In Tight Governor Races, Tea Party Climate Deniers Threaten Clean Energy Jobs

This is Part Two of a four-part Wonk Room series examining the implications for climate and clean energy policy of the 2010 gubernatorial races. Read Part One, on heartland states, or view the governor-race compilation.

Yesterday, the Wonk Room reviewed four gubernatorial races featuring anti-climate Republicans in the Midwest. Today, we look at five competitive state contests that pitch climate champions against global warming deniers with Tea Party backing, in Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. The future of renewable electricity standards, efficiency and clean technology support, and climate policy rest on these election results.

FLORIDA: Alex Sink (D) v. Rick Scott (R)
ILLINOIS: Pat Quinn (D) v. Bill Brady (R)
MINNESOTA: Mark Dayton (D), Tom Emmer (R), Tom Horner (I)
WISCONSIN: Tom Barrett (D) v. Scott Walker (R)
OHIO: Ted Strickland (D) v. John Kasich (R)

FLORIDA: Alex Sink v. Rick Scott

538 estimate: 43 percent chance of Democratic pickup

Florida is under imminent threat from the rising sea levels, fiercer heat waves, and stronger storms of global warming. Clean energy investment and energy-efficiency retrofits could restore hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economically battered state. However, millionaire health care executive Rick Scott, the Republican candidate for Florida governor, is a global warming denier:

Asked if he believes in climate change, he said “No.” “I have not been convinced,” he said. Asked what he needs to convince him, “Something more convincing than what I’ve read.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/26/10]

Despite the lingering BP disaster, Scott is open to oil drilling off the coast of Florida. Scott’s campaign attacked his Democratic opponent Alex Sink’s advocacy of renewable energy standards as “leftist energy proposals,” promoting nuclear power instead. Florida’s renewable-industry advocates responded: “Rick Scott needs to say something of substance or stop attacking small business people.”

Scott is a signatory of the Americans for Prosperity “No Climate Tax” pledge and the FreedomWorks Contract From America, and was endorsed by the FreedomWorks PAC.

ILLINOIS: Pat Quinn v. Bill Brady

79 percent Republican pickup

As governor, Democrat Pat Quinn promoted numerous green jobs initiatives, including the strengthening of the state’s renewable energy standard. “Having a robust green industry is critical to strengthening Illinois’ economy,” he said this July.

His opponent, Republican state senator Bill Brady, is a global warming denier. At a Homer Glen Tea Party rally in 2009, Brady joined other Republicans in denying the science of global warming:

No, I don’t accept that premise, and it is wrong. Illinois needs to foster job creation, not penalize it. [Progress Illinois, 11/5/09]

Watch it:

Brady voted against the renewable energy standard, high-speed rail, and other clean-energy initiatives.

MINNESOTA: Mark Dayton (D), Tom Emmer (R), Tom Horner (I)

76 percent Democratic pickup

Minnesota has been a climate leader under Republican governor Tim Pawlenty, before he had national ambitions. In 2007, Pawlenty helped launch the Midwest Governor’s Climate Change regional cap-and-trade initiative and signed a strong renewable energy standard. As a McCain surrogate in 2008, Pawlenty began questioning climate science and policy. By 2009, Pawlenty was deriding a national cap-and-trade program as “very burdensome on our economy” and saying that he did not know how much global warming “is the result of natural causes.”

The Republican hoping to follow Pawlenty, Tom Emmer, seeks to end the regional climate pact, calling it “an artificial tracking system that will be used to raise our energy rates.” Emmer is a radical global warming denier, calling the science “Al Gore’s climate porn” in 2007:

Biodiversity, diversity to me means you’ve got to look at both sides. You know what, the empirical evidence does not support this and the other reps that have talked. There is another side. Just because we make these chambers available to Will Steger and the crowd that wants to rely on Al Gore’s climate porn doesn’t mean that that’s the way it is. There is another side to the story, one that we tried to present a couple of months ago, but apparently it’s frowned upon by the folks that are in control so it doesn’t get the same play in this room. Folks, there is another side. [YouTube, 5/11/07]

Watch it:

Until recently, Emmer’s campaign website included a rant against “radical activists” who believe “cows are causing ‘global warming’“:

Radical activists are trying to convince us that everyday nutrients are causing cancer, that cows are causing ‘global warming,’ and that hogs are getting people sick. Logical people know otherwise.

In contrast, front-runner Mark Dayton is a promoter of “incentives that will bring green energy industries to Minnesota.”

WISCONSIN: Tom Barrett v. Scott Walker

88 percent Republican pickup

Milwaukee county executive Scott Walker, the Republican candidate for governor, is a global warming conspiracy theorist:

Governor Doyle has put his trust in international politicians, bureaucrats, celebrities and discredited scientists to replace the real manufacturing jobs Wisconsin is losing every day. [Scott Walker, 12/10/09]

In 2009, Democratic governor Jim Doyle introduced comprehensive global warming legislation that included a strong renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025. Walker criticized the bill as “global warming legislation that would mandate billions of dollars in new spending to produce the exact same energy we use today,” claiming “Wisconsin families will pay a steep price for these costly new regulations in higher utility bills and the projected 43,000 jobs that will be lost if this bill passes.”

Citing Tom Barrett’s support for the Kyoto Protocol and the US Conference of Mayors environmental agreement, Walker claimed Barrett has a record of promoting “radical environmental policies that kill jobs.”

Walker has received $15,000 from Koch Industries and signed the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge.

OHIO: Ted Strickland v. John Kasich

83 percent Republican pickup

John Kasich, a former Ohio congressman and Fox News personality, has repeatedly challenged the science and policy of global warming on right-wing television network:

Environmental extremists, they better not make the environment god. They got a hang-up in that way just as well. A little bit of balance here. [O’Reilly Factor, 5/28/04]

As you know, global warming is cyclical, and the focus of a ferocious debate, almost as ferocious as a T. Rex. [O’Reilly Factor, 7/3/08]

Save me from a cap and trade bill that’s going to put a dagger in the Midwest and is basically one politician against slapping another on the back. [Sean Hannity, 7/8/09]

As a congressman, Kasich voted against implementing greenhouse pollution policy. During the gubernatorial campaign, Kasich has threatened to kill Ohio’s renewable energy standard. “It will drive up utility bills because we don’t have it ready and have to buy it somewhere else,” he claimed. “I don’t like that and you can’t mandate invention.”

Gov. Ted Strickland accused Kasich of being “ill-informed” and “reckless” for opposing the renewable standard. “New-energy jobs are the wave of the future and creating a new energy standard not only means a better environment for future Ohioans, it means that growing advanced energy companies, such as the ones standing with me, are locating and growing right here in Ohio.” Strickland said.

News Corp billionaire Rupert Murdoch gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association because of his “friendship with John Kasich.”

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