Big Week for Campaign to Build a Greener Governor

 
Jul 30, 2010
By Jenesse Miller

It was a pretty big week for the campaign to elect an environmental champion as governor of California. We marked the 100 day countdown to the November 2 election, when Californians will elect a new governor, replacing termed-out governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s a nice round number that reminds us how quickly this very important election will be upon us.

We posted a new survey on the campaign Web site (it’s on the right on the homepage) to see what question you most wanted to ask the candidates. More than 250 of you voted, and you overwhelmingly wanted to know the candidates’ positions on Prop 23, the oil industry-funded proposition to repeal the state’ landmark climate law, AB 32 (although lots of you wanted us to ask questions about water, air quality, toxic chemicals, and public transportation).

Then on Wednesday evening, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released their annual survey of Californians’ opinion on the environment, which included a special focus on AB 32. Thursday’s news was dominated by headlines about the poll.

The results were fascinating and contained a few surprises, too. First, Californians are firmly (to the tune of 67%) in favor of the state’s pioneering climate and clean energy law, AB 32, which was passed by the legislature and signed by Schwarzenegger in 2006.

The law faces a major threat in the form of a repeal on the November ballot, funded by Texas oil companies. The proposition to kill the law, Prop 23, has not been endorsed by either the Democratic candidate for governor, Jerry Brown, or the Republican candidate Meg Whitman. But while Brown has unequivocally come out against the proposition, it has yet to be denounced by Whitman.

Further, as Attorney General, Brown wrote the description of the proposition that will be included in the voter guides statewide. Supporters of Prop 23, who assert that Brown’s language will unfairly bias voters against the proposition, announced they were suing Brown over the language, with the intention of changing the description to something more in their favor.

Back to the poll: The big majorities of both Democratic and Independent voters who are in favor of California’s climate law helps Brown’s candidacy, as several reporters pointed out. The editors of the political blog Calbuzz (who have been beating this drum for months, pointing out that Whitman’s attacks on the climate law and proposal to suspend it for a year if she was elected, would do little to help her in the primary but would harm her in the general election) wrote:

“the most important numbers on the climate change issue show that likely voters, for now at least, are rejecting the central argument of the conservatives and industry groups spearheading the Prop. 23 effort, namely that tough greenhouse gas emissions regulation is a ‘job killer’ making the recession worse.” (Quoting pollster Mark Baldassare): “It poses a real challenge for Republicans to explain why they believe differently” than most voters.

California Watch reporter Susanne Rust noted: “If the environment is a very important issue to you, you’ll probably be voting for Jerry Brown this November. If it’s just kind of important to you, Meg Whitman is your candidate.” She pointed out that:

“in general, voters are closely divided between Democrat Brown (37 percent) and Republican Whitman (34 percent). However, if you ask a potential voter whether their candidate’s environmental position is very important in determining their vote, 50 percent of those who said ‘yes’ favored Brown. Just 16 percent of those respondents would vote for Whitman.”

Capital Notes reporter John Myer’s piece, “A Climate Campaign?” also argued that Brown could make political hay out of the difference between himself and Whitman on the issue, considering its popularity with voters. And Brown proceeded to do just that, telling the San Jose Mercury News editorial board that his position on the law was the key difference between him and the former eBay executive. Brown also released his broad environmental plan on his campaign Web site this week, perhaps taking advantage of the timing on the PPIC poll.

I only read one article, in the conservative Fox & Hounds Daily by editor Joel Fox, that suggested that Whitman’s strategy of playing down the middle of the AB 32 debate would help her on election day: “In the heat of a political campaign over the effects of the law on both the environment and the job market, Californians may see Whitman’s middle path a smart way to travel.”

The next piece of news from the PPIC poll was that Californians are once again firmly against offshore oil drilling, after a 2-year period where a slight majority of those polled were in favor of drilling. Again, this finding would appear to support Brown’s campaign – he has been firmly against offshore oil drilling and in favor of investments in renewable energy and clean technologies for literally decades, even earning the moniker “Governor Moonbeam” when he served as governor of California in the 1970’s partly because of his “futuristic” ideas about alternative energy. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Carl Marinucci wrote:

“The findings present a challenge for Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and U.S. Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, who like the idea of drilling as a revenue source for the state and want to back away from the climate law, saying it’s a job-killer.”

All in all, it was a pretty interesting week for those of us working on the campaign to Build A Greener Governor. The one thing missing was… you. We’re hoping those of you who care about the environment will participate in our campaign with more of your ideas, proposals and questions for the candidates. We encourage you to submit blog posts, photos, videos etc. to the “You Report” section of the Greener Governor 2010 Web site, and we will share these with the candidates when we conduct our endorsement interviews in a few weeks. This is YOUR campaign, so we hope to see more of YOU in it! Thanks for helping to Build a Greener Governor.

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