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November 07, 2013

Winners and Losers

With nearly all the results from Tuesday's election now final, those of us fighting for a healthy planet and healthy communities can claim some major victories all across the country. But it wasn't just candidates who won. Election Day was also a big victory for a stable climate and for the thousands of volunteers who put themselves on the front line for a clean energy future.

In Virginia, one of the nation's most prominent climate deniers was denied the governor's house. State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who wasted taxpayer dollars attacking climate science, lost his gubernatorial bid to the Sierra Club-endorsed Terry McAuliffe. McAuliffe wants to cut climate pollution and champions clean energy jobs. That's why hundreds of volunteers from the Sierra Club and other groups hit the phones, pounded the pavement, and did the hard work necessary to spread the word that Ken Cuccinelli's anti-clean energy agenda was too extreme -- and it paid off.

At the other end of the country, four county-council races in Whatcom County, Wash., delivered a huge defeat to big coal companies and a big victory for clean energy. At issue was who in Whatcom will decide whether to build the Cherry Point coal export terminal, which would be a losing deal for regional air and water quality, as well as for the health of our climate. Again, local volunteers went to work, mobilizing to educate voters about the importance of the elections -- and why our four endorsed candidates needed to win. Despite hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by big polluters, all four of our clean-energy candidates are now expected to take council seats in Whatcom.

Moving east, we had some more successes. Three counties in Colorado successfully passed moratoriums on fracking -- stopping gas companies in their tracks by standing up for clean air and clean water. And a fourth county narrowly missed approving a moratorium, losing by just 13 votes, which will in all likelihood trigger a recount. Polluters spent close to $1 million in Colorado to push their agenda but, once again, grassroots activists showed that organizing can still beat big money -- even when outspent 60 to 1.

Progress in the Centennial State wasn't limited to standing up to the drillers. In Boulder, voters rejected a ballot measure sponsored by utility giant Xcel Energy, a company with a history of dirty links to coal and other fossil fuel  industries. Xcel spent more than twice as much as its opponents did -- but climate champions prevailed again, and Boulder can now work to run its own electric system using renewable energy.

Perhaps the biggest message from these elections is that, given the chance, voters will support clean energy and climate action with their ballots. And, as we saw in Virginia, actively opposing climate action is a losing strategy. Although we can be certain that the opponents of clean energy aren't ready give up just yet, it's equally true that those running for office must now decide whether they want to stand with solutions or stand in the way. Those who continue to insist on the latter will do so at their peril.

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