Texas Is The Next Battleground For The Green New Deal

Texas Is The Next Battleground For The Green New Deal
Sunrise Movement , the youth campaign behind the Green New Deal , called 25,000 Iowans and persuaded 7,000 to sign pledges to vote for the candidate who advocated the most ambitious plan for rapidly lowering planet-heating emissions along with guaranteeing federal jobs to displaced workers.

In New Hampshire, the group called 33,000 voters and racked up 12,000 pledges that it claimed delivered a win for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders .

Now Sunrise Movement is pulling back from the presidential contest and redirecting its efforts toward a trio of March 3 congressional primaries in Texas, hoping a victory in the oil and gas industrys mecca will add momentum to the two-year-old Green New Deal movement.

On Thursday night, the group plans to announce its endorsement of Heidi Sloan, a democratic socialist running on the Green New Deal in the Democratic primary to take on Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas), HuffPost has learned.

Then, in the coming weeks, Sunrise Movement is sending its army of canvassers to knock on doors in support of Sloan, Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellars left-wing challenger Jessica Cisneros and Mike Siegel, the progressive Green New Dealer running against two other Democrats in the race to take on Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

The group plans to direct its nearly 350 local chapters across the country to make phone calls for the three candidates. Sunrise said it will marshal hundreds of Spanish-speaking volunteers to call voters for Cisneros, whose 28th Congressional District stretches southwest from San Antonio to the Mexican border.

For us, Texas is both the frontlines of the climate crisis and the extreme energy fossil-fuel industry, Sunrise Movements political director Evan Weber told HuffPost by phone Thursday morning. If we can show that running boldly on the Green New Deal without moderating or hedging is a path to victory for Democrats, we think it can transform the entire conversation in this nation.

Its the sort of brazen bet Sunrise has taken before. After forming in mid-2017 and cutting its teeth on a handful of progressive midterm campaigns, the nonprofit stormed into the national spotlight in late 2018 when it staged high-profile protests in then-incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosis office to demand the new Democratic House majority champion a Green New Deal slate of legislation.

The demonstrations did little to convert skeptics in the partys centrist establishment. But it made the Green New Deal a mainstay for progressives and established the concept of a sweeping green industrial plan paired with an aggressive expansion of the federal safety net as the climate lodestar for left-wing parties in Europe and Latin America.

If Sunrise spent much of the year since painting its opponents in the Democratic Party as puppets of the fossil fuel industry, the Texas races offer an opportunity to spar with the puppeteers.

Cisneros, a 26-year-old human rights lawyer, gained national attention last year when she announced her bid to take on Cuellar, a conservative Democrat with deep ties in the mostly-Hispanic district. Dubbed Big Oils favorite Democrat , Cuellar, 64, has worked closely with Republicans in the state and once served as former Texas Gov. Rick Perrys secretary of state.

Veronica Cardenas / Reuters

Democrat Jessica Cisneros campaigns for a House seat in Laredo, Texas.

Cuellar has voted in line with President Donald Trumps policy positions nearly 45% of the time since 2017, and69% during the administrations first two years, according to a FiveThirtyEight tally. The League of Conservation Voters gave Cuellar a 42% cumulative score on its ranking of lawmakers pro-environmental votes.

Cuellars allies are sending in cavalry of their own. Oil and gas political action committees spent $116,000 on his campaign since 2019, filings collected by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics show. Nine electric utilities, most of whose business depends on fossil fuels, pitched in another $28,500.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which does not disclose its donors but spent years funding climate misinformation campaigns, is already airing a 30-second ad in Spanish touting Cuellars record of passing the new U.S.-Mexico-China trade agreement and boosting auto manufacturing in the state. The group told the Federal Election Commission in a filing that it planned to spend $200,000 on TV ads mentioning Cuellar. A top U.S. Chamber of Commerce official publicly vowed to lock horns with Justice Democrats, the progressive group behind the campaign of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), which has backed Cisneros.

This is a first for us, and were putting our money where our mouth is, Scott Reed, the U.S. Chambers senior political strategist, told The Texas Tribune this month. Its game on, Justice Democrats.

The U.S. Chamber did not respond to emailed questions about whether it planned to add any resources to back Cuellar or get involved in the other two races, but it said it would hold a big endorsement event in Texas ahead of the primary.

In the other two districts, the industry may be playing a game of wait and see.

Cuellars 28th District leans Democratic by 9 points on the Cook Political Report PVI ranking . That made it a prime target for Sunrise and its allies, who have primarily focused on replacing pro-business Democrats in safely blue districts with Green New Deal progressives.

But Colin Strother, a Cuellar spokesman, said hed never even heard of what he called that Sunshine thing.
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