Welcome to Energy and the Midterms Primary day in West Virginia, Nebraska …

May 13, 2014 by  
Filed under Solar Energy Tips

With help from Darren Goode

WELCOME TO ENERGY AND THE MIDTERMS. This newsletter is a monthly feature of the new POLITICO series “All Policy is Local: Energy,” examining how energy policy issues are affecting the 2014 midterm elections. We welcome your feedback, questions and tips, so please contact me at aguillen@politico.com and follow me on Twitter at @alexcguillen.

FIRST THINGS FIRST — PRIMARY DAY IN WEST VIRGINIA, NEBRASKA: The open-seat Senate race between Republican Shelley Moore Capito and Democrat Natalie Tennant can finally begin in earnest after both are expected to easily wrap up their nominations during today’s primaries in coal-heavy West Virginia. In West Virginia’s 3rd District, former Democrat Evan Jenkins is set to lock up the Republican nomination to take on embattled Rep. Nick Rahall. And Rahall will face a Democratic primary challenge today from retired Army Maj. Richard Ojeda. Rahall has spent $550,000 so far, much more than Ojeda’s reported $7,300 outlay.

In Nebraska’s primary today, Rep. Lee Terry faces a challenge from the right via Omaha businessman Dan Frei. Terry, one of the Keystone XL pipeline’s most vocal proponents in the House, is likely to win the primary, but he has spent over $880,000 so far this cycle, leaving him a little more than $600,000 on hand as of April 23. Democrats are once again eyeing Terry for defeat; he won in 2012 with just 50.8 percent of the vote.


Kochs vs. Steyer: Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know about the immense political spending plans of the industrialist Koch brothers and California billionaire Tom Steyer, who have emerged as parallel heavy hitters despite having different motivations, strategies, methods and goals. As POLITICO recently reported, the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity plans to spend more than $125 million on operations benefiting conservative candidates (refresher: http://politico.pro/RI6gN7). AFP has already accused several vulnerable Democrats — including Sens. Mark Begich and Kay Hagan — of supporting a carbon tax, something each candidate denies. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made Koch-bashing a regular part of his floor remarks.

Meanwhile, Steyer has promised to spend at least $100 million in this election cycle, with particular attention paid to candidates who oppose Keystone. Half of that is meant to come from Steyer’s own deep pockets, with the other $50 million coming from other donors. Observers are watching to see whether Steyer’s strategy, which he tested successfully in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election, can be replicated on a broader scale.

Environmental groups: Watch for environmental groups to become deeply involved in a handful of Senate races — specifically, to defend vulnerable Democratic incumbents or boost Democrats running for the chamber. Similar to 2012, there is little chance of the House changing hands, but the possibility Republicans will retake the Senate is very real. Environmental groups so far are wary of wading into Democrat Mary Landrieu’s reelection campaign, but races in Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire and North Carolina offer greens a better chance of swaying the outcome.

— Environmentalists are also looking to defeat unfriendly House candidates, and that doesn’t always mean Republicans. On Monday, the League of Conservation Voters took aim at Troy Jackson, a Democrat running for Michael Michaud’s open seat in Maine, adding him to its “Dirty Dozen” program. The LCV Action Fund in March endorsed his primary opponent, Emily Cain. Now LCV is pumping money into the race with a $150,000 mailer program to Portland and Bangor residents that criticizes Jackson for voting against cutting carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and backing a bill that would cut state wind development goals. View mailers here: http://bit.ly/RAPnne. And here: http://bit.ly/RAPpvn


Louisiana: Mary Landrieu’s reelection fight is one of the most closely watched this year in energy land, and for good reason. The new Energy and Natural Resources chairwoman heads a committee of vital importance to Louisiana, but she faces a serious challenge from Republican Bill Cassidy, and the GOP hopes her support for Obamacare and voters’ dislike of the administration’s environmental policies will doom her in the increasingly deep-red state. Aside from her chairmanship, Landrieu has also made her support for Keystone a centerpiece of her campaign, but the Senate’s failure to vote on the pipeline may hamper that strategy. (She has tried to place the blame on Republican leader Mitch McConnell: http://politico.pro/1uI2kej.) Recent polling has shown Landrieu and Cassidy nearly neck and neck, but Landrieu has a reputation in Washington as a deft underdog candidate with a tendency to survive.

— Show us the money: What’s more, Landrieu is winning the money race, both overall and among donors who care most about energy policy. According to an extensive POLITICO review of Federal Election Commission filings, she has pulled in $1.26 million from energy interests this cycle, while Cassidy lags at $369,000. Cassidy has drawn contributions from a handful of PACs, including those connected to Koch Industries, Murray Energy, Halliburton, Entergy, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Valero, Chesapeake Energy and the National Ocean Industries Association. His big-name donors include coal magnate Robert Murray and family members connected to Edison Chouest Offshore, which provides services for offshore energy activities in the Gulf.

Almost half of Landrieu’s much larger energy-related haul has come from more than 100 PACs, ranging from AGL Resources to Xcel Energy. Her prominent contributors include Chevron CEO John Watson, Anadarko Chairman Al Walker, Interstate Natural Gas Association of America President Don Santa, ConEd CEO John McAvoy, PGE CEO Anthony Earley, Cheniere Energy President Charif Souki, NRG Energy CEO David Crane, NextEra CEO James Robo and BP America spokesman Geoff Morrell. Landrieu has also received stacks of checks from executives at ExxonMobil, PGE, Marathon Oil, Pioneer Natural Resources, Sempra Energy and Anadarko.

Colorado: Andrew Restuccia reported on the roles that fracking and Keystone XL are playing in the race between Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner. “Much like President Barack Obama, Udall offers nuanced positions on some of the hottest energy controversies: He insists he has no stance on the merits of Keystone. … He supports fracking, if it’s done responsibly. And while he opposes letting voters change the state constitution to limit fracking through ballot initiatives — something liberal Democratic Rep. Jared Polis is pushing for in November — he’s open to a legislative compromise that could allow more local control of drilling. Gardner’s positions, meanwhile, couldn’t be clearer: Pro-Keystone, pro-fracking and eager to paint his opponent as indecisive.” Don’t miss Andrew’s story: http://politico.pro/RA02yw

**November’s election gives voters a powerful choice on energy. Smart energy policies can grow our economy, create jobs and establish America as a global energy leader. America is now the world’s number-one natural gas producer and is projected to become number one in oil by 2015. Get involved at http://ChooseEnergy.org**

Alaska: Sen. Mark Begich is another top target for Republicans. Like Landrieu, Begich tends to part with Democratic positions on issues like oil and gas drilling, but he turned heads earlier this year when he broke with Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Don Young on Alaska’s Pebble Mine. After the EPA released a report outlining a litany of potential pollution and habitat damage from large-scale mining activity in the Bristol Bay region, Begich said it poses too many risks to Alaska’s salmon fisheries.

A top GOP challenger to Begich is Dan Sullivan, the former head of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources. If polling and money continue to split among the GOP field ahead of the late-in-the-cycle Aug. 19 primary, Begich could benefit as the Republicans spend more time sniping at each other rather than taking aim at him. Also in the running are Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and Joe Miller, the 2010 GOP nominee who lost to Murkowski’s write-in campaign.

Iowa: Democrat Bruce Braley has the backing of environmental groups, thanks to his vocal support for wind energy and biofuels, and was an early favorite to retain the retiring Tom Harkin’s seat. However, the four-term congressman drew heat after he called Sen. Chuck Grassley a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.” The field of GOP challengers is still large, but energy observers are keeping their eyes on Mark Jacobs, a former CEO at Reliant Energy. On the campaign trail, Jacobs touts his role in helping save the Houston-based Reliant from bankruptcy when he joined the company in 2002. The other Republican polling well ahead of the June 3 GOP primary is Joni Ernst, the state senator who nabbed national attention with her ad about castrating hogs.

West Virginia: Capito has a solid lead over Tennant — but in either event, coal interests win. Both have come out swinging in favor of coal and against the Obama administration’s climate and energy agenda. They are running to replace the retiring Jay Rockefeller, who in recent years has criticized the coal industry over safety issues and pollution. Bonus: Capito picked up an endorsement Monday from the West Virginia Coal Association. http://politico.pro/1oJy52r

Montana: Max Baucus’ early retirement from the Senate gave a big boost to Democrat John Walsh, who was already running to replace Baucus but then got appointed to the seat. Voters won’t get much help differentiating Walsh from Republican challenger Steve Daines on energy issues; both support Keystone and want expanded energy development in the state. Walsh supports extending the wind production tax credit.

New Hampshire: Polls have shown Democrat Jeanne Shaheen maintaining a small lead against Republican challenger Scott Brown. While energy isn’t likely to be a major focus of the race, Shaheen could get a bump from her long-delayed energy efficiency bill with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) — even though, at the moment, the bill seems dead in the water once again. Even becalmed, the bill gives Shaheen a chance to tout her bipartisan credentials.

Kentucky and Georgia: Democrats are eyeing a potential pick-up in Georgia, where an open Senate seat drawing lots of interest from Republicans has allowed Democrat Michelle Nunn to make a name for herself. Also getting interest is Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As in West Virginia, both Grimes and McConnell have spoken out against the administration’s energy agenda.


West Virginia-3: Rahall secured a small but solid win in 2012, but the growing unpopularity of the administration — including EPA power plant rules that critics call a “war on coal” — gives Jenkins an opening. The American Energy Alliance has aired ads attacking Rahall as a carbon tax supporter; AEA pulled the spots temporarily after the state’s January chemical spill. Rahall has lobbied the EPA against its forthcoming rules and has frequently sided with the GOP on energy issues, but Republicans mocked him last year after he briefly mistook a folded umbrella at a press conference for a lump of coal.

Idaho-2: Republican Mike Simpson, chairman of the House energy and water spending panel, faces a primary challenge from the right on May 20. Bryan Smith, backed by the Club for Growth, says Simpson supports earmarks — and the eight-term congressman’s backers aren’t taking any chances. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the American Chemistry Council have all aired ads backing Simpson. And today, Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a right-leaning 501(c)(4), will launch $190,000 in radio and TV ads supporting Simpson. The spots praise Simpson’s support of nuclear power and the Idaho National Laboratory. http://youtu.be/eJj3IhwdTGk

Iowa-3: A large field of Republicans has emerged seeking to replace the retiring Tom Latham — including a longtime biofuels advocate. Monte Shaw has been executive director of the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association since 2005, and before that spent five years with the Renewable Fuels Association in Washington. No polling has emerged ahead of the June 3 primary, but Shaw raised $204,000 in February and March, about a 10th of which came from biofuels PACs.

Colorado-2: Democrat Jared Polis has drawn ire for backing state ballot measures going after fracking but is probably in no danger this fall — he got nearly 56 percent of the vote in 2012. Still, he’s starting to attract negative ads. On Monday, the Log Cabin Republicans began hitting Polis for putting his $65 million net worth behind ballot initiatives “that would limit or ban responsible high-tech energy development in the state,” which the ad warns would cost Colorado billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs. http://bit.ly/1jk8lof

Georgia-12: Democrat John Barrow, an Energy and Commerce Committee member and one of the dwindling number of moderate Democrats who frequently side with Republicans on fossil fuel issues, is once again on the GOP’s list of vulnerable incumbents. However, it may not be that easy to unseat him; Barrow won in 2012 with 53.7 percent of the vote in a district that voted for Mitt Romney. The primary to determine Barrow’s GOP challenger will take place May 20.


Pennsylvania: Several Democrats are vying to challenge Republican incumbent Tom Corbett in what they see as a promising pickup opportunity. Katie McGinty, former chairwoman of the Clinton White House’s Council on Environmental Quality, attracted a lot of energy money in the first leg of the race, but she’s been trailing in the polls behind Democratic rivals like Rep. Allyson Schwartz and Tom Wolf, a former state revenue chief. Recent polls have shown Wolf with a commanding lead heading into the May 20 primary.

Whichever Democrat wins the nomination, energy will play a major role in a state that has gotten big economic benefits out of fracking. Wolf, Schwartz, McGinty and other Democrats support natural gas production — Pennsylvania is in the heart of the Marcellus Shale — but have called for imposing a severance tax on natural gas drilling and want to mandate disclosure of fracking chemicals.

Florida: Former governor and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist is the front-runner aiming to challenge Gov. Rick Scott. Crist wrote in a book earlier this year that climate change politics and the 2010 BP spill, which occurred while he was running for the Senate against Marco Rubio, contributed heavily to his decision to switch parties (refresher: http://politico.pro/1hHOxeL). Recent polls have shown Crist with a slight lead over Scott. However, it’s a long slog to the Aug. 26 primary against former state Sen. Nan Rich — and waiting in the wings is Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who has said he may jump into the race if Crist “gets into trouble.”

Maine: Republican incumbent Paul LePage has made highly public missteps and hasn’t done much to endear himself to environmentalists. LePage recently vetoed a bill restoring a solar rebate program, and his administration worked to derail a deal made between the state and Statoil to set up an offshore wind project. He also made headlines last June when his administration said it would stop commenting for stories in three Maine newspapers following the publication of articles critical of LePage’s chief environmental regulator. Polls generally show Democrat Michael Michaud with a small lead.

UPCOMING FUNDRAISERS, via the Sunlight Foundation’s Political Party Time

Alison Lundergan Grimes: Democratic fundraiser Allan Berliant hosts a Grimes fundraiser in Cincinnati, May 22. http://bit.ly/1jSzSBL

Mark Udall: Vice President Joe Biden headlines a May 27 fundraiser for Udall, along with the Colorado Senate Victory Fund. http://bit.ly/1javXRU

Tom Corbett: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears at a Philadelphia fundraiser for Corbett on June 9. http://bit.ly/STBaD2

**November’s election gives voters a powerful choice on energy. Smart energy policies can grow our economy, create jobs and establish America as a global energy leader. The oil natural gas industry supports $1.2 trillion of GDP — that’s 8% of the total U.S. economy. America is now the world’s number-one natural gas producer and is projected to be the world’s number-one oil producer by 2015. Our refineries create fuels for nearly 250 million vehicles and commercial, private and military aircraft — as well as the feedstocks for medicines, apparel and fertilizer. With increased access to North American oil natural gas resources, experts predict we can create 1.4 million new American jobs. All that adds up to a fundamental fact: expanding domestic energy production and refining will create jobs, help grow our economy and keep us secure for generations to come. This election, get involved at http://ChooseEnergy.org**

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