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Conservation Voters Say Big Spending Paid Off In Two Local Races

Don Ryan,File
AP Photo
A tugboat maneuvers through waiting freighters on the Columbia River near the Port of Vancouver, where a proposal for the nation's largest oil-by-rail terminal has defined this year's race for one position on the Port Commission.

Environmental groups are declaring victory in two key races after initial ballot returns. The Washington Conservation Voters say their record spending is paying off, as the community came together to counteract the influence of spending by big oil interests.

45th District

The group’s biggest investment ever – $500,000 – went to the campaign of Democrat Manka Dhingra in the state Senate race inthe 45th District.

Dhingra maintained a 10-point lead Wednesday afternoon, cinching her victory. Democrats now have control of both houses in the state Legislature, along with one of the greenest governors in the country, Jay Inslee.  

Washington Conservation Voters President Shannon Murphy says they went toe to toe with big oil in the 45th after noting a sharp contrast between Dhingra and her Republican opponent Jinyoung Englund, especially when it comes to issues such as climate change.

Murphy says for years, vital environmental protections have been stymied by key legislators in the state Senate.

“We’re really excited about this win because it puts us back on offense. It puts us our state back on offense, on key issues like oil transportation safety, toxic cleanup and prevention, and reducing climate pollution. And creating a clean energy economy for all,” she said.

Murphy says everything is on the table, including a possible carbon tax from Inslee.

The window of opportunity may be short since the next regular session of the legislature is just 60 days. A year from now, half the seats in the Senate, including the 45th District, and all of the state House are up for election again.

Port of Vancouver

The other Washington state campaign where the environmental lobby made a big contribution was in Don Orange’s bid for the Vancouver Port Commission.

Washington Conservation Voters reported spending $290,000 in that race. And they knocked on more than 30,000 doors.

“This race was important because it was largely seen as a referendum against the largest oil-by-rail terminal proposal in North America,” Murphy said.

Orange ran on an anti-oil-terminal platform, in stark contrast to his opponent, Kris Greene. After the first return, Orange had a decisive lead of nearly 65 percent.

“So now we have a Port Commission majority that has a clear mandate against this terminal and for clean energy jobs for all,” Murphy said.  

Chapters of the Conservation Voters in two other states are also touting victories. They say their record spending helped elect Phil Murphy as Governor of New Jersey and Ralph Northam as Governor of Virginia.  

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