in good years for Democrats. This is not shaping up to be a good year for Democrats. Nevertheless, the climate dynamics in this general election matchup are compelling. In Tuesday’s primary, former Olympic rower and attorney Monica Tranel won the Democratic nomination. Tranel, who helped 350 Montana and others prevail in a lawsuit against Montana’s monopoly power utility, has emphasized her work facilitating Montana’s role in a clean energy transition in both this campaign and her 2020 campaign for Public Service Commission, which she lost while still outperforming other Dems.
On the Republican side, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke holds a small lead over Al Olszewski. Zinke, who is seeking a return to Congress after a cartoonishly corrupt, climate change-denying tenure in Trump’s cabinet, had more name recognition than Olszewski, so perhaps the slim margin of his apparent primary win is an indication that Montana voters didn’t respond well to the fact that he spent his post-Trump years in Santa Barbara.
MS-03, MS-04: Primary challengers to Republican Reps. Michael Guest and Stephen Palazzo succeeded in forcing June 28 runoffs. In Guest’s case, his constituents apparently viewed him as insufficiently fascist. In Pallazzo’s case, his constituents apparently viewed him as insufficiently present.
Governor: Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham was fairly defensive of the fossil fuel industry when campaigning for her first term in 2018, but she does seem to recognize the importance of a just transition, and recently proposed the establishment of a state climate change bureau to facilitate New Mexico’s transition. She is running for a second term this year. Further drilling in the Permian Basin would badly undermine Grisham’s pollution reduction goals, yet that is precisely what congressional Republicans proposed when they chose Hobbs, NM as the site of the rollout for their supposed “climate plan” in early June.
Grisham’s Republican general election opponent will be Mark Ronchetti, a former TV meteorologist and occasional Trump critic. In his victorious 2020 campaign against Ronchetti, Sen. Ben Ray Luján criticized Ronchetti’s comment that “climate change doesn’t cause wildfires,” which Luján called “irresponsible and dangerous climate denialism.” (Climate denial used to be rampant throughout Ronchetti’s profession). Since then, Ronchetti has been vague about his views on climate change, as he seems to be positioning himself as a moderate Republican, though his inner circle consists mostly of former staff for New Mexico’s last climate change-denying GOP governor, Susana Martinez.
Treasurer: In something of a positive upset, former Sandoval County treasurer Laura Montoya won the Democratic primary over municipal judge Heather Bonavidez, who had the support of her boss, the outgoing state treasurer. Montoya opposes fracking and has said she wants to change New Mexico’s dependence on oil and gas revenue, which comprises over 40% of the state budget. In an interview after her victory, Montoya thanked the media for clearing up allegations of ethics challenges that had surfaced during the primary, and stressed her support for creating a public bank to support ranchers who have lost land to wildfires. (President Biden will visit New Mexico this weekend to survey fossil-fueled devastation from major wildfires.)
Former Santa Fe County Commissioner Harry Montoya (no relation) won the Republican primary, setting up a Montoya vs. Montoya general election.
In New Mexico’s 2020 elections, progressives made significant gains in several primaries, which led to a productive 2021 legislative session and raised the possibility that the old guard, which is mostly tethered to the state’s oil and gas industry, might be on its way out. In 2022, the establishment sought to stem the progressive tide, with significant assistance from state House Budget Chair Patty Lundstrom (D-HD 9-Gallup), an aspiring speaker who has remarked about diversifying New Mexico’s revenue streams:
“We talk a good game about diversification, but I don’t see anything on the immediate horizon that could replace [oil and gas’] contribution into our budget process.”
Let’s take a look at the results.
HD-12: Incumbent Art De La Cruz prevailed over two more progressive environmental justice advocates in this Albuquerque-based district.
HD-17: Albuquerque City Councilor Cynthia Borrego defeated a labor-backed opponent in this primary.
HD-26: Progressive former state representative Eleanor Chavez successfully completed a comeback to this seat, defeating a candidate backed by a conservative Albuquerque city councilmember.
HD-40: Unfortunately, a vicious set of personal attacks succeeded in propelling oil and gas stooge Joseph Sanchez to victory over incumbent Roger Montoya in this district just east of Taos.
HD-41: Investments from Lundstrom were unsuccessful in their attempt to oust progressive incumbent state Rep. Susan Herrera, who will continue to represent Taos.
HD-42: Lundstrom also failed in her attempt to defeat incumbent state Rep. Kristina Ortez, who will continue to represent Taos County.
HD-46: Progressive incumbent Andrea Romero fended off multiple challengers backed by Lundstrom and others and will continue to represent this district north of Santa Fe.
HD-70: Labor organizations and progressives narrowly missed in their second attempt to defeat incumbent Ambrose Castellano, a moderate who will continue to represent this district east of Santa Fe.
Amendment C: Voters resoundingly rejected Amendment C, a petrochemical funded/Americans for Prosperity-backed measure aimed at blocking Medicaid expansion, which would have raised the threshold for passing certain ballot initiatives.