Markey Win on Strength of Green and Young Voters Elevates Climate in Fall Campaign

The post-primary analysis of the Markey-Kennedy Massachusetts Senate race is in, and many pundits are chalking up the Markey late surge to the power of student volunteers and climate change as a key issue in the race.  It is not that Congressman Kennedy lacked a strong climate stance. But Markey, as an original sponsor of the Green New Deal, won the issue and that helped to swing the race.  And on the strength of that win, now many environmental organizations and progressive Members of Congress are demanding that the Presidential debates have a significant focus on climate change.

Why This Matters:  Environmental voters turned out in droves in the MA primary — and they were driven to the polls by huge grassroots organizing efforts. Nathaniel Stinnett of the Environmental Voter Project (EVP), which worked hard to turn out climate voters in the race, summed it up well, saying “It is now clear – no one can say that climate doesn’t win elections ever again.”  Indeed, the EVP’s data from their GOTV calls on Monday showed that thousands of climate voters who had never voted in a primary before were going to vote this year.  The message for candidates in November should be clear, according to Stinnett “ignore climate voters at your peril.”

Grassroots Organizing Paid Off

The Sunrise Movement, Students for Markey, and the Environmental Voter Project were a factor in the race — both in GOTV and in creating the sense that Markey had the momentum in the home stretch.  Our colleague, Emily Atkin who writes the Heated Newsletter (paywall), said that Markey had an edge on climate change, despite Kennedy’s green credentials, because Markey was the original sponsor of the Green New Deal and that made him more credible and “authentic” on the issue.  Grist said Markey was able to “flip the script” as the 74-year-old who beat out a 39-year-old for the youth vote because climate activists were his “secret weapon.”  They were actually quite active on social media — they made memes, they tweeted out videos, they made phone calls and texted to GOTV, and they made it fun to be “4Markey.”  And they got students from all over the country, not just Massachusetts, to help.

On To The Debates

According to Politico, a “coalition of more than three dozen environmental groups is pressing the moderators of the upcoming presidential debates to make climate change ‘a central focus’ of this year’s contests — after moderators in the 2016 debates failed to ask a single question on climate policy.”  The coalition wrote in a letter to the debate moderators that “It is imperative the candidates seeking our nation’s highest office explain how they will address and prepare us for the current and increasing effects of the climate crisis and how they will combat the environmental injustice that has plagued Black and brown communities for decades.”   And dozens of Members of Congress called on the Presidential Debate Commission to “make climate change a centerpiece of the upcoming presidential and vice-presidential debates.”

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