By Great Lakes Echo
Only a minority of Great Lakes region congressional candidates endorsed by national environmental advocacy groups were victorious on Election Day.
The winners had a couple of things in common. All were Democrats, and almost all were incumbents.
These candidates were endorsed by at least one of three environmental groups: the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
“I would love to see these environmental clubs get more money and resources, so they can better campaign for candidates who are pro-environmentalists,” said Carter Wilson, the department head and a professor of political science at Northern Michigan University.
According to Wilson, environmental groups have fewer resources to support candidates than the fossil fuel industry. This can “make one side have far more political power than the other,” he said.
Three green-backed Democratic U.S. senators in the Great Lakes states won re-election — Gary Peters in Michigan, Dick Durbin in Illinois and Tina Smith in Minnesota.
The LCV, which spent over $1.8 million to re-elect Peters, called his Republican challenger John James “one of the worst anti-environmental candidates this cycle.”
And according to the NRDC, Durbin has fought to “keep oil companies like BP from polluting the Great Lakes.”
In a statement, about Smith’s victory, the NRDC said, “The win ensures that this outspoken proponent of clean energy and climate action will continue to be heard in Washington for years to come as a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.”
But environmental group endorsements were no guarantee of an incumbent’s victory.
In a Western New York district bordering Lake Erie, U.S. Rep. Anthony Brindisi lost his bid for a second term, despite endorsements from all three groups.
In Michigan, U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin, Andy Levin, Dan Kildee, Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib, Brenda Lawrence and Haley Stevens — all endorsed by the LCV and Sierra Club — won their races. Slotkin was also endorsed by the NRDC, which said she will “continue to speak up about the threats to our national security posed by climate change and to fight for clean air and clean water, especially in the Great Lakes region.”
By a large margin, Michigan voters passed Proposal 1 that changes how revenue in the state’s park-related can be spent. The money comes from royalties on natural gas and oil extracted from public lands and goes into the Natural Resources Trust Fund.
In Illinois districts closest to Lake Michigan, U.S. Reps Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly, Chuy Garcia, Mike Quigley and Sean Casten won with environmental group endorsements.
So did newcomer Marie Newman, who won a Chicago-area open seat with environmental group endorsements.
In Wisconsin, U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan won re-election with a Sierra Club endorsement. So did U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, endorsed by both the Sierra Club and the LCV. U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore kept her seat with LCV backing.
In a New York district near Lake Erie, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins won re-election with a Sierra Club endorsement.
In Ohio districts near Lake Erie, U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge won re-election with Sierra Club support.
In Minnesota, U.S. Reps. Angie Craig, Dean Phillips, Betty McCollum and Ilhan Omar won with endorsements from the Sierra Club. Craig and Phillips were also endorsed by the LCV.
However, more than 15 other Democratic candidates in other Great Lakes districts failed to win, even with green group backing.
No House candidates in Northern Indiana near Lake Michigan or northwestern Pennsylvania near Lake Erie secured endorsements from the three national environmental groups.
This story was reported by Kathleen Fitch, Kalah Harris, Anne Hooper, Yue Jing, Chioma Lewis, Lea Mitchell, Claire Moore, Audrey Porter and Lillian Young and edited by Moore and Fitch.
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Featured image: (Photo by Tom Arthur via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0)