Candidates Running on Green Platforms Stumble

Turns out it was not an election about climate change after all.

Tom Steyer. (Photo: Fortune Live Media/Flickr)

Nov 5, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

California billionaire Tom Steyer and other environmentalists pumped $74 million into the 2014 elections in a largely unsuccessful effort to defeat climate-change-denying Republican candidates.

Steyer’s PAC, NextGen Climate, put money toward Senate races in Michigan and New Hampshire, which led to victories for Rep. Gary Peters and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, respectively. That was the extent of the good news. Candidates promoting action on climate change in Senate races in Colorado, North Carolina, and Iowa all lost to industry-backed Republicans.

In Florida, NextGen spent more than $20 million to help Democratic challenger Charlie Crist defeat incumbent Rick Scott, firing off attack ad after attack ad citing Scott’s antienvironmental record. It wasn’t enough though, and Scott edged out Crist, 48 percent to 47 percent.

“The efforts by environmentalists to campaign on climate change have been a failure on the national and Senate battleground level,” Republican strategist Ron Bonjean told Politico. “Climate change remains far beyond what American voters are thinking about.”

Around the country, other environmental issues were on the ballot. Here are the results:

Alaska Bristol Bay Mining Ban: Passed

Voters moved to keep Alaska’s 36,000-square-mile Bristol Bay Reserve free of gold and copper mines. With the measure passed, the planned Pebble Mine project would have to prove that if it were built, it wouldn’t harm the surrounding habitat—a tall task, considering the reserve is home to one of the world’s richest salmon runs.

California Water Bond: Passed

The $7.5 billion water bond Gov. Jerry Brown wanted to help protect California from future droughts passed easily on Tuesday with 67 percent of the vote. The measure will pay for water storage projects, groundwater cleanup, and water-quality improvements.

California Fracking Bans: Two of Three Passed

Three counties in California put measures on their ballots to limit or ban fracking—the process of injecting high-pressure, chemical-laced water into underground rock formations to extract oil and gas. Voters in San Benito and Mendocino counties approved the bans, while Santa Barbara County voted no.

Florida Water and Land Conservation: Passed

Voters approved Amendment 1, which will give the state government about $1 billion each year to support land conservation efforts. The funding comes from an existing real estate tax. About half of the funding will go back to the Florida Forever fund, which purchased land for conservation before it was stripped of money back in 2009.

Maine Bear-Baiting Ban: Failed

Maine voters defeated a measure that would ban hunters from baiting bears with jelly doughnuts and other food and using dogs or traps to hunt the animals. Even though the measure had an exception that allowed the state's wildlife officials to use those methods to control the bear population, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposed the ban.

Massachusetts Bottle Deposit Expansion to Water Bottles: Failed

Voters defeated an initiative that would have placed a five-cent deposit on plastic bottles. Supporters said the action would have increased recycling in the state. The American Beverage Association spent more than $8.2 million to defeat the measure.

North Dakota Conservation Fund From Oil Tax: Failed

North Dakotans rejected a measure to use oil tax revenues to fund conservation projects for the next 25 years. Proponents had hoped to use the money to protect land in a state that ranks second to last in park acreage.