The Wonk Room has previously identified seven key U.S. Senate races and fourteen U.S. House races between a vote for climate action and a global warming denier. Today, the Wonk Room highlights four gubernatorial races which could shut down the clean energy revolution in the Midwest. In Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming, four Democratic governors who have supported clean energy may be replaced by Republicans who have expressed fealty to big oil. The Republican candidates — Terry Branstad in Iowa, Sen. Sam Brownback in Kansas, Rep. Mary Fallin in Oklahoma, and Matt Mead in Wyoming — hold commanding leads in the polls over their Democratic opponents. The Republicans mock global warming as a conspiracy, doubt that it is caused by manmade pollution, and promote the expansion of the coal and oil industries in their states.
The heartland of America is under extreme threat from the destructive power of global warming, including increasingly frequent catastrophic storms, heat waves, and drought. Furthermore, by denying the opportunity of clean energy jobs, these potential governors risk turning their states into economic wastelands.
Former governor Terry Branstad is leading Gov. Chet Culver (D-IA) in the race to run Iowa’s government. Remarkably, even though Iowa is increasingly devastated by catastrophic floods, Branstad’s only public policy position on global warming pollution is:
— To support the construction of a South Dakota oil refinery near the Iowa border that will emit 19 million tons of carbon dioxide each year.
Furthermore, Branstad has attacked Culver’s $875 million flood recovery plan, falsely claiming “it saddled Iowans with excessive debt.”
Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) is positioned to take the seat formerly held by climate champion Kathleen Sibelius. Under Gov. Sibelius, Kansas fought against coal pollution. Her successor Mark Parkinson established a renewable electricity standard but permitted a coal plant expansion.
Although Brownback said in 2007 that “we need to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere,” he has since embraced radical conspiracy theories about climate science. Last December, he embraced the Climategate smear campaign:
The recent disclosure of the manipulation of scientific evidence by climate researchers is exactly the kind of important information that needs to be brought to light. The emails and documents recently disclosed paint an alarming picture of the state of climate research. In the emails that have been disclosed we’ve seen evidence of manipulation, efforts to avoid freedom of act information requests, abuse of the peer review process and a research process that that is driven more by a political agenda than a quest for truth. [Brownback, DeMint, Ensign, Isakson, Vitter, and Wicker, 12/8/09]
Although Brownback is a supporter of a federal renewable electricity standard, he called Obama’s climate plan “one of the worst ideas to come along in a long time,” and his gubernatorial campaign is heavily supported by Kansas-based Koch Industries, the right-wing pollution conglomerate that directs right-wing global warming denial. Over his career, Brownback has received about $200,000 from the Koch brothers in campaign contributions.
Unlike Brownback, Democratic candidate Tom Holland is “not questioning the science. We need to take this subject seriously.”
Rep. Mary Fallin (R-OK) has a dominant lead over Democratic Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. Fallin has mocked the national security threat of climate change:
Protecting our nation should be a number one priority. Does leadership really think that our surveillance satellites should be aimed at polar ice caps and not terror cells, and that spies should be investigating global warming? Congress must adequately fund our intelligence operations. If we don’t, we may need to be more concerned about global warming in the U.S. caused by a nuclear attack in our own back yard. [Rep. Fallin, 5/9/07]
Fallin has called climate legislation “entirely unnecessary.” Fallin signed the Americans for Prosperity No Climate Tax pledge and has been endorsed by global warming deniers Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim Inhofe. She received $5000 from Koch Industries in campaign contributions.
Democratic Gov. Brad Henry signed a renewable energy standard that also promotes natural gas this year. Fallin’s position: “My goal as governor would be to stimulate the oil and gas industry in the state and support the Legislature for incentives for oil and gas production.”
In Wyoming, Republican millionaire Matt Mead holds a commanding lead over Leslie Petersen to replace Democratic governor Dave Freudenthal. Mead is a proud global warming denier:
I am unconvinced that climate change is man-made, but I do recognize we may face challenges presented by those who propose and believe they can change our climate by law with ill-thought-out policy like cap and trade (the latest version of which is the Senate Climate Bill, S. 1733, unveiled May 12th). [Mead for Governor]
“We have been very blessed for many, many years to have the energy industry here in Wyoming,” Mead said in June at an energy policy debate. As a U.S. Attorney under George W. Bush, Mead defended Koch Industries in a lawsuit that alleged massive natural gas royalties fraud by the company.
Petersen, by contrast, says Wyoming will have to do something about global warming “whether we believe it or not.”