DemocracyNews & Opinion
by Mia DiFelice
This November, voters returned to the polls. While dozens of senators and hundreds of representatives campaigned for national seats, thousands more jockeyed for state and local offices. These midterms were full of make-or-break elections that stood to shape the path toward our collective future.
For months prior to those elections, Food & Water Action mobilized with allies around the country. We helped elect leaders committed to bold action on everything from climate, to corporate greed, to environmental injustices. And we could not have done it without our organizers, volunteers, and members.
As we prepare for the long work still ahead, we’re taking a moment to look back on all the progress we’ve made. Here are just a few of the victories we will build on in 2023.
1. An Early Win For a Climate Champion in New York
At Food & Water Action, we know that significant races for climate progress come at all levels, not just national. After years of work in the New York State Assembly, it was time to shake things up.
Though New York banned fracking eight years ago, lawmakers have dragged their feet on measures to pull the state into a fully renewable future. Despite momentum in the legislature, leadership failed to pass key bills that would have made huge progress on this front.
So this year, we rallied support for Democratic challengers who walked the walk, not just talked the talk.
In the Hudson Valley, we threw our weight behind climate activists like Sarahana Shrestha, who helped lead the victory to shut down a Danskammer fracked gas plant.
In June, Shrestha won a different kind of victory, unseating 23-year incumbent Kevin Cahill. While Cahill took thousands of dollars in donations from fossil fuel companies over his career, Shrestha won with zero corporate donations. She then carried her victory into the general election by an easy 20 points.
As she prepares to take office, we have sent a clear message: we can and will unseat those who slow-walk climate action. We can and will get out the vote for candidates who commit to bold solutions. And those candidates can and will win general elections.
2. Fighting Pipelines at the Ballot Box in Iowa
Over the past few years, Iowa has become a key site in our fight for clean water, a livable climate, and an end to polluting industry. Right now, the state faces a buildout of thousands of miles of hazardous pipelines — with or without landowner consent.
Despite a broad and vocal coalition opposing the projects, key state lawmakers blocked legislative action. So it was no surprise that pipelines became a major issue in this year’s midterms. Our polling found that 73% of voters were less likely to vote for candidates who support the projects.
And that opposition crystallized with the election of our endorsed candidate in the State Senate, Sarah Trone Garriott. This year, Garriott faced a redistricting that put her head-to-head with Senate President Jake Chapman — the same Senate President who blocked multiple bills that would have stopped pipeline projects in their tracks.
Sen. Garriott committed to choosing constituents over corporations and vocally opposed carbon pipelines. So we went big on our support for her, knocking on more than 7,000 doors and mobilizing more than 1,000 phone calls and hand-written letters to voters.
Her victory is a victory for everyday Iowans who are done with polluting industries. That includes not only pipeline corporations, but factory farms. Garriott also supports a state factory farm moratorium, which has become increasingly urgent as Iowans suffer a growing flood of factory farm pollution in their backyards.
3. Bringing Blue-Wave Sea Change To Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania was a critical state in this year’s midterms for many reasons. For one, it’s the second-highest gas-producing state in the country. With the right elected officials, we can keep a lot of gas in the ground. For another, the purple state had a make-or-break impact on the Democrats’ Senate majority.
So we started local, endorsing two key races for the House in Southwestern Pennsylvania: those of Chris Deluzio, a progressive champion for workers, and Summer Lee, the only candidate in her primary to unequivocally oppose fracking.
Throughout the state, we turned out more than 220,000 phone calls, knocked on 20,000 doors, and sent 4,600 handwritten letters to get out the vote. As a result, not only did Deluzio and Lee win their races; our efforts also mobilized thousands of Pennsylvanians to vote blue in the tight races for governor, state legislature, and the U.S. Senate.
Now, the PA State House has a Democratic majority for the first time in 12 years. What’s more, at the national level, John Fetterman’s win helped maintain the Democratic Senate majority. With these victories, we have a baseline for crucial work coming down the line.
With Your Help, We Have Plenty of Victories Ahead
In the run-up to the midterms, pundits predicted that a “red wave” would crash through Congress. But with the work of thousands of organizers and volunteers, we turned that “red wave” into a puddle.
Our get-out-the-vote efforts turned out more than 433,000 phone calls and 8,760 handwritten letters to voters across the country. At the same time, our canvassers knocked on more than 27,000 doors nationwide.
The result: we helped keep Demorats’ control of the Senate and reduced Republican gains in the House to a barely-there majority. We also rallied support behind a growing contingent of progressive lawmakers like Lee and Shrestha. These victories will open new possibilities for clean water, safe food, and climate action in the years ahead.
Already, we are preparing for the next election cycle. It won’t be an easy battle. The growing number of extremists in the House and former-President Donald Trump’s entrance into the 2024 presidential race make that clear. But it’s a battle that we’re ready for, with your help.
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