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New effort aims to inspire the next generation of pro-environment women candidates

Candidate training aims to duplicate successful sessions after women’s march.

Environmental and women’s groups are using marches to get more people interested in running for office. In this photo, marchers carry signs during a march for science in Denver on April 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/David Zalubowski
Environmental and women’s groups are using marches to get more people interested in running for office. In this photo, marchers carry signs during a march for science in Denver on April 22, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Environmental and women’s groups are looking to harness the energy from the tens of thousands expected to march for climate action in Washington, D.C. on Saturday to help train women to run for office on an explicitly pro-environment platform.

About 300 women applied for a four-hour candidate training session to be held on Sunday, but only 150 applicants were accepted due to space constraints. The People’s Climate March provided a “unique opportunity” to bring together women from across the country to participate in candidate training, said Craig Auster with the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), one of the sponsors of the candidate training.

“We made a very intentional effort to work through a lot of partner groups that represent a large spectrum of women and environmental communities, environmental justice, and climate justice communities,” Auster told ThinkProgress. “All those groups reached out to their members and the members who were coming to the march and asked them to apply.”

Sunday’s training, called “Run to Win 101,” will be led by EMILY’s List. Along with LCV, co-sponsors include the NextGen Climate, Sierra Club, Rachel’s Network, Emerald Cities, Environmental Defense Action Fund, Green For All Action Fund, GreenLatinos, Emerge America, Latino Victory Fund, LaunchProgress PAC, NRDC Action Fund, and ROSA PAC.

Political candidates have traditionally been told to ignore bread-and-butter issues, like jobs, at their own peril. But with employment in the renewable energy sector growing at a breakneck pace in recent years, campaign strategists are increasingly confident that emphasizing the strong jobs performance of clean energy, plus the sector’s role in combating climate change, will help candidates gain traction among residents in districts across much of the country.

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A new analysis found that clean energy jobs outnumber fossil fuel jobs by more than 2.5 to 1. Even among Trump supporters, policies to provide incentives for the growth of clean energy are overwhelmingly popular: 75 percent of Trump voters think that the federal government should take steps to accelerate the development and use of clean energy in the United States.

In a political era of proposed rollbacks on environmental safeguards and climate policies, the American public also is speaking up about the importance of government officials implementing policies to provide clean water and clean air at the local, state, and national levels.

“People are fired up and we want to help direct that energy into a really important channel, like running for office.”

“We see that the American people are opposed to the anti-environmental actions the Trump administration is taking, the rollbacks to our climate progress,” Auster said. “People are fired up and we want to help direct that energy into a really important channel, like running for office.”

Polling shows that people are extremely concerned about the Trump administration’s attack on climate action initiatives and environmental safeguards. “People support the Clean Power Plan, they support clean water, and they support staying in the Paris agreement,” Auster said.

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After Trump’s victory in the presidential election, organizations that seek to help women run for office — such as EMILY’s List, She Should Run, and Ready To Run — saw a dramatic spike in interest. Following Trump’s victory, more than 5,000 women signed up for She Should Run’s candidate incubator, designed to give women tools for entering politics.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017 in Washington. CREDIT: AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

EMILY’s List, the largest Democratic women’s group in the country, organized a successful training after the women’s march in Washington in January. “We are trying to replicate that by doing it after the People’s Climate March and having an environmental focus,” Auster said.

Muthoni Wambu Kraal, senior director of state engagement and development at EMILY’s List, oversaw the candidate training after the women’s march and will be leading Sunday’s training. The climate candidate sessions will give women four hours of training that will include access to office holders and strategists on the keys to making climate and the environment resonate with voters.

Stephanie Garcia Richard, a state representative in New Mexico who won a third term in office in November, is scheduled to speak at the training. “She had a very competitive race and her winning was key to securing a pro-climate majority in the New Mexico House of Representatives,” Auster explained.

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), vice-chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition (SEEC), has focused on the environment in each of her successful U.S. House campaigns since first winning her seat in 2008. Thirteen of the SEEC’s 48 members are women. The coalition was launched in 2009.

“Clean energy jobs are making a huge difference in our state,” Pingree said at a pre-climate march rally on Capitol Hill on Thursday. “We are the most oil-dependent state in the nation. So you can imagine we want to turn that around as soon as we can.”

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Also on Sunday, a separate coalition of environmental and public interest groups will be holding training sessions for any climate activist who is considering running for public office.

“We need bold progressives to run for office who will lead on climate, and stand in stark contrast to Donald Trump’s climate denial and the fossil-fuel industry agenda,” the coalition said. “At the training we’ll hear from grassroots leaders who have gotten elected themselves and made major progress by stopping fossil fuel projects, advancing renewable energy, and helping their communities deal with climate disasters.”