Cross-posted from the CA League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) blog, Groundswell.
By Mike Young and Beth Gunston
Late Wednesday, CLCV-endorsed candidate Assemblymember Bill Monning was greeted with some fantastic news: Senator Sam Blakeslee announced that he will not seek re-election. Despite being the incumbent, Blakeslee decided that defending his seat would not be worth the effort since decennial redistricting shifted this coastal district to a new 16% Democratic registration advantage. If that were not insurmountable enough, much of the new district that stretches from Santa Cruz to San Luis Obespo overlaps areas that Monning currently represents in the Assembly.
In 2010, it was largely argued that Blakeslee only won his race against Democrat candidate and environmental champion John Laird because then-Governor Schwarzenegger made that contest a special election where Democratic voters tend to have extremely low turnout. Whether that's true or not, Blakeslee felt he had no viable chance this time around. Without a serious primary challenger and with the incumbent ducking out, Monning is in a great position to essentially walk into the seat. This will be a big pick-up for the environment. Monning (100% CLCV score) will be a much needed breath of fresh air from Blakeslee (21% CLCV score), especially in the Senate where environmental priorities have had a much more difficult time passing. Monning is well regarded for his environmental health work around toxics and pesticides, and has been specifically outspoken about the recent introduction of methyl iodide in the state.
But while Monning’s expected win is a great for the environment, it's time to look this gift horse in the mouth. With little hope of a contender to pit against Monning, the polluter interests that helped Blakeslee win in 2010 will likely now spend their money to defeat a more vulnerable target: state Senator Fran Pavley. Pavley, an environmental leader who authored California's landmark global warming laws, has a much more difficult race this year as redistricting has put her in a Senate seat against Tony Strickland with a very narrow registration advantage. In 2008, despite his 2% record on the environment including countless votes against bills to increase renewable energy, Strickland reinvented himself as a renewable energy expert and narrowly won his current Senate seat. With environmental advocates just one seat away from a two-thirds supermajority in the Senate and environmental champion Fran Pavley potentially being ousted, you can bet big polluters will spend more heavily on this race than any others.
So while the prospects for Bill Monning look fantastic, the consequence may be that we will need to work even harder to protect Fran Pavley. Still, much can change between now and Election Day, and nobody quite knows how the top two primary system will change the political landscape. All we know for sure is that in 2012 we must remain vigilant and work towards electing an environmental majority in the Senate. That way we’ll be more likely to pass bold environmental laws along with a balanced budget, taxes, and fees to keep our state moving forward in the years to come.