By Will Driscoll, Arlington 350 Core Group member
When 60 non-incumbent Democrats running for the House of Delegates joined candidate for governor Tom Perriello in pledging not to accept campaign funds from Dominion Energy, Virginia’s clean energy advocates took heart. That’s because Dominion has raced to build large fossil generating units while taking tiny steps on solar and wind power, and has kept the state legislature from demanding more action on clean energy by donating money broadly to candidates of both major parties.
Now after the primaries, 38 of those pledging not to accept Dominion funds remain in House of Delegates races—including 10 candidates in districts won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. These 38 candidates thus remain free to serve the interests of their constituents, which often differ from the interests of shareholders who own $48 billion of Dominion stock.
Several of the 38 candidates would, if elected, be more likely to lead on clean energy issues in the House of Delegates, because they are making clean energy an issue in their campaigns—whether by promoting jobs in Virginia’s solar industry, opposing proposed natural gas pipelines in Virginia, or calling out Dominion’s toxic coal ash polluting our rivers and drinking water supplies.
Here’s a short list of these candidates, with links to their clean energy statements:
- Joshua Cole, running in District 28 (in the Fredericksburg area) favors wind and solar as well as solar jobs, takes Dominion to task for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Dominion’s toxic coal ash, and would support a ban on fracking.
- Kathy Tran, running in District 42 (a Hillary district in southern Fairfax County), opposes fracking, the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, offshore drilling, uranium mining, toxic coal ash dumping, mountaintop removal mining, and new coal-fired power plants.
- Wendy Gooditis, running in District 10 (a Hillary district primarily in Loudoun County), seeks to make “solar panels and wind energy more accessible and affordable.”
- Dawn Adams, running in District 68 (a Hillary district primarily in Chesterfield County and Richmond), promotes “renewable energy resources to protect our planet.”
- Angela Lynn, running in District 25 (northwest of Charlottesville), seeks to “prioritize energy that’s sustainable” and “ensure that property rights are respected” in the face of eminent domain “land grabs by private companies for corporate gain.”
- Katie Sponsler, running in District 66 (south of Richmond) seeks to “increase use of renewable energy and decrease dependence on fossil fuels,” make “Virginia a place where renewable energy companies will want to do business and create jobs,” and “oppose legislation designed to allow fracking anywhere in Virginia that could negatively affect water quality.”
These six candidates, and others who have pledged not to accept Dominion funding, are forgoing thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars from Dominion in each campaign cycle. For example, Katie Sponsler’s opponent, Delegate Kirk Cox, at last count had received a lifetime total of $90,799 in Dominion campaign contributions. Beyond forgoing an easy source of campaign funds, these candidates also risk the wrath of wealthy fossil fuel interests (e.g., the Kochs) who can attack them through anonymous PAC contributions.
The courage of these candidates contributes greatly to the health of our democracy. Yet there may not yet be any dedicated funding to support Democrats running on clean energy in Virginia House races (the author knows of no such funding). The Win VirginiaPAC, led by Tom Perriello, is designed to help Democrats across all Virginia House races. The state Democratic Party supports Democrats in races up and down the ballot. A dedicated fund to support clean energy candidates would be a welcome addition to these efforts.
A note on the reporting technique: the author contacted only campaigns with a website shown on Activate Virginia’s list, where the campaign website listed an email address or provided a website contact form. If additional candidates have published information showing their support for clean energy, a follow-up article may be merited.