Big Day for Pro-Environment Campaigns

Candidates backed by conservation voter groups swept to wins in a dozen primary contests in North Carolina last week.

First, our Conservation PAC went 11 for 11 in state legislative contests in which it made an endorsement. Included in that group were four Senate candidates: Tess Judge (District 1, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties), Sarah Crawford (District 18, Franklin and Wake), Mujtaba Mohammed (District 38, Mecklenburg), and Julie Mayfield (District 48, Buncombe). Judge, Crawford, and Mayfield are newcomers, while Mohammed is an incumbent. Also included were seven House candidates: Brian Farkas (District 9, Pitt County), Marcia Morgan (District 19, Brunswick and New Hanover), Jean Farmer-Butterfield (District 24, Wilson), Rosa Gill (District 33, Wake), Verla Insko (District 56, Orange), Ray Russell (District 93, Ashe and Watauga), and Becky Carney (District 102, Mecklenburg). Farkas and Morgan are newcomers, while the rest are incumbents.

NCLCV also endorsed Gov. Roy Cooper for re-election. Cooper made short work of a little-known challenger in his primary contest.

In a nationally watched U.S. Senate contest, former state Sen. Cal Cunningham received the endorsement of the national League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and won his primary by a large margin. Cunningham will take on Sen. Thom Tillis. Tillis has a career LCV environmental scorecard record of a woeful 7%, and according to polling data, is widely unpopular in the state. Replacing Tillis is seen as key to the chances of taking control of the U.S. Senate from Kentucky coal ally Mitch McConnell.

Finally, in one of the most interesting state legislative primary contests of the year, challenger Kimberly Hardy upset six-term Rep. Elmer Floyd for the Democratic nomination in state House District 43 (Cumberland County). Rep. Floyd had drawn the dissatisfaction of a number of progressive policy advocates for his voting record, including a poor 50% voting score on our most recent legislative scorecard. 

Our Conservation Votes PAC targeted mail in support of Hardy, an assistant professor of social work at Fayetteville State University, in her first run for elected office. Pro-Duke Energy and other business PACs funded a similar effort on behalf of Rep. Floyd. Despite being substantially outspent, Hardy prevailed by about 700 votes in a primary in which 10,000 votes were cast. Hardy herself thanked Conservation Votes PAC for our role in her win.

All told, the results represented a big day for pro-environment campaigns in North Carolina — but conservationists are cautioned to remember that the main show is still to come in November.

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