In Tuesday’s Election, Environmentalists Paid to Play

The Missoulian’s Mike Dennison provides analysis of the U.S. Senate race in Montana between republican Dennis Rehberg and incumbent democrat Senator Jon Tester. This race was expected to go the republican’s way only to see Tester reelected with a comfortable 16,600 vote margin. Dennison gives us some idea of who helped to push Tester over the top:

As for the ground game, which identifies and registers sympathetic voters and then gets them to the polls, Montana Democrats and their allies had a good one.

The League of Conservation Voters, one of the nation’s most prominent environmental groups, spent $1.45 million on Tester’s behalf, including door-to-door canvassers, mailers and phone calls to get out the vote.

It’s hard to beat the democrats’ ground game. The LCV was all over Montana, knocking on doors and working the phone banks in behalf of Tester and other democratic candidates. And it looks like Montana wasn’t the only place where national environmental groups played a big role. Here’s today’s Washington Post:

The environmental community scored a string of successes Tuesday in New Mexico, Montana, Texas and other states, winning seven of eight targeted Senate races and at least three targeted House races. Although plenty of outside groups poured money into these contests, even some representatives of the fossil-fuel industry said that environmentalists had invested their resources wisely in 2012.

“There is evidence that the environmentalists have become a more mature political force,” said Scott H. Segal, who lobbies for utility companies at the firm Bracewell & Giuliani.

“Environmentalist spending was up considerably this cycle, and they seemed to resist the frequent trap of supporting third-party or crank candidates in ways that would have siphoned off votes from mainstream Democrats,” Segal said.

The League of Conservation Voters spent more than $14 million this year, more than it had in the past three election cycles combined, and groups including the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation Action Fund, Defenders of Wildlife Action Committee, Environment America and Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund also devoted money and volunteers to key contests.

The environmental community went all in for this election. How will all this support be repayed?

Some environmentalists say the election provides a mandate for aggressive action on climate change, although oil and gas industry officials warned against over-interpreting the results because the economy ranked as the dominant issue this year.

The environmental community, having done its job to get democrats elected across the country, will expect action from the Obama Administration on a range of environmental issues, including rules to control mercury and greenhouse gas emissions, reign in oil and gas drilling on public lands, and tackle the fracking issue. Of course, I’ve recommended a number of items the President could add to his environmental agenda. It could be an interesting four years for the environment.

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