Despite environmental candidates being outspent considerably by Big Oil and other corporate polluters, Californians overwhelmingly voted for candidates in the 2024 Primary Election who will protect communities now and in the future. Here are seven takeaways from the March 5 election:

1. It was a great night for state legislative climate candidates.

Our climate champion candidates running for Assembly and Senate had some huge victories. In decided races, 88% of our endorsed Senate and Assembly candidates won, including 10 out of our 13 climate justice candidates in priority districts. With these results, we’re one step closer to achieving a climate majority in the state legislature that will consistently introduce and support bold solutions.

In Central Valley battleground districts, pro-climate justice candidates Rhodesia Ransom (Assembly District 13) and Jerry McNerney (Senate District 5) beat out corporate-funded Democrats for the future of California politics. In Los Angeles, Sasha Renée Pérez (SD-25), Nick Schultz (AD-44), and John Harabedian (AD-41) are poised to defend climate champion seats.

With California’s jungle primary system, many races like those are all but decided in the primary, whereas others — usually Democrat vs. Democrat — will still be hotly contested in the general election. Sade Elhawary (AD-57) made the runoff to take on a corporate polluter candidate in November, while Michelle Chambers (SD-35) also advanced in her L.A race.

2. We’re going to have a greener House of Representatives in 2025.

California is poised to send the strongest environmental leadership class to the House ever! Laura Friedman (CA-30) and Luz Rivas (CA-29) — both longtime climate justice warriors in the legislature — won their L.A. races. Gil Cisneros (CA-31) defeated oil-backed Susan Rubio in the San Gabriel Valley, and Lateefah Simon (CA-12) triumphed in the Bay Area. Dave Min, EnviroVoters’ endorsed candidate in CA-47, will finish in the top two in what will be a very competitive general election race in Orange County.

3. Oil money is toxic, and Big Oil knows it

In this Primary, environmental voters in California made it clear that supporting climate action is a winning issue for candidates and accepting oil money is a losing strategy. There is a clear paradigm shift in California — oil money is becoming more and more toxic. In fact, despite oil and gas companies outspending us 8 to 1, our climate candidates mostly all advanced in their races!

Legislators used to think that taking corporate polluter money was the pathway to victory, but this year’s primary results show that not only is this dirty money no longer helping candidates, it can be a liability.

In the last two weeks of the election, corporate polluters pushed over $8 million into key swing races, clearly trying to sidestep our recent winning strategy of using their spending against them by educating voters on who the oil-backed candidates are. This last-minute push highlights that Big Oil knows their money is toxic in politics, especially with the number of legislators directly taking oil contributions dropping more than 17% from 2022 to 2023. Candidates know 79% of voters across party lines are more likely to support elected officials that don’t take oil and gas money.

4. Environmental voters vanquished the oil-backed Villapuduas.

Voters in the Stockton/San Joaquin Valley region rejected the oil money-infused campaigns of Carlos and Edith Villapudua, the husband-wife duo running for Senate and Assembly, and instead elected two climate leaders to the legislature.

In Senate District 5, former pro-environmental Congressmember Jerry McNerney came out of retirement to challenge Assemblymember Carlos Villapudua, who earned a 32% score in EnviroVoters’ 2023 Environmental Scorecard and is one of the legislature’s most conservative Democrats. Even with significant corporate polluter money — one oil PAC spent $700,000 alone — Villapudua finished in a distant third place behind McNerney. Edith Villapudua failed to advance to the general election in Assembly District 13, where our climate justice champion Rhodesia Ransom emerged victorious.

With support from voters like you, EnviroVoters made a big impact in winning these two critical races. Through Give Green California, our new platform that makes it easy to support state and local candidates, we fundraised directly for the McNerney and Ransom campaigns to help offset all of the corporate polluter money flowing to the Villapuduas. We also helped boost their name recognition and experience, mobilized volunteers to Get Out the Vote, and educated voters through our mail and digital expenditure efforts on which candidates shared their values and which ones aligned with corporate polluters.

5. Congratulations to our next senator, Adam Schiff.

Congressman Adam Schiff is poised to be the next U.S. Senator from California. He has a more than two decades-long almost perfect (98%) environmental lifetime score and has been a big champion on protecting our public lands. He put out a climate plan at our behest, and we’re excited to continue working with him to push for a bold vision on climate in the Senate.

6. Our work isn’t over yet.

A majority of climate leaders are heading into the general election, but we have a lot of work to do before November.

Getting Out the Vote in November will be essential for climate victories statewide and federally. We still need to flip some seats in the general election to achieve an environmental majority in the state legislature. The path for Democrats retaking the House and acting on climate runs through California. And Donald Trump defeated Nikki Haley handedly here, which is a reminder that the California electorate isn’t necessarily as progressive as its reputation, especially given the specific kind of anti-environment MAGA voters he brings out.

7. This successful primary was a total team effort.

Big wins don’t happen alone. We’re grateful for all our partners this cycle: the Consumer Attorneys of California, UFCW, SEIU, Smart Justice, the Black Caucus, the Progressive Caucus, and the Women’s Caucus just to name a few. This election once again proves that when we come together, our movement is a force to be reckoned with and we can (and usually) defeat corporate polluters.

But after being so embarrassed in the primary, corporate polluters will no doubt double down on their efforts to stop climate champions in the general election. Just because their money is becoming less effective doesn’t mean corporate polluters won’t keep spending tens of millions to defeat us.

Please make a gift to give our Elect Climate Champions Fund PAC the resources to ensure our climate champion candidates continue defeating Big Oil in November — or donate directly to environmental candidates via Give Green California.

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Now you can find out with our 2023 California Environmental Scorecard! Use it to see how California’s leadership scored, how many legislators take dirty oil money, and much more.

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For over 50 years, California Environmental Voters has fought on the frontlines in our state’s toughest environmental battles. Just last year, we were instrumental in passing Senate Bill 253 — the strongest corporate pollution transparency law in the nation.

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