By Roger Gloss and Sarah “Steve” Mosko
Appeared: Irvine Community News & Views, July 2018 (p. 9)
The California Primary contest for the “top two” candidates in Congressional District 45 is over. On November 5, incumbent Rep. Mimi Walters will be facing UCI law professor Katie Porter. The City of Irvine lies entirely within District 45, and the fact that Irvine residents comprise 40 percent of the district’s population means Irvine voters are extremely important to determining who will win.
The voters whom both Walters and Porter need to attract are increasingly concerned about climate change. Fully 73 percent of registered voters believe that climate change is happening, and 59 percent believe it is mostly caused by human activities, according to the latest national poll. At the constituent level – even if not in the halls of Congress – climate change has become noticeably less “political.” Belief in human-caused climate change is still strongest among Democrats, but now includes a significant majority of liberal/moderate Republicans as well as voters with no party preference (small “i” independents). “Worry” about climate change has even increased by 7 points among conservative Republicans since just last October.
There is a fairly even three-way split in the percentage of Irvine voters registered as Democrat, Republican, and independent, which means swaying independents will be critical to winning in November. Expanding the search for fossil fuels in hotly contested locales (such as along California’s coastline or in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) is an important climate change issue on which independents align much closer to Democrats than Republicans. Whereas Republicans tend to view such expansions favorably (52-73 percent), less than half of both Democrats and independents do (15-43 percent). Walters and Porter should take notice.
Moreover, millennials (ages 18-35), who are expected to become the nation’s most populous generation in 2019, are voicing clear concerns about climate change. According to Alliance for Market Solutions, 88 percent of millennials believe climate change is real; 62 percent believe it is caused by human activity; and 77 percent believe we should take action to stop or slow it.
So where do our District 45 Congressional candidates stand on climate change issues?
Mimi Walters’ website says nothing at all about climate change, or the environment for that matter. Her “issues” are Debt and Taxes, Immigration, and National Security (by which she means defeating ISIS and supporting our military, not climate change). Her environmental record in Congress is abysmal. She voted in favor of rolling back limits on carbon dioxide emissions in the federal Clean Power Plan, and she co-sponsored the Stopping EPA Overreach Act of 2017 which undid the law allowing EPA regulation of global warming. She even signed a letter of support to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to reopen oil drilling off California’s coast. Then surprisingly last year she joined the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus at the urging of Citizens Climate Lobby, a non-profit devoted to creating the political will in Congress to pass a national carbon tax. Was this a merely symbolic gesture?
So what about Katie Porter, a Democrat? It is encouraging that her campaign website includes Environment as an issue and mentions taking on big oil and corporate polluters, stopping offshore drilling, investing in renewable energy, supporting high emissions standards, and saving important environmental protections. Nice-sounding stuff, but Porter has thus far been light on specifics. Also, climate change was glaringly absent from the flood of flyers sent to homes in her district in the weeks leading up to the primary.
Somewhat perversely, we can say we know more where Walters stands on climate change because of her voting record, but Porter’s level of commitment to-date is not yet reassuring and her policy specifics remain a question mark.
Voters in Irvine and throughout District 45 should demand better than this. Climate change is arguably the most urgent among many critically important issues of concern in November’s midterm election, and the statements and actions of Walters and Porter should be reflecting this.