Battle for the Senate: The Environmental Stakes in Arizona

In an election that could determine control of the Senate, the candidates’ views are far apart.

In Arizona, the Senate race pits two former military pilots against each other. The Republican incumbent is not as rabidly anti-environmental as some of her colleagues, but clearly is no fan of regulation. Her opponent is committed to fighting climate change and seems open to major federal investment in renewable energy.

Martha McSally. The incumbent Republican was appointed to fill out Jon Kyle’s term and now faces a special election. Following a military career, she  served in the House of Representatives before moving to the Senate.

McSally’s campaign website doesn’t contain an issue tab. She has said that humans are “likely” part of the reason for climate change. She continues to oppose the Obama Administration’s key environmental efforts: “Crushing regulations such as the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan and the Waters of the United States, only serve as federal overreaches that further burden Arizona’s small businesses and farmers and harm those in poverty with increased utility bills.” Presumably she would oppose similar initiatives by Biden, if he were to win.

McSally got a 19% rating for the League of Conservation Voters for 2019, which is high for a Republican these days.  Her lifetime score is 7%. The 2019 rating may have been a fluke, or may represent an effort to reposition herself for the Senate election.

Mark Kelly.  McSally’s Democratic challenger is a former military pilot and astronaut who is married to Gabby Giffords, the former House member who was badly wounded in a shooting. His campaign website has a tab for “Climate Change and Environment.” The website emphasizes the impact of climate change on Arizona:

“Left unchecked, climate change poses a threat to Arizona’s economy and our way of life. . . . A warming climate means twice as many days over 100 degrees in Phoenix, which endangers Arizona’s economy. Longer and more severe droughts will also restrict Arizona’s access to clean water and pose increased public health risks.”

The website calls for massive investment in research and development of renewable technologies, saying that “irresponsible leadership in Washington” is the only thing that stands in the way. Kelly invokes his experience as an astronaut as a basis for his environmental views: “Mark has seen the planet change from space, and wanting to stop that and protect our state and our planet is part of what inspired him to run.”

These candidates illustrate how far apart the two parties are in terms of environmental issues.  Which one is elected could be crucial to the prospects for future environmental legislation.

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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