Green groups’ backing no guarantee of Election Day victory

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LANSING — Only a minority of Great Lakes region congressional candidates endorsed by national environmental advocacy groups were victorious on Election Day.

The winners in Michigan — seven U.S. House candidates and U.S. Sen. Gary Peters — had a couple of things in common: All were Democrats, and all were running for reelection.

They were endorsed by at least one of three environmental groups: the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. 

The League of Conservation Voters, which spent over $1.8 million to reelect Peters, called Republican challenger John James “one of the worst anti-environmental candidates this cycle” nationally.

“Michigan has seen first-hand the consequences when we don’t protect our air and water,” League President Gene Karpinski said in a statement after the ballots were tallied. “Gary Peters made it clear that he stands for environmental protection and building the clean energy transition we know we need.” 

The Natural Resources Defense Council called Peters “a strong proponent of the job-creating renewable energy industry and someone who has vigorously fought to secure federal loans for the state’s automakers who are seeking to develop new, advanced clean-vehicle technologies.” 

The group’s postelection statement also said Peters led efforts to clean up the Detroit River, bring wind farms to the Great Lakes and slow the spread of invasive species into their ecosystems.

U.S. Reps. Elissa Slotkin of Holly, Andy Levin of Bloomfield Township, Dan Kildee of Flint, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit, Brenda Lawrence of Southfield and Haley Stevens of Rochester Hills— all endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters and Sierra Club — won their races in Michigan. 

Slotkin also had the endorsement of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which said she will “continue to speak up about the threats to our national security posed by climate change and to fight for clean air and clean water, especially in the Great Lakes region.”

The group said Stevens will “continue to promote clean-car technology, improved infrastructure and clean water.”

Five Michigan Democratic hopefuls with environmental group backing lost their races: Dana Ferguson of Negaunee, Hillary Scholten of Grand Rapids, Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, Gretchen Driskell of Saline and Kim Bizon of Lexington.

Carter Wilson, the department head and a professor of political science at Northern Michigan University, said, “I would love to see these environmental clubs get more money and resources, so they can better campaign for candidates who are pro-environmentalists.”

According to Wilson, environmental groups have fewer resources to support candidates than the fossil fuel industry. This can “make one side have far more political power than the other,” he said.

No winning House candidates in Northern Indiana near Lake Michigan had endorsements from the three groups. In Ohio districts near Lake Erie, U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Marcia Fudge won reelection with Sierra Club support.

In Michigan, by a large margin, voters passed Proposal 1 that changes how revenue in the state’s park-related funds can be spent. The money comes from royalties on natural gas and oil extracted from public lands and goes into the Natural Resources Trust Fund.

This story was reported by Kathleen Fitch, Kalah Harris, Anne Hooper, Yue Jing, Chioma Lewis, Lea Mitchell, Claire Moore, Audrey Porter and Lillian Young and edited by Moore and Fitch.

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