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Climate Politics Almanac: Stormy State and Local Politics

Climate winners and losers; Fascistic flexing in Tennessee

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The U.S. Congress is in recess for two weeks, so Hill Heat is on a reduced publishing schedule. But climate politics doesn’t stop even when it’s quiet on Capitol Hill . . .

Wisconsin

Janet Protasiewicz celebrates her victory, flanked by liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Justices Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky. Credit: Reuters

The most hotly contested race in the nation yesterday was for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. With ideological control of the court at stake, Democratic-backed judge Janet Protasiewicz soundly defeated former Supreme Court justice Dan Kelly, ending a 15-year reign for conservatives. The $40 million race was a battle primarily over abortion rights and redistricting. “The result means that in the next year, the court is likely to reverse the state’s abortion ban and end the use of gerrymandered legislative maps drawn by Republicans.”

Protasiewicz’s victory is unsurprisingly also consequential for the environment; ending Republican gerrymandering would open the possibility for new climate legislation. While the current conservative court has often ruled in favor of environmental protection, that could have changed with Kelly, whose campaign released a shot-for-shot remake of the “Willie” Horton attack ad, the most famously racist campaign spot in American history. A significant pending case is a lawsuit filed by the state polluter lobby Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to protect Tyco from liability for a major PFAS cleanup.

Unfortunately, Republican state Rep. Dan Knodl has won the special election for Wisconsin’s 8th Senate District, giving Republicans the two-thirds super-majority in the upper chamber. He defeated Democratic opponent Jodi Habush Sinykin in a close race. Republicans are two votes short of a veto-proof supermajority in the state Assembly. Republicans do have the majorities needed to impeach and remove state officials such as judges now, however.

Illinois

Chicago mayor-elect Brandon Johnson

Union organizer Brandon Johnson1 defeated Republican-to-conservative-Democrat Paul Vallas to succeed Lori Lightfoot as Chicago’s next mayor. Johnson’s call for a Chicago Green New Deal leads with environmental justice and taking on the corrupt utility ComEd.

“Under my administration, we will focus on decarbonization, and explore municipalization of electric power in Chicago.”

Colorado

In conservative Colorado Springs, Climate Cabinet endorsed evangelical businessman Yemi Mobolade for mayor and human-rights activist Kat Gayle for city council. Although the openly pro-climate Gayle was not successful in her race, Mobolade, who has a smart-growth agenda for the rapidly expanding city, was the top vote-getter in the mayoral election, and will compete in a runoff next month. 

Tennessee

Democratic state Reps. Justin Pearson, Justin Jones, and Gloria Johnson join a gun-control protest at the Tennessee State House.

Extremist Republican lawmakers are flexing raw power in Nashville, Tennessee, moving quickly this week to expel three activist Democrats from the State House. Democratic state Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson led peaceful protesters in chants on the chamber floor last week against Republican inaction on gun control in the wake of the recent deadly Nashville school shooting. On Monday, Republicans stripped the legislators of their committee positions and filed resolutions to expel the three Democrats for “disorderly behavior” that “knowingly and intentionally” brought “disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), said the peaceful protest on March 30 was “at least equivalent, maybe worse” than the violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

The 28-year-old Pearson is an environmental-justice activist who two years ago led the successful campaign to defeat the proposed Byhalia crude-oil pipeline, which was routed through Boxtown, a historic black neighborhood in Memphis. At the time, he said:

“It’s an extraordinary feat for people who were called the path of least resistance to have pushed back and beat back two billion-dollar crude oil pipeline companies. You can walk through the neighborhood and see all these signs and the spirit that endures, showing that we really are the path of resilience.”

Pearson was elected to the Tennessee House in a special election this January.

Jones is a 27-year-old racial-justice activist from Nashville, a leading organizer in protests in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and against the statue of KKK-Confederate Nathan Bedford Forest. He was elected last November.

Johnson2 is a 60-year-old legislator in her second tenure in the House, having served from 2013 to 2015 and re-elected in 2018.

The expulsion vote is scheduled for Thursday, April 6th.

1 No relation to yours truly.

2 Also no relation.

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