National Anti-Fossil Fuel Group Targets Hickenlooper In Colorado Senate Race, Announces Paid Field Team To Defeat ‘Dangerous’ Candidate
The national anti-fossil fuel group responsible for the Green New Deal has drawn a firm line in the Colorado Democratic Senate Primary to deny former Governor John Hickenlooper the nomination.
The Sunrise Movement, which has received substantial support from anti-fossil fuel philanthropies like the Rockefeller Family Fund and Wallace Global Fund, announced on Twitter it is jumping into Colorado’s U.S. Senate race and endorsing former State House Speaker Andrew Romanoff in the primary in a clear shot against Hickenlooper.
This is the first major activist group to take sides in the primary, and Colorado Public Radio reports the Sunrise Movement will deploy five full-time, paid staffers to the state to support Romanoff’s campaign.
In the eyes of the group, Hickenlooper and the Republican incumbent, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, are alike when it comes to policy decisions surrounding their climate push.
“Hickenlooper and Cory Gardner are one-and-the-same to us,” Boulder Sunrise Coordinator Michele Weindling told Colorado Public Radio. “Neither of them have aggressive strategies for how they’re going to fight the climate crisis.”
Sunrise boldly spelled out their endorsement Monday morning, calling Hickenlooper “dangerous for this state.”
“BREAKING: Sunrise proudly endorses Andrew Romanoff for US Senate! We could not be more excited to support Romanoff’s progressive campaign to champion the #GreenNewDeal on behalf of all Coloradans,” the group tweeted.
Later in the day, the group added, “Between now & June 30th, our volunteer-powered field program will register thousands of young voters & collect thousands of pledge-to-vote cards. We’re going all-out to mobilize young people to defeat Hickenlooper, Gardner, & the fossil fuel CEOs trying to buy our election.”
Sunrise’s co-founder and executive director Varshini Prakash also chimed in, “Electing Romanoff to the Senate would be game-changing in fighting the climate crisis. Hickenlooper and Gardner are both in cahoots with the billionaires who got us into this mess.” — @VarshPrakash”
As previously reported by Western Wire, the Sunrise Movement was founded in 2017 as an outgrowth of several other climate activist movements like the campus divestment campaign and Keystone XL pipeline protests. According to Inside Philanthropy, initial funding came from the Rockefeller Family Fund and Wallace Global Fund, with Sunrise raising about $1 million in 2018.
Both of those foundations also fund EarthRights International (ERI), which is the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit representing plaintiffs in a climate lawsuit against ExxonMobil and Suncor. The City of Boulder, Boulder County, and San Miguel County sued for alleged damages against the companies.
Sunrise is registered as a 501(c)4, so it doesn’t have to disclose its donors and is able to be involved in political activity. The group’s aim is to support candidates who have adopted their preferred climate policies while also training volunteers to be a part of the climate activism movement.
Aggressive climate policies, like one envisioned by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in his bid for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, have earned plaudits from younger Democratic voters, but have drawn criticism from climate scientists and energy economists, the New York Times reported last week.
That could set up a battle at the national level mirroring the one in Colorado, as established party members and donors encounter resistance from their younger counterparts, who in this cycle will have much more clout given their well-heeled backers, like Sunrise.
The group’s entry into the Colorado Senate race brings a new wave of interest to the primary after the national Democratic party endorsed Hickenlooper’s campaign early in an attempt to clear his path to the nomination and ease his way to victory in 2020.
Environmental activists and Hickenlooper’s opponents responded aggressively to what they see as the establishment putting its thumb on the scale and have sharpened their attacks on the popular former two-term Denver mayor and two-term governor for his past support of oil and natural gas and insufficient willingness to address climate issues.
Politico reported the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Campaign’s endorsement of Hickenlooper was “offensive” to those challenging him.
The tension has only increased. Hickenlooper was also criticized by the Sunrise Movement for not showing up to Denver’s Climate Strike in September and Western Wire previously reported that Hickenlooper was blasted by Romanoff and other competitors for failing to attend a climate forum last month in Colorado Springs.
Romanoff attacked Hickenlooper, saying, “You can’t dodge this debate – or frack your way to a clean-energy future.”
While a September poll showed Hickenlooper with a healthy lead, the continued backlash to the national party’s involvement and growing activist support for Romanoff points to a closer and more contentious race.
The Sunrise Movement’s endorsement of Romanoff will put the spotlight on other environmental groups in the state who may feel pressure to take sides in the primary. Conservation Colorado, 350 Colorado, and Colorado Rising have all taken hardline stances on environmental matters and have shown little desire to support Hickenlooper thus far.
Conservation Colorado endorsed Hickenlooper’s reelection bid in 2014.