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The Climate Politics Almanac: State of the State Treasurers, Part Three
Young Boozer, Clark Jolley, and more.
This post concludes the U.S. Climate Politics Almanac review of the nation’s state treasurers and the upcoming elections for these crucial officials, who oversee trillions of dollars in public investments. States are listed in rough descending order of the size of their investments. See Part One and Part Two.
New Mexico’s treasurer manages $7 billion in assets, and oversees a state budget that derives roughly 30% of its revenue from oil and gas extraction. Treasurer Tim Eichenberg (D) is in his second term, and is ineligible to run for a third. Although Eichenberg has not been at the forefront of state treasurers shifting state investments away from fossil fuels, he praised New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham for a proposed rule regulating methane last year, and called for stronger regulations. The primary will take place on June 7, and there don’t appear to be any declared Republican candidates yet. On the Democrats’ side, Eichenberg has endorsed former state treasurer’s office staffer and municipal judge Heather Benavidez, who has pledged to “prioritize investing our state dollars into companies working towards environmental and social justice.” Another Democrat in the race is former Sandoval County treasurer Laura Montoya. During her losing 2020 primary bid for New Mexico’s 3rd congressional district, Montoya highlighted her opposition to fracking and said she wanted to stabilize state finances by ending reliance on oil and gas revenue.
Oklahoma’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of approximately $5 billion in a state that has been called “as dependent on the energy sector as any state.” Treasurer Randy McDaniel (R) routinely posts updates with titles like “fossil fuels drive gross receipts higher” that highlight how dependent the state is on oil and gas extraction, and consequently how much it struggled during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic. McDaniel was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. McDaniel was elected to his first term in 2018 with an overwhelming 72% of the vote, but is not running for a second term. The heavy favorite in the race to succeed him will be former Republican state Sen. Clark Jolley, and the primary will be held on June 28.
Arkansas’ Treasurer of State manages over $4.5 billion in public pension assets. Treasurer Dennis Mulligan (R) is serving in his second term, and was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. Mulligan is running for Auditor of State in 2022, making the race for Treasurer an open seat. Former Republican State House Majority Leader Mathew Pitsch is the only declared candidate so far. He has received significant campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry.
Iowa’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of about $4.2 billion. Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald (D) is the longest-serving state treasurer in US history, having first won election in 1982. Even as Iowa has gotten more conservative in recent years, Fitzgerald has been re-elected by remarkably consistent margins. The primary election will take place on June 7, and so far there are no officially declared candidates.
Vermont’s state treasurer manages over $4 billion in pension funds. Treasurer Beth Pearce (D) has served in this office since 2011. Pearce has been at the forefront of state treasurers taking action on climate, though state legislative leaders have urged her to take a more aggressive stance on fossil fuel divestment. Years before SEC Chair Gary Gensler began developing a rule to require public companies to disclose climate risk, Pearce called for SEC climate risk disclosure during the final year of the Obama administration. In 2017, she supported an ExxonMobil shareholder resolution seeking climate action, and in 2020, she testified in favor of an ambitious state bill called the Global Warming Solutions Act. Pearce was among the treasurers who opposed Lee Raymond’s re-election as a JPMorganChase director. Pearce has not yet announced whether she will seek re-election, and there are no declared Republicans in the race.
Idaho’s treasurer manages an investment portfolio of about $3.6 billion. Treasurer Julie Ellsworth (R) is in her first term. Ellsworth was one of the signatories of the treasurer letter urging Kerry against climate action. There are no officially declared candidates in the primary election in this race, which will take place on May 17.
Nevada’s state treasurer manages an investment portfolio of about $3.6 billion. Treasurer Zach Conine (D) won his first term by a narrow 6,000-vote margin in 2018, and is expected to seek re-election in 2022. The primary election is scheduled for June 14. Manny Kess, a businessman who moved to Nevada to get away from he has called a “radical, liberal government” in New York, is the only Republican in the race to date.
Alabama’s state treasurer controls over $2.5 billion in state investments. The current occupant also holds the distinction of having one of the best names in American politics. Treasurer Young Boozer (R) previously served two terms and was not eligible to run for a third, but was appointed by Governor Kay Ivey to fill the remainder of John McMillan’s term when he stepped down to become the executive director of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission. In May 2021, McMillan joined 15 Republican state treasurers in signing a letter to Climate Envoy John Kerry expressing alarm at reports that the Biden administration wants financial institutions to stop supporting fossil fuels, and warning that they would only invest state resources in banks and financial institutions that continued to do business with fossil fuels. Given Boozer’s history proudly managing Alabama’s Trust Fund for offshore oil and gas revenue, he likely would have signed as well had he been appointed treasurer at that time. Boozer is running for (re-)election and is the obvious front-runner. The primary election will take place on May 24.
Delaware’s state treasurer oversees an investment portfolio of $1.6 billion. Treasurer Colleen Davis (D) was elected to her first term in 2018, ousting a Republican to secure every statewide elected position in Delaware for Democrats. Davis was one of numerous state and local officials from both parties whose pleas to extend the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility in 2020 went ignored by former Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Davis has not yet officially declared that she will run for re-election, and so far does not have any declared opponents.