After a year of monster legislative and regulatory wins, we’re walking away from 2022 with monster electoral wins too! Climate was literally on the ballot in California in the midterm elections. Here’s seven takeaways:
1. Environmental voters in California showed up big.
Up against big odds, our climate justice candidates won in 9 of our 13 priority races — that’s wins for 70% of our Climate Slate! These were some of the toughest, hardest fought races in the state, where we often went head to head against multi-million dollar spending from Big Oil. Overall, our endorsed candidates won 85% of their races — 40 out of 44 Assembly candidates and 8 out 13 Senate candidates. There’s no question that the State Legislature will be more progressive. And with the historic progress California made on climate action in 2022, we are looking forward to these leaders doubling down on the movement. Our movement is a force to be reckoned with.
2. The Hertzbergs got swept.
Two of our most significant wins were Caroline Menjivar winning her State Senate race in District 20 and Lindsey Horvath winning a seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors. Horvath defeated Bob Hertzberg, whom we named to our 2021 Polluter Caucus for his role delaying climate action as Senate Majority Leader, while Menjivar emerged victorious over Hertzberg’s son Daniel. We’re gratified to see voters holding corporate polluter-supported Democrats like the Hertzbergs accountable.
3. Oil money is toxic.
Environmental voters in California made it clear that climate champions get elected and accepting oil money is a losing strategy. Pro-climate candidates in battleground Bay Area districts, Liz Ortega-Toro (Assembly District 20) and Aisha Wahab (Senate District 10), beat out corporate-funded Democrats. Although we and our allies were massively outspent — as we saw oil spending nearly $9 million across the state in the final weeks alone — in our toughest head-to-head races against industry-backed candidates, all of our priority races either won or fared better than expected. Across the board, candidates who have long been aligned with oil performed worse than expected.
4. One OC win could mean cleaner air for millions.
Katrina Foley’s victory ushers in the first Democratic majority the Orange County Board of Supervisors has seen in decades — and our first chance ever to appoint a clean air vote onto the South Coast Air Quality Management District from the OC Board of Supervisors, which maintains the air quality of more than 19 million Californians!
5. Pro-environment candidates swept statewide seats in California.
We’re so excited to see victories from our endorsed candidates, like Malia Cohen as Controller, Tony Thurmond as Superintendent of Public Instruction, Shirley Weber as Secretary of State, Eleni Kounalakis as Lieutenant Governor, Rob Bonta as Attorney General, and of course Alex Padilla, our big climate champion in the US Senate.
6. The wait for results is worth it.
Expanding the vote with mail ballots has changed the length of time it takes to get definitive results. Because ballots only need to be postmarked by Election Day in California, many ballots are not counted until after Election Day. Some weren’t received by officials until days after November 8. This makes calling races more difficult because it’s unclear how many ballots for any given race are still pending. But it’s a good thing that California races are among the last to be called across the country — because we make voting easier and more accessible here. Democracy takes time.
7. Despite the success, we have a long way to go.
Prop 30’s defeat is a devastating loss for all Californians, especially those in low-income communities who are on the frontlines of pollution, extreme heat, catastrophic fires, and drought. It’s heartbreaking that our coalition of climate, clean air, worker’s rights, firefighters, and public health advocates were defeated by a record number of billionaires deceiving and confusing voters. Despite a strong year for climate legislation, the huge question now moving forward is how the state will pay for the massive climate investments needed in our infrastructure and landscapes. Still, this was the right fight, and we will continue to fight for clean air and the resources we need to ensure an equitable clean energy transition.