2022 election guide for environmentally minded voters in Southern California

Heading into the midterm elections, nearly nine in 10 likely voters said a gubernatorial candidate’s positions on environmental issues would be important as they went to cast their ballots, per a poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

And nationwide, a survey from YouGov shows that climate change is the fourth most important issue for Democratic voters, trailing only health care, civil rights and gun control.

Still, with so much focus this cycle on hot-button topics such as abortion and inflation, climate policies don’t always come up in candidate debates or on their websites. That means it’s not always easy for voters to sort out where candidates stand on environmental issues — particularly in local races, which are nonpartisan and don’t often attract endorsements or donations from major climate groups.

Adding to the confusion, the most overtly environmental measure on the ballot in California this year has divided even some of the state’s most ardent climate advocates.

With that in mind, here’s a look at what environmentally minded Southern Californians need to know and where to learn more about measures and candidates on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Proposition 30

At the state level, the main environmental measure on the midterm ballot is Proposition 30. The bill would hike wealthy Californians’ personal taxes by 1.75% on any income they make above $2 million. That’s expected to generate up to $100 billion over the next 20 years, with more than 75% of that revenue dedicated to programs aimed at encouraging use of electric vehicles by making them more affordable through rebates and adding more charging stations. The rest would be used to reduce the effects of wildfires, with funds to hire and train new firefighters, buy new equipment and fund forest management efforts.

Those goals have helped Prop. 30 win support from the California Democratic Party and some key environmental groups, such as the Center for Biological Diversity’s political arm. Karuna Jaggar, who serves as California political director for that organization, noted vehicle emissions are the largest single source of carbon emissions in the country, with a push to EVs being the “biggest single step” we can take now to dramatically slash those emissions.

But other environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, haven’t taken a position on Prop 30. They cite concerns with how Calfire might use some of the revenue to cut down trees in the name of removing fuel for wildfires.

And many Democratic leaders who typically champion environmental policies, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, have joined Republicans and taxpayer advocates in actively campaigning against Prop. 30. They note the state already dedicates billions of dollars to encouraging EVs and fighting fires while pointing out that rideshare company Lyft is bankrolling this measure, which would help the company’s drivers comply with state mandates about electrifying fleets.

Though nearly two-thirds of likely voters expressed early support for Prop. 30 in a July survey by the Public Policy Institute of California, more recent polls show support falling as Newsom and others voice such concerns.

In response, Jaggar said, “No legislation is perfect.” But she said her organization believes the known benefits of getting more gas-powered cars off the road through Prop. 30 are clear. And she remains optimistic they could work to mitigate potential risks, such as Calfire using Prop. 30 revenue to cut trees, if the measure passes.

Other ballot measures

Some environmental groups also have rallied behind two more statewide measures.

• Proposition 1: Would amend the California Constitution to establish a right to reproductive freedom, including the right to an abortion and to choose or refuse contraceptives. In backing the bill, the Sierra Club says the measure is consistent with its goals to advance social justice.

• Proposition 31: Lets voters decide whether to overturn a 2020 law that bans the sale of some flavored tobacco products. A “yes” vote upholds that ban, while a “no” vote would strike it down. Sierra Club urges a “yes” vote to protect public health, particularly among young people, and to “reduce the environmental impacts of tobacco production and waste.”

A couple local measures with potentially significant environmental impacts also made the ballot this November.

As the Inland Empire and eastern Los Angeles County grapple with air pollution and other issues caused by the proliferation of large warehouses in recent years, many cities are putting temporary moratoriums on such developments. And at least two cities — Pomona and Redlands — are floating ballot measures that ask voters to tax those businesses to raise money for street repairs and other municipal expenses.


When it comes to judging candidates, voters passionate about climate issues often want to see who has support or opposition from well-known environmental organizations.

A number of climate groups have political arms that have endorsed candidates in key Southern California races. Visit websites for these groups to learn more.

California Environmental Voters
Sierra Club
Friends of the Earth Action
Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund

For incumbents in Congress, the League of Conservation Voters offers an environmental scorecard, with 2021 and lifetime scores for each member of the Senate and House. For Southern California representatives, 2021 scores range from a perfect 100% to a low of 9%.

Most environmental groups focus endorsements on specific state and federal races, though candidates in Los Angeles city and county races also showed up on several of those lists. And a city council race that isn’t in L.A. drew rare attention from national environmental groups.

Friends of the Earth Action and the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund endorsed two candidates for Culver City council. Asked why, Jaggar said her group targets attention on races in swing districts or in places where there’s a strong climate champion on one side and someone who’s been allied with the fossil fuel industry on the other side. She said her group sees the Culver City election as one that could “really shift power” in the city on key climate issues, such as supporting an end to local oil drilling.

Follow the money

For races that haven’t been endorsed by environmental groups, it’s time to follow the money, says Tomas Castro, of Irvine, an activist with his local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby.

“If voters do want to know who their climate candidate is, it is worth looking at who is giving to their campaigns,” Castro said.

For federal candidates, voters can review campaign contributions on the Federal Election Commission website.

For state candidates, campaign finance information is on the Secretary of State’s Cal-Access site.

For local candidates, county registrars have donation information. Some post those reports online, while others must be requested or viewed in county offices.

Of course, most voters aren’t going to take the time to pour over campaign contributions for every candidate on their ballot. That’s where tools like the No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge can come in handy.

The pledge, established in 2017, is open to all U.S. candidates of any political party who agree not to take contributions over $200 from “oil, gas, and coal industry executives, lobbyists, and PACs.” More than 3,500 politicians from 49 states have signed on to date, including 517 California incumbents and candidates.

More than 87% of Californians who’ve signed the pledge are Democrats. The rest are third party, No Party Preference and undeclared candidates, while just one Republican from California has signed on: Jeff Gorell, who’s running for the Ventura County Board of Supervisors.

What candidates are saying

Even if endorsements and campaign finance information is readily available, Castro said he hopes voters also will take a close look at what candidates are — or aren’t — saying about their policies on environmental issues before casting their ballots.

When it comes to one of the most hotly contested local House races, for example, GOP incumbent Rep. Mike Garcia doesn’t mention the environment, climate change or related topics on his campaign website. Meanwhile, his Democratic challenger, Christy Smith, lists “taking on climate change and fighting for environmental justice” as one of the six key components of her campaign platform.

In the Inland Empire, GOP Rep. Ken Calvert, running for re-election in a newly drawn and competitive district, also doesn’t mention the environment on his campaign website, while Democratic challenger Will Rollins lists “protecting our planet” as one of his top four priorities.

To close the gap in available information about climate policies for Orange County candidates, Castro joined forces with nearly a dozen other local climate activists to create a digital OC Climate Voter Guide 2022.

They sent a list of climate-focused questions to every O.C. candidate, from the House to city councils to water boards, asking if they support such policies as electrifying local vehicle fleets and if they believe climate change is a critical issue. The group heard back from 94 candidates, with responses posted on their website.

“It is telling who doesn’t respond,” he said, with a majority of candidates who participated indicating support for strong climate policies.

When some local candidates who don’t discuss environmental policies on their campaign websites were pushed to answer specific questions, they spoke against some state and federal environmental goals. For example, Assemblymember Thurston “Smitty” Smith, R-Apple Valley, who’s running for reelection in the new 34th Assembly District, said in an interview that he opposes “giant solar farms” and wants to increase oil drilling.

“We need to drill it right here in California and create the jobs and be environmentally sound on it,” Smith said.

Related Articles

Environment |

On Nov. 8 voters have compelling choices for LAUSD board members in districts 2 and 6

Environment |

Social media platforms brace for midterm elections mayhem

Environment |

Karen Bass and Rick Caruso exchange accusations over different USC scandals they are linked to

Environment |

Ocasio-Cortez to rally young voters in Irvine this weekend

Environment |

Slavery is on the ballot for voters in 5 US states

And when asked if he agrees that humans cause climate change, Mike Tardif, R-Santa Ana, who’s running for the 68th Assembly District, said, “I am more concerned about the extreme socialist policies which are being enacted by the Democrat super-majority in Sacramento than climate change theories.”

With so much information to consider, Jaggar urges voters not to use confusion over any one race or measures as an excuse not to vote at all, since voters can choose to only vote on questions they feel confident about.

“We have a narrow window of opportunity to make a difference in mitigating climate change and global warming,” Jaggar said. “We need to see progressive environmental voters get out and vote.”

Reporter Beau Yarbrough and editor Kaitlyn Schallhorn contributed to this report.

Share the Post:

Related Posts