For the environment, John Kitzhaber is hands-down the right choice for Governor.

By Doug Moore of Portland, Oregon. Doug is the executive director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters.

The Oregon League of Conservation Voters endorsed Gov. Kitzhaber for re-election because he shares our values, understands our issues, and we know he can deliver on our priorities. John Kitzhaber has a strong environmental record and his passion for the outdoors and his dedication to fighting climate change shines through in every conversation. Governor Kitzhaber doesn’t just talk about the environment, he lives it. He is one of us – an environmentalist – and in the race for Governor of Oregon, he is the only environmental candidate.

Skipping the vote?

I’ve heard that some environmental voters are considering a protest vote or skipping the race entirely because they disagree with Kitzhaber on this or that issue, or are frustrated with recent news. My message to those voters? Please reconsider that choice.

Applying a 100% litmus test for every candidate simply means that you’ll find very few, if any, candidates to vote for. Serving office requires tough choices and being an elected official, unfortunately, is the exemplification of “you can’t please all the people all the time.” We, the voters, have to vote for the candidate that best represents our values. And in this race, among these candidates, Gov. Kitzhaber is hands down the best environmental candidate.

Let’s first take a look at Dennis Richardson.

The differences between these two candidates couldn’t be more stark. Richardson has a lifetime 24% score on the OLCV scorecard – and as you would expect with that score – a terrible record on the environment, particularly on climate. Just during this campaign, he’s said that climate change is a “philosophy,” that we need return our timber policy to the 1990’s, and that he supports exporting coal through our ports. If that’s not enough to just say no to Richardson, while serving in the House, Richardson voted against:

Green Party?

Second, the Pacific Green Party candidate, Jason Levin, is “green” in name but not in belief.

He’s more interested in legalizing marijuana than he is in protecting the environment. Frankly, I don’t understand why the Green Party allowed him to be their nominee. When asked by the Bend Source Weekly about what he’d accomplish if elected, Levin ignored the environment and cited universal healthcare coverage, improving schools, and lowering the unemployment rate as his top issues. He’s also publicly argued against the Clean Fuels program using Big Oil’s talking points, and he crashed a debate to talk about “putting our forests back to work” using the timber industry’s talking points. He’s also being promoted and supported by Dennis Richardson for his attacks on Kitzhaber: watch this and this.

If you think that voting for this Green Party candidate will “send a message” to Gov. Kitzhaber or the Democratic Party that they need to take the environment more seriously, let me say clearly and directly: that is a terrible idea and if you are successful, the environmental community will pay a steep, steep price. This “strategy” is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Don’t believe me? The last time a Green Party candidate earned significant protest votes and played spoiler was Ralph Nader in 2000. The extremely well-respected political analyst Charlie Cook highlighted in a New York Times op-ed that Nader’s spoiler effect cost Al Gore both Florida and New Hampshire, and with it, the Presidency.

We then had eight years of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney writing energy and environmental policy and all that entailed. Yeah, that worked out well for us.

Can you imagine Dennis Richardson making decisions on the environment? Do you want Clean Fuels extended? Not going to happen. Want to protect kids from toxic chemicals? See ya later, kids. Want to protect the Elliott State Forest and our timberlands? Good luck. But if you want coal trains rumbling through the Gorge and across the state, you’re in luck! If you want clear-cutting, you’ll have it! If you want a water policy that ignores science and salmon, welcome to Oregon!

That’s what could happen if green voters play spoiler and Dennis Richardson wins. Boy, didn’t we send a message!

I want to close with the final statement John Kitzhaber made to the OLCV Board during our endorsement interview, because it was so powerful. He said:

“We need to change the narrative and culture from jobs versus the environment to an economy that depends on protecting the environment. We need an economy that gives everyone a pathway to meet their basic needs and an economy that replenishes our natural resources and reduces our carbon footprint.”

This statement earned John Kitzhaber my vote and OLCV’s endorsement. I hope he’ll have yours as well.

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