In Tuesday's primary election, Tea Party favorite and Sarah Palin protégé Christine O'Donnell upset U.S. Rep. Mike Castle of Delaware to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat once held by Vice President Joe Biden. In one sense, O'Donnell's victory was a clean sweep. As a result of her win, every GOP Senate candidate now either denies any connection between human activity and global warming, denies the need for legislation to address climate change, or both.
Castle, a strong environmental activist, was the only GOP Senate candidate in 2010 to recognize the dangers of global warming and the need for a comprehensive approach to control greenhouse gas emissions. Even former climate advocates such as U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have chosen partisan politics over science, drunk the climate-denier Kool-Aid, and gone over to the dark side. (Check out The Wonk Room to see where other GOP Senate candidates in 2010 stand on key climate issues.)
McCain, once considered an environmental advocate, now opposes the cap-and-trade policy he once championed and opposes the EPA finding that greenhouse gases are pollution. In 2009, Kirk voted for the Waxman-Markey climate bill, which includes a cap-and-trade program, and said: "There is now a growing scientific consensus that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide affects average temperatures." Kirk now says that he would vote against climate legislation in the Senate.
But let's get back to Castle and O'Donnell.
According to Castle's congressional website: "Believing that we must act now to mitigate the impact of global warming pollution, Rep. Castle supports U.S. participation in international agreements and a cap-and-trade program based on the best available science, which will deliver the kind of reform business and industry need to grow the economy, stabilize the climate, and create more diverse and secure sources of energy. Since 2004, Rep. Castle has supported the Climate Stewardship Act. Rep. Castle believes we can achieve 15-20% reductions in global warming pollution by 2020 and reductions on the order of 80% by 2050."
The League of Conservation Voters consistently named Castle an "Environmental Champion" for his leadership on environmental issues, and he scored a perfect 100 on the second annual Congressional scorecard by the Republicans for Environmental Protection. In Congress, Castle opposed efforts to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration and drilling, and worked to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay, the Delaware River and America's beaches and coastal areas.
By contrast, O'Donnell has attacked legislative action on climate change as a "cap and tax energy scheme which would kill 6,117 Delaware jobs." Actually, a carbon cap-and-trade program would increase jobs, lower electricity bills, enhance American competitiveness in the global economy, and help to prevent the most serious effects of climate change.
O'Donnell has no actual record on environmental issues, because she has never held office. She has been keeping busy, however, working as an abstinence counselor, railing against masturbation, which she equates with adultery, and accusing her primary opponent (Castle) of everything from homosexuality to directing campaign workers to break into her home in 2008 (there is no police report to corroborate that any break-in ever occurred).
Throughout her campaign, O'Donnell has been dogged by a string of accusations about financial misconduct, ranging from failing to pay college debts and federal income taxes to illegally using campaign contributions for rent and other personal expenses.
Ironically, O'Donnell's primary victory over Mike Castle is likely to be a bigger problem for Republicans than Democrats. Castle was expected to defeat Democrat Chris Coons in the general election, giving the Republicans another Senate seat in their bid to take back Congress. O'Donnell's chances of beating Coons are much lower, especially since Castle has refused to endorse her and the Republican Party isn't offering much help or support. On the other hand, O'Donnell's unexpected victory over Castle has energized Coons and the Democratic Party, which had considered the seat as good as lost before Tuesday's upset.
According to his campaign website, Coons favors a federal action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and achieve greater energy efficiency, and he is calling for a nationwide carbon cap-and-trade program. As a county executive in Delaware, Coons also took steps to rein in energy consumption, control emissions, and lower costs for taxpayers.
Sending Castle to the Senate would have been a win for the environment. Sending O'Donnell would not. From an environmental perspective, Coons is clearly the best Senate candidate on the Delaware ballot.
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