Updated with comment from Ericksen.
Washington’s largest environmental group is leaving no doubt as to their top villain in this year’s legislative elections, drawing a big green bullseye on the back of Ferndale Republican state Sen. Doug Ericksen.
At a Washington Conservation Voters breakfast Friday, headlined by Gov. Jay Inslee, environmentalists booed and hissed as Ericksen’s visage appeared on a projection screen. Ericksen was named Friday morning as one of the “Dirty Dozen” top election-year targets nationally for the League of Conservation Voters, WCV’s parent organization.
WCV leaders said Ericksen earned their wrath with a 4 percent lifetime voting record on their issues. His list of green transgressions includes blocking an oil-train safety bill sought by Democrats and inviting a climate-change denier to testify before the state Senate energy committee he chairs.
“Honestly his list of anti-environmental actions is so appalling, I didn’t know where to start today,” Shannon Murphy, WCV’s president, told the crowd of several hundred at the Washington State Convention Center.
Ericksen dismissed the WCV attacks, saying the group has become a tool of the Democratic Party. “WCV is not an environmental group. It’s a partisan front group,” he said.
Environmentalists boast they helped elect Inslee as “the nation’s greenest governor” in 2012. This year, they hope to hand him a sympathetic Legislature to further his climate-change agenda. Democrats need to net two seats in the November election to take a Senate majority from the GOP-dominated coalition that has run the chamber for two years.
While Ericksen’s Republican-leaning 42nd Legislative District is considered a tough pick-up, WCV already has helped fund ads attacking Ericksen there. Meanwhile, California billionaire and climate activist Tom Steyer has sent $1 million here to aid the Democrats’ efforts. Seth Fleetwood, a former Bellingham City Council and Whatcom County Council member, is challenging Ericksen.
Ericksen has sought to turn the environmentalist ire into a plus in his largely rural district, suggesting it’s just a bunch of big-city liberals out to get him. At a recent meeting of the Whatcom Cattlemen’s Association, Ericksen got laughs when he joked: “That smell in the county, that’s not Bob’s manure spreader. That’s all the crap coming out of San Francisco saying I’m a bad person.”
The 42nd District includes two oil refineries and a controversial proposed coal-export terminal. Ericksen’s re-election campaign has been supported by business interests, including oil and gas companies nervous about Democrats’ desire to nix tax breaks and impose new clean fuel regulations and carbon emissions limits.
Inslee paid tribute to his green allies at the Friday event, declaring “Washington state is going to defeat climate change.”
He dismissed critics who suggest the Legislature should focus on jobs before the environment, saying clean energy is the “fastest growing sector of the economy today.”
“We need to seize the message that if you care about jobs you ought to care about clean energy,” Inslee said.
Ericksen said he supports the pursuit of clean energy, but said Washington is already a low-emission state and its impact on global climate change is tiny so there is no need to shutter coal plants or refineries. “Washington State sacrificing itself is not going to do anything,” he said.