Six Senate races pitting climate heroes against global warming deniers

toles denialA Wonk Room analysis finds that there are six key Senate races for climate action, in which a strong vote for climate runs a serious risk of being replaced by a global warming denier. Of the 37 U.S. Senate races this fall, 36 involve Republican candidates who are global warming deniers or oppose climate action (Vermont’s Len Britton is a possible exception). Hard-right Tea Party challenger Christine O’Donnell knocked out climate activist Mike Castle (R-DE) last night, leaving a GOP slate of conspiracy theorists and know-nothings angling for the United States’ highest legislative body. The pivotal climate races this November (with the estimated likelihood of a Republican pickup) are:

(91%) PA: Joe Sestak v. Pat Toomey
(74%) CO: Michael Bennet v. Ken Buck
(54%) WA: Patty Murray v. Dino Rossi
(46%) NV: Harry Reid v. Sharron Angle
(42%) CA: Barbara Boxer v. Carly Fiorina
(36%) WI: Russ Feingold v. Ron Johnson

An examination of the races is below:

PENNSYLVANIA: Joe Sestak v. Pat Toomey estimate: 91% likelihood of Republican pickup

The race to replace moderate-Republican-turned-moderate-Democrat Arlen Specter, a semi-reliable vote for climate action, involves Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) “” a strong supporter of climate action “” against frontrunner Pat Toomey, who believes there is “much debate in the scientific community as to the precise sources of global warming.”

COLORADO: Michael Bennet v. Ken Buck

74% Republican pickup

Sen. Michael Bennet, appointed to fill the seat left by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, is attempting to win his first election against Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. Bennet supports climate legislation, while Buck has said, “While I think the earth is warming, I don’t think that man-made causes are the primary factor.”

WASHINGTON: Patty Murray v. Dino Rossi

54% Republican pickup

Climate activist Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), first elected in 1992, is in a tight race with real-estate businessman Dino Rossi, who believes “there’s still a lot of debate going on this, we see it out there and there’s going to be a big debate going on for the next two, three years.”

NEVADA: Harry Reid v. Sharron Angle

46% Republican pickup

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) “” who believes “global warming is ruining our country” “” is being challenged by Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, who does not “buy into the whole “¦ man-caused global warming, man-caused climate change mantra of the left.”

CALIFORNIA: Barbara Boxer v. Carly Fiorina

42% Republican pickup

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who as head of the Environment and Public Works Committee has championed strong climate legislation, is in a tight race with former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who is “not sure” that climate change is real and supports Proposition 23, the oil-company effort to overturn California’s climate policy.

WISCONSIN: Russ Feingold v. Ron Johnson

36% Republican pickup

Sen. Russ Feingold “” who believes “we must work to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases” because “global warming will have serious and possibly irreversible impacts in both the near and distant future” “” is running for re-election against Ayn Rand acolyte Ron Johnson, who thinks global warming is “just sunspot activity.”

The rest of the races are unlikely to significantly change the Senate climate policy math. Some races involve long-shot deniers against safe incumbents, others involve the re-election of standing climate opponents, and some mean the replacement of a pro-pollution Democrat with a even more pro-pollution Republican “” such as Blanche Lincoln’s and Evan Bayh’s seats.

The greatest determining factor for climate policy in the U.S. Senate is majority control, which determines what legislation moves through committee and onto the floor, and what issues are investigated. An Inhofe-led Environment and Public Works Committee would mean hearings about the “global warming hoax” instead of markups of climate legislation. Even if Democrats retain control of the Senate, which 538’s Nate Silver estimates is a 79% likelihood, the committee ratios will be adjusted to reflect lost seats, making it more likely that voting blocs of Republicans and anti-climate Democrats could overwhelm progressives on key votes.

Brad Johnson, via a Wonkroom cross-post.

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14 Responses to Six Senate races pitting climate heroes against global warming deniers

  1. _Flin_ says:

    So this is where the Kochtopus will invest. Starting with 1 million in California.

  2. Peter M says:

    A bit off topic- but anyone here know about the suns ‘cooling off’ for an extended period of time? Read something over at Climate Central.


  3. Joe: What are the talking points (on stuff in general, not necessarily on climate) that the 6 Republican candidates are using? What are your thoughts on how campaigners can help defeat those?


    [JR: Other than the “Tea Party extremists backed by Big Oil and the special interest polluters want to stop all efforts to preserve clean air and clean water for your children” [or variations of that] you might try this.]

  4. These are great–and a great service. I think there’s a real chance too to get a pickup in NH, where Paul Hodes (a topnotch congressman) is only down 4 to Palin-endorsed Kelly Ayotte. And Hodes is making climate change a serious part of his campaign. And in a state where small enough that your contributions would help:

  5. mike roddy says:

    In Washington, Patty Murray is favored, not Dinosaur Dino Rossi.

  6. I don’t know why but these deniers give me the hibbie jibbies.
    That cooling sun story has been around for a couple years…and I am curious about that too.

  7. PurpleOzone says:

    Paul Hodes is a good campaigner; so far Ayotte isn’t. Ayotte also missed a large Ponzi scheme in NH as AG. She underwent a bruising campaign with many candidates. Paul’s big negative is having been in Congress already; although he voted against the TARP, some people claim he did.
    Hodes is being attack by the Chamber of Congress and other outside organizations.
    I think he’ll probably pull it off. With enough help.

  8. fj2 says:

    “California Braces On Showdown For Emissions,” NY Times, Sep 17, 2010

  9. Dean says:

    @5 – Seems that the polling numbers (your likely pickup links) have been updated since you posted the article. In some cases, like WA, the Dem is now predicted to win. But some of the others have shifted the other way.

  10. Scopes trial redux
    “By delegating its judgment on climate science to the (U.N. group) and others, EPA exposed its conclusions to the errors and biases of unaccountable volunteer scientists, and undermined the validity of the endangerment finding,” reads a brief filed by the Texas attorney general’s office.

  11. Mark S says:

    I would point out that the 538 analysis is very old, at least in political terms. Nate Silver has posted that he is going to update the likelihood percentages soon and they will certainly change. A more up-to-date analysis will likely show that the only race that looks unwinnable is the Pennsylvania race. The Colorado race is extremely tight and the DNC is throwing some serious weight behind it. I am pretty sure it will go down to the wire. Let’s hope we win some of the silent majority of pro-scientist votes…

  12. Anonny says:

    It’s good that you continue to publish posts on this topic. But the sad reality is that the U.S. government won’t take any real action on climate change for at least 6 years and probably a lot longer. The U.S. Senate could not pass a climate change bill despite the favorable Senate demographics in 2009-10, and won’t have a chance for anything like such favorable demographics before January, 2017. Even then I don’t hold out much “hope”. Not with Obama and Reid doing everything they can to destroy the Democratic brand for a generation of voters.

  13. homunq says:

    Sure, we’ll lose a net of 1-5 seats. But, if there’s filibuster reform, that effectively picking up 5-9 seats. Chances for filibuster reform are not great; I’d put it at around 33%. Still, that makes chances for actual legislation somewhere better than 20%; definitely, worth an all-out fight. Pessimism like Anonny’s is not yet justified.

    [JR: Try a net of 5 to 9 seats.]

  14. Dana says:

    It’s so irritating that Republicans think they’re being reasonable by saying “I think the earth is warming.” Gee, good for you. Do you also think the Earth revolves around the Sun?