Climate

Nebraska’s ‘Top Climate Denier’ Loses Congressional Seat To Democratic Challenger

CREDIT: AP Photo/Nati Harnik

Nebraska's Second District Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb., right, and his challenger Democratic house candidate Brad Ashford, left, talk following their debate in Omaha, Neb., Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014.

Nebraska Rep. Lee Terry (R), dubbed by Anti-Keystone XL pipeline group Bold Nebraska as the state’s “top climate denier,” will no longer represent the state, after being unseated by his Democratic challenger Tuesday.

Brad Ashford (D) won Terry’s congressional seat after a tight race, which Terry conceded Wednesday afternoon. The race was being closely watched by national Democrats — the Pro-Democrat House Majority PAC contributed ad money to help Ashford win, and the DCCC put Ashford in its “Red to Blue” program, which supports Democrats in certain close races.

The race was key for climate activists in Nebraska, because the state is poised to become a battleground state over Keystone XL in the coming months. In February, a District Court Judge ruled that a state rule that gave the governor the ability to approve pipeline routes was unconstitutional, a ruling that means Keystone doesn’t currently have a route through Nebraska. Anti-pipeline advocate Jane Kleeb of Bold Nebraska, a group that’s supported Nebraska landowners who have refused to turn over their land to TransCanada, hailed the congressional election results.

“Pipeline fighters just gave Lee Terry the boot. Terry stood as the top cheerleader in Congress for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline instead of standing with Nebraskans who care about their land and water, and citizens stood up and voted him out of office,” Kleeb, Director of Bold Nebraska said in a statement. “Big Oil should finally get the message not to mess with Nebraska’s land and water.”

Terry has been a vocal advocate of Keystone XL, and has cast doubt on mankind’s contribution to climate change. Ashford, on the other hand, has been less outspoken about the pipeline: he voted to authorize an environmental study of its route, but he also signed a letter in support of the pipeline.

Kleeb told ThinkProgress in August that she doesn’t think Ashford would be an advocate of Keystone XL if elected to Congress, and that instead he would be wary of the pipeline because of its impact on property rights in the state. She also said she didn’t put much stake in Ashford’s inclusion on the Keystone XL letter.

“We asked our Democratic Senators about that letter, and to be honest it looks like they didn’t pay much focus on that,” she said. “The problem with the [Nebraska state Legislature] is that they are so exhausted in the pipeline that they don’t want to really talk about it.”

The League of Conservation Voters endorsed Ashford in October. In response to the endorsement, Ashford said he’d “always fought tirelessly to protect our environment and conserve our natural resources with commonsense policies that consider the impact to our businesses and our communities,” and that he’d continue to do so if elected to Congress.